science & technology studies

The Anthropology of Wearables: The Self, The Social, and the Autobiographical

SAKARI TAMMINEN Gemic ELISABET HOLMGREN Gemic A wide range of new digital products lumped together under the category of ‘Wearables’ or ‘Wearable Technology’ raises fundamental questions about the way we think about our individual bodies and the species Homo Sapiens. This paper traces three different relationships to what are called the ‘wearables’ and extends the notion to cover all material technologies that mediate our relations between various embodied practices and the world, and beyond pure ‘hi tech’ products. Therefore, this paper develops a general cultural approach to wearables, informed by empirical examples from the US and China, and ends by mapping valuable design spaces for the next generation of digital technologies that are getting closer to our bodies and our skin, even venturing beneath it....

Ethnography and the Distributed-Centered Subject

by HéLèNE MIALET, University of California Davis On the 8th of January 2013, the day of Hawking’s birthday, I published an article in Wired Magazine about Stephen Hawking. The article was immediately picked up and praised by the Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s famous blog, among whose fans ranks President Obama. The praise, however, didn’t last long. The Daily Mail, a national British Tabloid, jumped on the article, and transformed me into a monster attacking a national hero with a severe disability. What a wonderful target I was, a woman, French (we know how the French and the British get along), and living in America. The article in The Daily Mail went viral. I was stunned by the extreme reaction, by the (intentional?) misinterpretation by the journalists, and by what the anonymity of the web allows: the violence and the cruelty of the emails I received were astonishing. I had touched a nerve, or multiple nerves. I had touched the myth of our modernity, so beautifully incarnated by Stephen Hawking, the idea that a man alone, unable...

Magic Thinking

GENEVIEVE BELL I realize that there are a couple of things I wanted to do in this talk, but it requires a little bit of an explanation at the outset. This is a talk about how we make sense of the sociotechnical imagination. It is a term I promise that I will unpack. This is not a talk about ethnographic fieldwork. This is not a talk about product design or design thinking. This is however, for my mind, a piece of classic anthropological work. It is an intervention into how we think about and talk about products; our relationships to them, and the ways in which we choose to embrace them, resist them, break them, love them and make sense of them. It also takes as its starting point a kind of classic, I think, anthropological conversation which is about magic. It is kind of fun to be doing it in this building at this moment in time.This is a talk in some ways influenced by people like James Frasier, who stood in this place nearly a hundred years ago and talked about magic and magical thinking. For me the book The Golden Bough is sort...

The Conceit of Oracles

TRICIA WANG Good morning, I am really excited to be here for my first EPIC conference. There are just so many amazing people in the audience as I look at you guys, and so many of you guys I've been following on blogs and Twitter and especially Natalie Hanson’s anthrodesign listserv. I can’t wait to talk to you guys all afterwards. Just as a reminder, I don’t know if Simon already said it, but if you’re tweeting or instragramming—use the conference hashtag EPIC 2013. If throughout the talk you have any questions, or if anything resonates with you, this is my Twitter and Instagram handle.For over twelve centuries in Ancient Greece in consulting oracles, a person who could predict the future was a part of everyday Hellenistic life. People—poor, wealthy, slave and free—asked oracles for them to answer important life questions such as should I get married, or will I come back from war alive, or questions related to business matters. Should I invest in this voyage? There were questions related to political affairs like should...

Reassembling the Visual

LUCY KIMBELL In her presentation to EPIC, Kimbell reflects on how data are visualized and how they are experienced. Drawing on work in the visual arts and design, she considers what practices that seem to be gathering and visualising data are actually doing, from installations such as her project ‘Physical Bar Charts’ (2005-8) to methods such as cultural probes. These examples are combined with ideas from Science and Technology Studies (STS), which foregrounds the empirical and the mundane, and questions how accounts of the social are constructed. Writers in this tradition have emphasized the ways that public experiments are used to assemble data and paid attention how data are visualized. The discussion includes work from a recent public experiment in which Kimbell was involved, as organiser of an exhibition of work by artists and designers as part of an academic workshop in Oxford entitled ‘Imagining Business’. Together, these different ways of thinking about visualising and experiencing data raise questions for ethnographers...

Beyond Walking With Video: Co-creating Representation

JONATHAN BEAN This paper discusses a method I used to conduct a study of hygge, a Danish concept that is usually translated as “cosiness.” I wanted to learn more about hygge and how it related to technology in the home. The method I used builds on my experience with spatial ethnography, on Bruno Latour’s theory of representation, and on the work of visual anthropologist Sarah Pink. I asked participants to use a video or still camera to help me document their home. With participant and researcher both behind the lens of a camera, I saw a significant remapping of the power relationship between researcher and participant; we were able to focus together on the material home as the object of the research. In addition to reducing the time needed to build rapport, this method offers a way to analyze cultural practices such ashygge that are not entirely visible in the material world....

Who We Talk about When We Talk about Users

KRIS R. COHEN I begin with some questions: how have the theories and methods which subtend design research been changed by their migration from academy to industry? How have they adapted to their new commercial culture? What languages and customs have they had to acquire to fit in? To address these questions, I consider a facet of design research which I think most problematically bears the marks of this passage: how we choose who we will study. I go on to think about both the causes and implications of exclusions so often resident in this choice. The ideal that drives my analysis forward is that design researchers are in the business of designing not products for “users,” but landscapes of possibility for public life. A final suggestion, inspired by my recent work on Internet-based personal photography and here briefly sketched, is that design researchers take the publicness of our work more seriously—that we design for it....