place

Place Making and Sustainability

by MICHAEL DONOVAN, Practica Group LLC Sustainability & Ethnography in Business Series, Mike Youngblood, Editor Place making offers us a largely untraveled pathway to thinking about sustainability. These two relatively high order concepts—'place making' and 'sustainability'—are conventionally located in separate domains of knowledge and ways of knowing. Place making is essentially the fluid filling in of geographic spaces with experience, social value, and meaning. It’s the kind of thing that cultural geographers, anthropologists, and historians are likely to ponder. Sustainability is harder to corral. Leaving questions of perspective and authority aside for a moment, what are “we” trying to sustain? Species? The ecosystems in which such species thrive? Or the natural places—those culturally mediated spaces (forests, rivers, bays, coral reefs)—in which such “systems” are embedded? How about places at further remove from “nature” and the protective eye of naturalists and environmentalists—neighborhoods,...

Have You Heard? Using Place-Based Ethnography to Construct a Word-of-Mouth Campaign in the Bottom of the Pyramid

JENNIFER GIROUX ReD Associates ZUNG NGUYEN ReD Associates Case Study—The “bottom of the pyramid” concept has promised companies that they can simultaneously create wealth and social impact when serving the world’s poorest customers. In reality, companies have faced multiple challenges when trying to acquire and retain customers in the “bottom of the pyramid”. This case study captures the journey of one such company that is operating low-cost private schools in slums and remote villages in an African country. Despite delivering a solid educational quality, the company was facing retention issues, and was struggling to maintain a healthy student population. Leadership diagnosed that a word of mouth marketing campaign would be important to increase acquisition and retention; but it did not know where to start. By designing a place-based ethnographic approach, ReD was able to gain the customer centric insights needed to design a new value proposition and engagement model that tapped into and leveraged word-of-mouth social...

“Culture Matters More than We Think”: Eric Weiner / A Profile

EPIC Profiles Series by TAMARA HALE, Effective UI EPIC2016 Keynote Speaker Eric Weiner is a veteran foreign correspondent and New York Times best selling author. Join Eric at EPIC2016! In an interconnected, technology-driven world, does culture still matter? Can there really be “best practices” to be drawn from the vast range of human experiences? These are some of the questions driving Eric Weiner’s influential writing and thinking. I spoke with Eric about his career trajectory and the inspiration he has drawn from the discipline of anthropology. His award-winning journalism and critically acclaimed books, The Geography of Bliss, Man Seeks God and The Geography of Genius all use cross-cultural and historical comparison as a strategy to make key concepts intriguing for the general public. After writing his first two books, explains Eric, “I realized that I’ve really been engaging in amateur cultural anthropology.... I believe that culture matters more than we think.” Eric’s interest in culture, his deep appreciation...

What Is a Product? How a New Definition is Leading Us toward a Place-Based Design Process

by MEGAN NEESE, Future Lab, Nissan Motor Ltd. The Product Company Identity Crisis I have always worked at or with OEMs (original equipment manufacturing companies) in the industrial design and product development industry. The work has ranged from very large products such as sleeper cabins for long haul trucks and farming equipment down to very small products in the consumer electronics industry, but consistently, the emphasis has always been on products. The very nature of being an equipment maker requires expertise in integrating parts, components, and systems into physical objects. Product development processes have always been structurally similar, focused on integration and related at some level to Stage Gate or Six Sigma. They reflect the constraints of manufacturing, in which decisions are cascading to ensure forward momentum and reduce last-minute changes that could have unforeseen ricochet effects on years of decisions that have already been made. And they work—so long as you don’t consider software, data, automation, or...

Ethnography inside the Walls: Studying the Contested Space of the Cemetery

ANNIKA PORSBORG NIELSEN and LINE GROES This paper discusses the merits and challenges of user-centered urban development projects, and what it means to apply an ethnographic approach to the study of urban spaces and the way people use them. We draw primarily on an ethnographic project carried out in two cemeteries in Copenhagen. The project focused on the involvement of local citizens – both everyday users of the cemeteries, as well as locals who do not use these urban spaces. We discuss the challenges and opportunities of ethnography in a complex space such as a cemetery, and consider additional ways to incorporate citizens into projects that have a direct impact on their lives. We conclude with a discussion of the project learnings and their implications for future urban planning....

