history of technology

Scurvy and the Practice of Insights Research

by PETER LEVIN, Intel Corporation I. Intel recently ran an internal marketing conference, where a research firm shared with us a dozen or so technology trends, each with potential to “disrupt” our business. To narrow down discussion about these trends, we were asked to “vote” on which of these trends we thought were most important. And then we could focus our attention on those. While the conference ended up being interesting (maybe more for the networking than the content), I left wondering things like why voting would matter for determining the consequences of future shifts on our markets. And I left wondering about the kinds of insights work we need to produce in corporate environments and the deep challenges we face in producing those insights. In my previous life as an academic sociologist, insight really means a search for foundational causation and theory. For academics, foundational theory matters so much more than discovering the “next big thing.” Moreover, one can be a successful academic by doing all root-cause...

Magic Thinking

GENEVIEVE BELL I realize that there are a couple of things I wanted to do in this talk, but it requires a little bit of an explanation at the outset. This is a talk about how we make sense of the sociotechnical imagination. It is a term I promise that I will unpack. This is not a talk about ethnographic fieldwork. This is not a talk about product design or design thinking. This is however, for my mind, a piece of classic anthropological work. It is an intervention into how we think about and talk about products; our relationships to them, and the ways in which we choose to embrace them, resist them, break them, love them and make sense of them. It also takes as its starting point a kind of classic, I think, anthropological conversation which is about magic. It is kind of fun to be doing it in this building at this moment in time.This is a talk in some ways influenced by people like James Frasier, who stood in this place nearly a hundred years ago and talked about magic and magical thinking. For me the book The Golden Bough is sort...

The Conceit of Oracles

TRICIA WANG Good morning, I am really excited to be here for my first EPIC conference. There are just so many amazing people in the audience as I look at you guys, and so many of you guys I've been following on blogs and Twitter and especially Natalie Hanson’s anthrodesign listserv. I can’t wait to talk to you guys all afterwards. Just as a reminder, I don’t know if Simon already said it, but if you’re tweeting or instragramming—use the conference hashtag EPIC 2013. If throughout the talk you have any questions, or if anything resonates with you, this is my Twitter and Instagram handle.For over twelve centuries in Ancient Greece in consulting oracles, a person who could predict the future was a part of everyday Hellenistic life. People—poor, wealthy, slave and free—asked oracles for them to answer important life questions such as should I get married, or will I come back from war alive, or questions related to business matters. Should I invest in this voyage? There were questions related to political affairs like should...