Article citation: 2021 EPIC Proceedings pp 32–42, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
The COVID19 induced lockdown in India and consequent migration of workers severely affected the economy. When the migrants returned to urban areas, newer challenges surfaced around the scale and nature of jobs on offer, as well as the skills and aspirations of workers. In this paper, we follow a social impact project focused on livelihoods and post pandemic rebuilding, to explore the trails of ethnography and how its engagement along multiple networks shapes its possibilities as a research method that helps foreground emic perspectives. In doing so, we analyse agencies and social relations from the field, and their role in shaping project imaginaries. Anchored in original, long-term participatory ethnographic research, our paper thinks alongside Appadurai (2013) to surmise that anticipation is imbricated in the coming together of a grounds-up ‘ethics of possibility’ and a top-down ‘ethics of probability’. Importantly, we turn to Actor-Network Theory as a framework...
a book review by SHARON BAUTISTA, Mozilla
Dealing in Desire: Asian Ascendancy, Western Decline, and the Hidden Currencies of Global Sex Work
Kimberly Kay Hoang
2015, 248pp, University of California Press
The Labor of Care: Filipina Migrants and Transnational Families in the Digital Age
2018, 256pp, University of Illinois Press
The March 16 shootings in the Atlanta-area of Georgia in the southern United States, when a person shot dead eight people, including six Asian women, sent me into deep grief. I could barely register the text messages from concerned friends recognizing me as an Asian woman and offering support. Trying to muster the focus to work the next day, I felt the urge to mute the Slack streams of sincere acknowledgements and thoughtful compilations of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) resources shared by co-workers. Alongside my grief, I was frustrated by the meager news coverage of the people—and specifically the Asian women—who were murdered. There seemed almost...
Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Agency and automation is explored through three case studies of the use of Cobots – collaborative robots – in three different auto production firms. The business challenges faced by these firms include labor shortages, quality control and reduction of waste. The Cobot solution resulted in different effects on agency through (1) agency task displacement, (2) agency enhancement and (3) agency expansion. In addition, the individual characteristics of the workplace structure also mediated the effects of Cobots on agency. In the first case (Uno Motors) Fordist technology and the presence of a union ensured that Cobots were deployed instrumentally. The second case (Duo Global Technologies) was one in which Cobots were flexibly deployed to meet changing production demands. The third case (Trio) went furthest in integrating Cobots into the production process as co-workers requiring new workplace relationships together with the potential...
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley, MIT
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley
This paper explores how the design of everyday interactions with artificial intelligence in work systems relates to broader issues of interest to social scientists and ethicists: namely human well-being and social inequality. The paper uses experience designing human interactions with highly automated systems as a lens for looking at the social implications of work design, and argues that what human and automation each do is less important than how human and automation are structured to interact. The Human-Autonomy Teaming (HAT) paradigm, explored in the paper, has been a promising alternative way to think about human interactions with automation in our laboratory's research and development work. We argue that the notion of teaming is particularly useful in that it encourages designers to consider human well-being as central to the operational success...
GREGORY A. BENNETT
This case study explores how a series of customer site visits to two international service centers drove design recommendations for a chatbot building platform that could encourage positive agent-chatbot collaboration. The first part of the case focuses on the research undertaken by a team of user experience practitioners at the enterprise software company Salesforce. The team used contextual inquiry and group interviews to better understand the daily experience of customer service agents and service teams in search of ways to responsibly implement automation tools like chatbots within a service center environment. The second part of the case study highlights how the UX team applied these learnings into specific product recommendations and developed a set of principles that could drive the product forward while remaining empathetic and supportive of customer service agents....
CHLOÉ HUIE BRICKERT
As part of an international research conducted for a French car manufacturer, a team of anthropologists and designers were asked to analyze the use of a car diagnostic tool by mechanics in their garages, in order to recommend ways of improving it. A single glance at the diagnostic tool’s interface was enough to get a feel for mechanics’ new reality: lines of codes and numbers, webpages filled with blue hyperlinks leading to readymade repair methods. Does being a mechanic in an automation era mean anything anymore? Based on findings from a study conducted in 5 countries with mixed ethnographic and UX methods, this case study explicits the interest of understanding mechanics as a profession – or even more, as an art – before studying the use of the tool itself, and mostly, it demonstrates how solutions can be contained in agency – and how design and tech teams can find inspiration from bypasses, local initiatives, and informal rituals. From supervising an international...
KEITH S. KARN
Human Factors in Context LLC
WILLIAM E. HUTSON
Now that they are beyond the initial start-up phase, it is time to take a critical look at ride-hailing systems such as Uber and Lyft. This ethnographic case study investigates these systems from the drivers’ perspectives and also addresses the ethnographic techniques and general approach that we used. Without a protocol, budget or equipment, we interviewed approximately 150 Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers in 23 US cities over 2 years during paid rides. Our loosely structured interview approach allowed us to collect information from drivers regarding the entire gamut of their jobs. This included how and why drivers work, their choice of work hours, rider pickups, driving, vehicle ownership and maintenance, rider behavior, perceptions of safety / danger, navigation, general likes and dislikes of the system, and financial matters related to their business. Our findings cover a wide range of issues, some bearing on poorly designed or missing functionality in the driver's...
