TOM HOY Stripe Partners ‘AirSpace’, according to Kyle Chayka, is the increasingly homogenized experience of the western(ized) business traveller, driven by major tech platforms (including Google, Airbnb and Uber.) As international travellers, ethnographers must account for the impact of AirSpace on their research practice. After delineating the concept of AirSpace the paper posits three dangers ethnographers must negotiate: (1) The cost of control: AirSpace offers researchers control, but can narrow the scope of research (2) The risk of superficiality: AirSpace provides shortcuts to cultural understanding, but can limit deeper comprehension (3) The assumption of equivalence: AirSpace provides shared reference points, but can create the illusion of equivelance with research subjects. By exploring these three dangers the paper invites readers to reflect on their own research practice and consider how to utilize the benefits of these platforms while mitigating the issues outlined....
The Rise of the User and the Fall of People: Ethnographic Cooptation and a New Language of Globalization
Jennifer Collier Jennings • 0 Comments
SHAHEEN AMIREBRAHIMI University of California Davis This paper examines how ethnographic praxis as a means for driving social change via industry, went from a peripheral, experimental field, to a normalized part of innovation and product development – only to be coopted from within by a new language of power. Since the 1980s anthropologists have used their work to “make the world a better place,” by leveraging their tools of thick description and rich contextual knowledge to drive diversity and change within corporations and through their productions. As ethnography-as-method became separated from the field of Anthropology, it was opened to new collaborations with adjacent fields (from design, to HCI, to psychology, media studies, and so on). This “opening up” had a twofold effect, on the one hand it enabled greater “impact” (or influence) within institutions, but simultaneously subjected the field to cooptation. Recently, the practice of ethnography came to embrace the terminology of User Experience (UX) – though...
Mannequins on My Mind: Addis Ababa and the Globalized Economy
Jennifer Collier Jennings
by PATRICIA L. SUNDERLAND, Practica Group, LLC You’ve probably been there—in a security line at Laguardia airport, still fuzzy with jet lag. I stood in one recently—just a few days after returning from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—and certain quotidian details of life in the US were still jumping out in shocking relief. In front of me were two women and a baby around 18 months old; perhaps mother, daughter, grandmother. In a sudden gesture the older woman got out of line, hastily bid her goodbyes, and ran off. Why run away like that, leave her daughter and granddaughter just standing there in line rather than spend the mere minute or two more it would take see them go through? Did she have an appointment to keep? Was she eager to avoid an extra charge at airport parking? I was surprised because this casual scene in the US is an unlikely one in Ethiopia. There, relations with people matter more than almost anything else, and time is not a precious commodity; time extends, “time is your friend” I heard there. As I mused...
‘Global Events Local Impacts’: India’s Rural Emerging Markets
Susan Faulkner • 0 Comments
NIMMI RANGASWAMY and KENTARO TOYAMA The paper attempts to analyse rapidly changing rural Indian socio-economic landscapes from a recent empirical study of rural PC kiosks. Rural contexts in India are essentially composite and digitally immature communication ecologies. Some of the questions we wanted to answer were as follows: How do computing technologies find their way into a rural community? Who are the people driving this technology? How technology is being received by the community? Breaking away from a committed long-term participatory ethnography in a bounded field, we consider an array of wider contexts and a repertoire of methods available for qualitative research to study societies in transition....
Service Infrastructures: A Call for Ethnography of Heterogeneity
Susan Faulkner • 0 Comments
ROGERIO DE PAULA, VICTOR CAVALCANTE and CLAUDIO PINHANEZ This paper investigates the notion of heterogeneity, inspired by Latour’s work on Actor Network Theory, as a lens for understanding daily work practices in a large service delivery organization. To this end, we present and discuss the findings from an ongoing research where we unpacked how system-administrators manage and negotiate incident resolution requests as part of service delivery practices. In particular, we looked into how performance metrics, such as, service level agreements (SLAs), mediated those practices. This paper contributes to the studies of infrastructure and explores the critical synergy between quantitative and qualitative methods in support of large-scale work practice research....
If These Walls Could Talk: The Mental Life of the Built Environment
Susan Faulkner • 0 Comments
NEAL H. PATEL Renewing Henri Lefebvre’s unfinished and overlooked science of ‘rhythmanalysis,’ I propose physical space becomes meaningful to us to the extent that it provides refuge from the ravages of time—specifically, the intersecting rhythms of everyday life. In other words, we develop affinity with space based upon its restorative function. Conflict between overlapping rhythms is mentally exhausting. There are cognitive costs associated with the work day’s intrusion upon our sleep cycle, or extension into our evening leisure time. I will contend that we love our local bars, coffee shops, and hangouts because they are intermediary spaces, situated between cycles, thereby easing our transition and restoring our mental energy. I conclude with some examples of these dynamics at play in the urban life surrounding two peculiar Polish sausage stands on South Side of Chicago....
