Our practices of research, design, and strategy create landscapes of possibility. Anticipation, an approach that has informed much of the recent ethnographic work on the future, is shaped by how these symbolic and material landscapes, and the forms of agency they make possible, are distributed. This makes anticipation politically significant, prompting an empirical question of when and with respect to whose experience broader future visions occur. Seeking to bring attention to processes of future-making that capture these disparities, we ground anticipation in lived experience. Drawing on two long-term fieldworks, we recognize significant variability in how the future manifests in the course of practical and reflective engagements in everyday life. To explore these engagements, we turn to “future senses” of memory, foresight, voice, optimism, and yearning. We then demonstrate how “future senses” can be productively integrated within conversations about advancing not only more diverse...
By shifting from sanitized, frictionless experiences to multisensory, relational landscapes, brands and organizations can help people feel a sense of safety, community, and well-being.
by PIERRE LEE and SERENA CHAO, Gemic
Sanitization has been a key word during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sanitization not just in terms of cleanliness, but also in terms of the revised interactions people have had with each other and with the environment around them. COVID-19 has created a Sanitized Landscape – supposedly free of germs in the home, cars on the road, and close encounters with other bodies.
As parts of the world slowly prepare for a ‘new normal’ post-pandemic, we propose that a fundamental part of this preparing involves looking not through the lens of a Sanitized Landscape, but a Sensory Landscape. This combines traditional senses of smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing with metaphysical perception – senses beyond the traditional that help people feel a sense of safety, comfort, connectedness, and well-being.
a book review by GERALD LOMBARDI
The Power of Not Thinking: How Our Bodies Learn and Why We Should Trust Them
2020, 336 pp, Blink Publishing/Bonnier
In The Power of Not Thinking: How Our Bodies Learn and Why We Should Trust Them, Simon Roberts aims to resuscitate the human body from the sepulchre of Western thought, where Descartes and his successors presumably buried it, and to correct popular misconceptions about how we generate knowledge. In the author's words:
"Our intelligence does not just arise from our brains... nor can it be programmed as a set of rules or propositions that enables us to think in particular ways or perform particular actions. Instead, our understanding of the world arises from our bodies’ interactions with and perceptions of the world – and it is through these interactions that our bodies acquire knowledge." (p. 6)
This proposition will be taken for granted by some readers of this review, and by anyone who follows its intellectual touchpoints: embodied cognition, situated learning,...
Space Doctors Download PDF
Semiotic insight powerfully complements ethnographic approaches. Semiotics, the study of signs and cultural meaning, has been gaining ground in the world of commercial research. Semiotics has also been successfully melded together with ethnographic and other cultural approaches, especially in the UK and Europe. This tutorial equipped participants with the tools, techniques and hands-on experience needed to begin their own semiotic research endeavors.
Opening with a grounding in semiotic theory, we then focused on building practical skills through ‘live decoding’ of a cultural theme. We began by learning how to ‘decode’ – exploring how a semiotic close read analysis can reveal a deeper understanding of what is really being said. Crucially, we discussed the chasm that often appears between intended meaning and received meaning, especially within brand communication.
We then introduced the idea of codes (themes, or clusters...
by SARAH PINK, RMIT University
As an ethnographer working at the interface of theory and praxis, I frame my research by the need to understand the sensory and digital environments in which we live. Approaching the world through the prism of the digital and sensory offers us a novel and effective way of engaging with contemporary social and environmental challenges – like those relating to energy, safety or privacy – which are also challenges for industry. But why these particular turns to the digital and the sensory? And why now?
Every few years ethnography gets caught up in a new theoretical ‘turn’, a novel way of thinking that casts existing paradigms into critical relief. Sometimes it feels like theory turns so often that, if we took each trend seriously, we would get caught up in whirlpool of abstraction. We have been through the reflexive, gendered and embodied turns of ethnography of the 1980s and 1990s. More recently we’ve seen Christine Hine’s Virtual Ethnography and Ethnography for the Internet, Tom Boellstorff...
In this paper I explore the often fleeting, seemingly constrained acts of expression performed through participation in everyday, routinized actions and practices. The vehicle I use for this exploration is the tools, processes and practices sales professionals use to manage the list of possible sales opportunities, or sales pipeline. I give particular attention to the meetings in which sales professionals and their managers discuss the pipeline. The element of talk, with its potential for unruliness, plays a central role in this otherwise hyper-rationalized activity focused around numbers, accounting and calculability. I suggest that to understand such signification processes and the forms of meaning that emerge through them we must look beyond the content of enunciated statements to consider the forms they take over time. I propose that participation in the sales pipeline process, particularly the meetings, forms a part of sales-people’s rhythmscape of work. By situating sites of expression in the notion of a rhythmscape,...
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’...
Pier 1 Imports is a store that specializes in home decor, including wood and wicker furniture, draperies, and scented candles. On the cover of its Fall 2000 catalogue there is a picture of a tabletop fountain made of slabs of brown and grey speckled marble. Down the right edge of the cover is a series of coloured boxes. Each box is imprinted with the name of a different sense. At the top is feel (golden yellow), then smell (lawn green), hear (purple) taste (lust red), and finally see (burnt orange). The slogan reads: “Get in touch with your senses™”.
A full page advertisement for Westin Hotels & Resorts which appeared in 2007 features a bunch of lush green leaves spattered with dewdrops and the line: “White tea. The calming new scent of Westin.” There is a flap which releases the scent of white tea when opened. Just above the hotel logo is the slogan: “This is how it should feel.” The chain had recently introduced The Westin Heavenly Bed® with its “ten layers of pure comfort.”
When Apple launched...
LISA REICHENBACH and MAGDA WESOLKOWSKA
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...