material culture

Where Were You During Covid-19? An Ethnographic Lens on Local Life in a Global Pandemic

hand washing station
by PATRICIA L. SUNDERLAND, CRAstudio.com Where were you during Covid-19? The question seems destined to become a standard conversation piece at future get-togethers. For professional anthropologists and ethnographers, we can also add in questions about what was looked at, listened to, thought about, done and imagined for the future. Gillian Tett, anthropologist and US editorial board chair at the Financial Times, for instance, wrote about the Covid-19 culture shock she experienced in London. The relative lack of mask wearing there was in stark contrast to the strict masking she had become accustomed to as an “embedded—and embodied—part of life” in her New York City neighborhood. In Paris, Dominique Desjeux, professional anthropologist, professor, and coordinator of the French applied anthropology network Antropik, created an auto-ethnographic video of what he and family members were doing and attending to in their apartment during the early confinement phase in March 2020. In my case, I spent most of 2020 in Addis Ababa,...

(Fr)agile objects: Thinking Scrum through Post-It Notes

ISABEL LAFUENTE Sidia WILSON PRATA Sidia Agile methodologies have taken hold as a model to be followed in software industry. Among them, Scrum is one of the most used frameworks and has a high level of acceptance among a large range of organizations. The underlying premise of Scrum is that by implementing an iterative and incremental process of development, an organization can become more efficient in coping with unpredictability, thus, increasing the chances of delivering business value. In this paper we use the context of SIDIA, an R&D center based in Manaus (Brazil), to look at how Scrum is practiced, by following Post-its notes, which are commonly used in agile landscapes. Following previous work on the idea of thinking through things (instead of thinking about things) as an analytic method to account for the ethnographic experience (Henare, 2006), the purpose here is to draw out the capacity of these objects to re-conceive the workplace. We argue that somehow the extensive use of post-its in this specific context...

The Elephant in the Room: A Lesson from the Field

LIUBAVA SHATOKHINA Gemic Download PDF PechaKucha—We sometimes use ethnographic tools and methods with less reflexivity than they deserve. When you start to look at the constellation of objects in the spaces people inhabit, the traces of their values and practices can be seen everywhere. After all, the creation of an individual’s life and culture is an effort to make a cosmos out of chaos. People do it all the time by rearranging objects, practices and concepts. Our job as anthropologists/consultants is to get to the unspoken rules and structure of people’s everyday by being attentive to the cosmos people assemble materially and conceptually. However, we sometimes rely too much on spoken language. In most cases it applies to the use of interviews as our major data sources when we forget to use other opportunities to enrich our knowledge that ethnographic encounters can provide. Objects and their constellations leave powerful traces of culture, and they can often tell us more than people are able to articulate. Not because people...

All That Is Seen and Unseen: The Physical Environment as Informant

LISA REICHENBACH and MAGDA WESOLKOWSKA INTRODUCTION There is an old riddle, “What is everywhere, but invisible?”, to which the answer is “air”. But in ethnography applied within settings such as marketing and product innovation, the answer might as well be “the physical environment.” While social scientists are trained to consider informants and environment as interrelated and crucial information sources in ethnography, it nonetheless appears that all too often the environment may be underutilized in ethnography in many industry settings. This is a troublesome omission as the physical environment can be tremendously valuable to any ethnographer on the hook to find strategically relevant insights about a given target. This paper argues for a practice of industry-oriented ethnography in which the physical environment is viewed as an informant that helps us to find insights related to our end goal of understanding human behavior, such as what is highly motivating or what creates profound tensions for informants. We advance...