Recent debates around the future of work have largely focused on how automated technologies are contributing to job loss or decline. However, in this paper, we draw from original ethnographic research with four types of automation-affected workers – insurance agents, pharmaceutical representatives, medical device salespeople, and medical device technicians – to argue that, rather than being replaced by machines, many workers are in fact adapting how they define and perform their work to survive in a more digital age. Uncovering such adaption tactics is crucial for recognizing the human agency that is present in, even definitive of increasing encounters with machine-driven technologies and can help large organizations solve some of their toughest challenges, including how to predict future trends in the labor market, define the added value of human labor, build and train a better workforce, and develop and evolve existing...
IDEO and DePaul University
Three service design projects, in hospitality, finance, and health care, highlight how to design for agency in the workplace, including the implementation of automated and data-driven tools. Inspired by Tacchi, Slater, and Hearn's work on ethnographic action research, Amartya Sen's capabilities approach, and Gibson's affordances theory, this paper examines work as an ecosystem, in which workers’ motivations, values, and ability to achieve what is important to them should be a continual input into how structures and tools are designed. In order to design for agency, teams must shape access to information in order to support workers’ autonomy. Second, project outcomes should reflect the emotions and values which create a sense of progress and purpose. Third, tools, technologies, culture, and incentives within the work ecosystem should be aligned with workers’ goals. Finally, workers must feel safe and protected from censure when they participate in co-creating...
a book review by RAYMOND JUNE, Workday
Most of us struggle with managing our time while feeling perpetually swamped with work. White-collar professionals, myself included, have often turned like supplicants to time management tools ranging from self-help books to productivity software to maximize efficiency in less time. Confession: I once purchased a paper pocket guide to improving time management when feeling anxious about workplace performance pressures before the start of a new job. Despite its familiar and well-worn exhortations – set goals, track your time, create to-do lists, manage emails, develop routines, delegate – I clung to the belief that this manual among the surfeit of how-to texts and apps out there would be the one to help boost my productivity. My preemptive attempt at mastering time to reach peak personal performance raises a key question about today’s productivity-obsessed work culture: What, really, is the larger goal of work when the search for time-saving measures in the pursuit of productivity is its given...
by DAWN NAFUS (Intel), EPIC2018 Co-chair
We chose Evidence as the EPIC2018 theme in part to explore this question of why some things constitute evidence and not others. There are lots of factors we could point to, but since I’m standing next to a data scientist the first one I’ll talk about is digitization.
Digitization changes how people live, and it creates forms of evidence about people’s lives that we need to reckon with methodologically. Many of us are in the thick of organizations that handle some complicated datasets, traces of people and their environments, and so on. We’ve got to figure out how to engage with them, and I think that means we need new approaches if we are going to meaningfully intervene.
The toolbox of user experience is only going to get us so far. So we’re going to need some friends, particularly those data scientists who are, like us, committed to the idea that datasets ought to be moored in some kind of social reality, and that they can’t just be built based on what’s expedient at the time. While...
University of California, Davis
There is a crisis brewing in the innovation capital of the world. From protests at Google bus stops, to rallies at San Francisco City Hall over Airbnb gentrification, to a stark increase in homelessness, there is a growing rift between the have and have not's in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile the average tech employee, told they are “making the world a better place,” is faced with escalating labor demands, hyper-connectivity, and a shift from “work-life balance” to “work is life.” The tech worker is in a contentious position – torn between corporate propaganda and the visible externalities of a for-profit business. To understand how this tension plays out for the average techie, I illustrate a “disconnect camp” where the everyday rules of SF techie sociality are inverted – no technology, no names, no discussion of work, no networking. This carnavlesque pacifies postmodern contradictions about “valueless work” by placing...
Carolyn Rouse is a professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology and the Director of the Program in African Studies at Princeton University. Her work explores the use of evidence to make particular claims about race and social inequality. She is the author of Engaged Surrender: African American Women and Islam, Uncertain Suffering: Racial Healthcare Disparities and Sickle Cell Disease and Televised Redemption: Black Religious Media and Racial Empowerment. Her manuscript Development Hubris: Adventures Trying to Save the World examines discourses of charity and development and is tied to her own project building a high school in a fishing village in Ghana. In the summer of 2016 she began studying declining white life expectancies in rural California as a follow-up to her research on racial health disparities.
Carolyn is also a filmmaker: she has produced, directed, and/or edited a number of documentaries including Chicks in White Satin (1994), Purification to Prozac: Treating...