public sector

Introduction to “Data, Design, and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives”

Derek Eder teaching at Migrahack #hackforchange. Christopher Whitaker via flickr CC BY 2.0
by CARL DISALVO, Georgia Institute of Technology This post introduces the series "Data, Design, and Civics: Ethnographic Perspectives" edited by Carl DiSalvo. With all of the civic hackathons, civic tech meetups, and civic innovation teams bustling around the world, you’d think we'd have the challenges of government and civil society figured out—or at least be well on our way toward a more open and participatory, resourceful public sphere. Certainly the rhetoric around data, design, and civics suggests as much. But, of course, that’s not the case. The significant ethnographic and design research efforts in contemporary civics are showing us that government and civil society remain fraught arenas and that information and communication technology, along with the ubiquitous “data,” have exacerbated the challenges government, citizenship, and political action. In the rush to find solutions, what we find instead are more problems. But perhaps it is through these problems, through these messy conditions and patchwork...

Why I Joined EPIC: A GPS for the Organizational Rapids

by MIKE AGAR, Ethknoworks LLC [22 May 2017: We are deeply saddened to learn that Mike has passed away. If you don't know his work, we invite you to dive into Mike's website and learn about his tremendous research, writing, and impact. —ed.] I finally seriously joined EPIC. By "seriously" I mean "sent them money." It was high time. I'm a creole with academic, applied, and practitioner ancestry. As a practitioner over the last several years, I've been wildly successful working on a specific local problem and a spectacular failure at approval for the results of that work from higher levels of the bureaucracy. Most of this work was in the area of social services. There is a correlation here between local success and distant failure that’s fairly typical of social services. It might be that a social services focus differentiates the work I do from the usual EPIC project. More on that in a moment. First some background on the “I” in EPIC. It stands for "industry." My work in the world of commerce is limited, to put it generously....

Service Designing the City

NATALIA RADYWYL From cataclysmic recessions to unprecedented climate disasters, our cities seem awash with unintended consequences borne of complex times. While city administrations grapple with developing systemic supports, our infrastructure, communities and individual wellbeing are increasingly succumbing to the strain. This paper examines a practice gaining recent traction for improving our cities’ sustainable resilience: service design. As an inherently user-centered, reflexive and iterative practice, it develops service systems by drawing upon a range of disciplinary roles - from makers to strategists, and ethnographers to technologists. I examine three New York City-based case studies which each attempt to improve the services its residents use and need. While responding to the complex needs of the same city, these case studies illustrate the vastly different possibilities for improving broken civic services through institutional intervention: housing in civic service design, mobility in private sector service design,...

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....

You’ll Never Ride Alone: The Role of Social Media in Supporting the Bus Passenger Experience

PAUL GAULT, DAVID CORSAR, PETER EDWARDS, JOHN D NELSON and CAITLIN COTTRILL The paper discusses a study of social media usage within the context of a public transport operator. This involved fieldwork within three subsidiary companies of FirstGroup alongside a content analysis of the individual Twitter feeds they operate and the conversations they generate through them to engage with passengers. A refiguring of the notion of social is taking place within these companies through their emergent strategies for utilizing social media. The findings showed how the companies address this by pursuing a persistent conversation with customers, facilitating the provision of real-time information and carefully managing their Twitter identity....

The Way to Design Ethnography for Public Service: Barriers and Approaches in Japanese Local Government

KUNIKAZU AMAGASA This paper introduces various barriers hindering the introduction of ethnography in support of public service design improvement in Japan, and discusses ways to overcome these barriers. Service design approaches using ethnography are gaining popularity in the public sector, especially in Europe. In Japan, however, local governments have adopted few or no ethnographic methods in order to improve public services. One of the most difficult barriers to the establishment of ethnographic approaches in Japan is the long-lasting relationships between citizens and local governments. Ethnographers engage in competition with citizens and are accused of bias, making it difficult for local governments to conduct ethnographic research freely and understand their citizens in depth. In order to overcome these barriers, this paper proposes three approaches about introducing areas, research protocols and organizations....