Trajectories of Change in Global Enterprise Transformation
Susan Faulkner • 4 Comments
JEANETTE BLOMBERG This paper reports on the efforts of a global IT services company to transform the way it delivers IT outsourcing services. The change initiative was designed to bring about a radical transformation in the how work gets done across the enterprise with the expected benefit of delivering greater service quality and reliability at a lower cost. In addition, the standardization of processes and tools would allow work to move more freely from one location to another thus creating flexibility to meet changing demands. Based on a study of the impact of this initiative on four global delivery centers we explore how change occurs within organizations both as an ongoing achievement and as the result of explicit corporate initiatives. Taking account of the particular historic, geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and cultural characteristics of individual delivery centers we trace trajectories of change with the aim of providing both a broad synoptic view given these differences in delivery centers characteristics and a detailed...
Replacing the Network Society with Social Foam: A Revolution for Corporate Ethnography?
EPIC People • 0 Comments
NINA WAKEFORD What would it mean for corporate ethnography to think of society not as a network, but rather as an agglomeration of bubbles that constitute foam? The article offers a comparison of the metaphors of network and foam and their implications for the analysis of contemporary sociality. It draws on the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s theory that we live not in one mono-spherical society but rather in apluralityofmicro-spherestobedescribedassocialfoam. Anemphasisonatmospheres,affectand contagiousness follows from this conceptualization of the social world. These consequences are discussed, and some suggestions offered of how Sloterdijk’s ideas might shift the focus of corporate ethnography. Although primarily a conceptual intervention, the article also describes how organizational theory has started to deploy the concept of social foam. It concludes with a reexamination, through a focus on atmospheres, of a previous study undertaken at Intel, which shifts the emphasis of the analysis....
ICT4D => ICT4X: Mitigating the Impact of Cognitive Heuristics and Biases in Ethnographic Business Practice
EPIC People • 0 Comments
TONY SALVADOR, JOHN W. SHERRY, L. WILTON AGATSTEIN and HSAIN ILAHIANE With more than five billion people, large corporations have expressed non-trivial interest in “emerging markets” as potential future sources of revenue. We in this community of ethnographic praxis, are privileged to move with some ease between corporate board rooms and people’s living rooms around the world. Yet, our messages and meanings that might lead to positive action are hampered by both our own language – that of development – and the ways in which people hear our language through specific cognitive heuristics and biases. In this paper, we specifically unpack the prevalent business interest concerning the “digital divide”. We discuss how that particular framing, i.e., digital, divide, essentializes upwards of 85-90% of the global population as simply poor and living in developing countries limiting business engagement. We argue that these predilections are further magnified by specific cognitive heuristics and biases we all posses but which are...
Living Avatars Network: Fusing Traditional and Innovative Ethnographic Methods through a Real-time Mobile Video Service
EPIC People • 0 Comments
DENISA KERA and CONNOR GRAHAM This paper presents a study of new technologies potentially enabling access to a sensory feast of places by ‘wired up’ flanêurs, real-time as well as remote ‘native’ description and interactions and situated oral histories excavated through ‘being in a place’. We describe an inter-disciplinary research project examining the cultural heritage of Singapore and the use of geo-location technologies incorporating social networking platforms as a medium for interactive heritage walks. The goal of the project is to engage both locals and non-locals in experiencing Singapore from a first person perspective, giving them a wider understanding of the ethnic and cultural diversity. The Living Avatar Network (LAN) supports sharing experiences and realities in real time through making it possible to ‘walk in someone’s shoes’ through a living avatar, re-experiencing someone’s memories of a certain place. Here we describe the approaches deployed in evolving a prototypical service - ‘traditional’...
Ethnographer Diasporas and Emergent Communities of Practice: The Place for a 21st Century Ethics in Business Ethnography Today
EPIC People • 1 Comment
INGA TREITLER and FRANK ROMAGOSA Do no harm; communicate and collaborate; keep learning, keep teaching; instigate meaningful change; make theory action. —Designers Accord code of conduct (designersaccord.org) Every profession bears the responsibility to understand the circumstance which enables its existence. —Robert Gutman1 For an exile, habits of life, expression or activity in the new environment inevitably occur against the memory of these things in another environment. Thus both the new and the old environments are vivid, actual, occurring together contrapuntally. There is a unique pleasure in this sort of apprehension. —Edward Said, Reflections on Exile (1984) INTRODUCTION What kind of times are these we live and work in? Last October, many of us left the EPIC2008 meetings with a drive to apply “sustainability” thinking to our research and design. It is no coincidence that those meetings were hosted in Copenhagen, a city in a region where design is an unabashed element of all public decision making and environmental...