Place and Small Businesses: Reflections on Ethnographic Research in and on Place

This paper examines the often taken-for-granted role of ‘place’ and geography (cities, neighborhoods) in business ethnography, using research on small business as a case-in-point. Most studies of small businesses tend to focus directly on businesses themselves, eliding from consideration the social and physical environment in which they are situated. Yet especially for businesses that operate…

If These Walls Could Talk: The Mental Life of the Built Environment

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....

The Luminosity of the Local

MICHAEL DONOVAN This paper seeks to capture the local in Locavore—both its concrete and symbolic character. Locavore is a kind of nascent identity that emerges from constellations of social relationships, self-defining “food communities”, made up of consumers and farmers and chefs, and food writers and environmentalists of various stripes. These communities live in the blogosphere, tweets and other media as well as through face-to-face relationships and transactions. At their core are representations of the local—in foods, dishes, recipes, meals, places, and persons. Place-bound identities that in some theoretically interesting ways transcend place. Drawing on classical anthropological theory and recent studies in cultural geography, we explore ways in which the local is invented and given representational power in the creation of face to face and digital communities. Implications for branding, marketing and understanding the continued power of place-bound identities in the very constitution of digitized and globalized worlds.1...

The Built Environment: Exploration toward a New Paradigm

DOROTHY DEASY, ERIK LUCKEN, WILLIAM DOWELL, GRETCHEN GSCHEIDLE and LAURA LEENHOUTS For most businesses, group work is the way in which ideas are given voice. In this study, ethnographic research was conducted to explore group work and the environments in which it occurs. The research provides context for architects and designers who are conceiving improvements or reinventing the ways the built environment (e.g., furnishings, décor and architecture) influences the outcome of group activities. The research took place in two phases; phase one sought to develop a set of observable hypotheses and phase two sought to validate the hypotheses through observation. In the first phase “embedded reporters” were recruited from Herman Miller and Gensler staff to serve as observers of their own group work and to report on idea flow, knowledge transfer, size of groups, reasons for working together, stage of process, etc. During the second phase of the study, an ethnographic researcher shadowed a “hub” person skilled in group work for 1 –...

And now a word from the EPIC2014 co-organizers . . .

by TIMOTHY DE WAAL MALEFYT, Fordham University and ROGERIO DE PAULA, IBM The practice of ethnography can be described, among other ways, has having the emergent qualities of relationality, fluidity and creating a sense of place. These qualities also inform who we are at EPIC, our growing community and our location in NYC for 2014. Moreover, ethnographic practice necessitates these qualities to foster and develop ‘value and values,’ the theme of this year’s EPIC conference. Relationally, ethnographers are ‘outside others’ who relate to and with other local subjects, learning from them and often informing third parties of acquired knowledge. This knowledge is constructed of pre-existing agendas, the ethnographer’s experience, and multiple other known and unknown agents. Our relationality to others brings enlightenment and adds value to the various projects we work on. Simmel noted one hundred years ago, that ‘value’ motivates and sustains exchanges between two or more distinct parties, of which all business professions...

Putting Mobility on the Map: Researching Journeys and the Research Journey

SIMON ROBERTS This paper, based on a fieldwork conducted with community transport projects in rural Ireland, examines the place of mobility in the lives of older people. It uses the idea of journey to explore what mobility means to older people, what the research made visible to a diverse range of project stakeholders and to reflect on the nature of ethnographic projects in industry settings. For passengers, the journeying is often as important as the destination – travelling creates visibility of countryside, community and communion with others. For project stakeholders, the research encouraged a view of mobility that transcends travel because it highlighted the world beyond the bus. For researchers, the project created challenges to the dominant view of technology for ageing-in-place within their own organization. Finally, reflections are made on industry ethnography as a journey with often unknown destinations....

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...