narrative & story

How Asking About the Best Ice Cream Reveals Ourselves

JENNIFER NG Think-Ng and Mayo Clinic Download PDF PechaKucha—As an author of a book about ice cream around the world, I am often asked this question: What is the best ice cream? I am often stumped. I know that they want something that they don’t know from the “expert”. So when I hesitantly answer, I would give my personal favorite, one that I discovered during my travels—a goat cheese ice cream with roasted cherries from Jeni’s Ice Cream in Columbus, Ohio. Yet I was curious—why do people ask that question if it could be potentially disappointing? Do they really want the #1 based on my personal opinion? Did they want to find something new to try? Were they trying to understand my motivation? Were they curious about a story? I unravel this question through an investigation of the intention of the question. When applied to ethnography, how does that question apply? As ethnographers, do we miss an important insight if we don’t ask about the best? Jennifer Ng just joined Mayo Clinic as a senior user experience designer....

Toward Industrialization of Ethnography

TAKANORI UGAI, KOUJI AOYAMA and AKIHIKO OBATA This paper explores a way to expand business using ethnography as an industrial service or product. First, a challenge that companies are facing and trying to deal with, which is industrialization is described. In the software industry, as computer prices go down, the requirements for software development involve accurate estimates of the cost, the time and the resources involved in the process. Due to these new market demands, software development reached a level of maturity, which required a new approach to product development. Likewise, as ethnography grows into more intricate realms, there is a need for a more robust approach to ethnography application in business to help it achieve the right maturity level of industrialized processes. In this context of complexity, case studies from Fujitsu and examples from literature were used to test the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) framework to use to evaluate the practice of ethnography in business. As a result, a brief assessment...

Living Avatars Network: Fusing Traditional and Innovative Ethnographic Methods through a Real-time Mobile Video Service

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’...

Sustaining Stories: The Versatile Life of Sustained, In-house, Ethnographic Practice in a Global Software Company

NATALIE D. HANSON and JOHANN W. SARMIENTO-KLAPPER Ethnographers, in a sense, play the role of story creators, storytellers, and, often, preservers of such stories. The narratives produced and the fieldwork from which they emerge make visible trajectories of practice—for both subjects and researchers— which can be traced both retrospectively and projectively. For “in-house” ethnographers engaged in the sustained work of making sense of and contributing to organizations, a unique challenge emerges: discovering and managing the retrospective and prospective meaning of their storytelling and its visibility. Here we reflect on the challenges and opportunities of sustaining ethnographic inquiry in a large global software company. Reflecting on close to ten years of participant observation, we outline some of our practices related to positioning, re-framing, and expanding the visibility of our work and our organizational roles; a dynamic that continues to shape our practice and its relevance within this corporate environment....

Move Me: On Stories, Rituals, and Building Brand Communities

KATE SIECK This paper takes on the challenge of understanding behaviour change through the lens of anthropology. In the field of market research, the goal is to find the leverage points of emotional connection that will inspire a desired behaviour. But traditional approaches to research have relied on methods that neither capture these triggers of change, nor inspire connection. Alternatively, an approach to research based on rituals induces transformational experiences that by their very definition are grounded in emotional connection. This paper details a framework for ritual-based research, and provides case studies of how and when rituals might be used for gathering market insights. We conclude with recommendations for extending the approach into engagement opportunities and creative executions....

“Let’s Bring It Up to B Flat”: What Style Offers Applied Ethnographic Work

RICK E. ROBINSON Ethnographic and design work share, deeply, the challenge of conveying the truth of the work we do to interlocutors from very different backgrounds. Writing is hard work even with the shared culture that an academic discipline or a single firm can draw upon. How, then, to write well for broad and varied audiences? By writing like novelists. Literary critic James Wood encapsulates the central tradition of the novel as: “Truthfulness to the way things are […] Life on the page, life brought to different life by the highest artistry.” (2008:247) It is hard to conceive of a better description of what most of us would like to achieve. “Truthfulness to the way things are” gets nicely to all of the important moments of what we do—observation, description, interpretation, inscription. In this paper, I try to move ‘style’ up the ladder of importance in how we think, write, and talk about the work we do....

Mapping the Loss of Reflexivity in the Age of Narcissism

BRIDGET WALSH REGAN and AJAY REVELS PART I: AN EXPLOSION OF VOICES, BUT LITTLE SENSE-MAKING With the rise of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, as well as YouTube, and the popularity of blogs, there has been no other time where so many voices are being heard on so many topics. Personal blogs, many of which contain writing and photos and video are kept by 12 million Americans and are read by 57 million Americans. (Brown 2007) YouTube is a beacon site on the Web, a much-touted success story since it’s $1.6B acquisition by Google in November 2006. At the time of its acquisition 100 million videos were being watched on the Web every day. A BBC report in June of 2007 stated that “every minute of every day, six hours of fresh video are uploaded.” These numbers point to an explosion of personal stories, in text, pictures and video, available for any and all to digest. The ability to wander from one person’s story to another linked story to another and so on is infinite. It is easier than ever before to join in the...