By MIKKEL KRENCHEL, ReD Associates Three strategies for designing research that captures the social forces shaping people's behavior. Remember the days when a main challenge of the EPIC community was convincing executives that humans weren’t just rational actors all the time? Back when arguing for the value of ethnographic research, thick data, and so forth, started with getting executives to realize that there was more to people than what could be observed through a spreadsheet? Fortunately, those days are long gone. Today, most successful leaders of large corporations readily embrace the idea that humans are complex, emotional creatures and that the success of their business in large part rests on making the right bets on how they will behave. In response, research departments across the corporate world have grown exponentially in both size and sophistication, and ‘ethnographic research’ as a term has almost gone mainstream. It would be easy to conclude that it’s time to declare victory. But if you look a little closer...
Back to the Future with Video Sociality: Rethinking Tech Commercialization and Design
Jennifer Collier Jennings
by PATRICIA G. LANGE, California College of the Arts Once upon a time, a video-sharing site called YouTube was born. It greatly helped non-professional creators to post videos to the web. The platform initially broadcast diverse voices and eventually became a major competitor in the online video streaming space. The story of YouTube often begins and ends with the assumption that it achieved its destiny—that the YouTube we have now is the only YouTube that was ever possible. It feels inevitable that an up-and-coming video sharing site would commercialize. This common story of technological development and commercialization masks multiple desires that YouTubers envisioned for expressing the self and accomplishing society. Ultimately, it reduces our ability to imagine new frameworks for facilitating interaction with video. But there are alternative narratives. Other stories—particularly those told from users’ perspectives—matter because they help us understand how complex technical systems may be shaped to better serve...
Abstract 2.0: If We Are All Shouting, Is there Anyone Left to Listen?
Jennifer Collier Jennings • 0 Comments
DAWN NAFUS, ROGERIO DE PAULA and KEN ANDERSON This paper explores notions of ‘voice’ as it relates to Web 2.0. We begin by tracing the social meanings of Web 2.0 technologies Brazil. There the notions of ‘voice’ as conceived of in the American media are absent, yet significant collective action took place online through a kind of speaking out. Next the paper describes the conflation of voice with a notion of social networks to explain how the American media misread the Brazilian action. This is achieved by an incredible plasticity and abstraction of the ‘Web 2.0’ construct, which flattens otherwise qualitatively meaningful distinctions. This puts us on some ground to raise the issue of how abstractions might become relationships. This, we argue, is evidenced both in terms of how Brazilians might interpret online relationships, and how Web 2.0 hype betrays a politics of abstraction at work in the wider economy....
Susan Faulkner • 0 Comments
DANNY MILLERThank you very much, indeed. I’m really delighted to be here and to meet this community. I hope that this will be the start of an engagement. As I think it’s sort of clear, I am a pretty academic anthropologist. That makes me a bit anxious, because I do remember going to something a bit like this a long time ago, and the keynote was this kind of academic anthropologist. It was very much this sense of they were standing there and it was like what they had done was so important and so kind of profound. Yes, there were these people doing this kind of more applied work. Well, I suppose you’ve got to do something for a living, but with all of these theories, you know, we can help you do this kind of thing.And when you actually look, I think these days the work of the kind of people who stand up and say that, I would actually say that they’re the kind of theoretical academic work going on in the social sciences today—it is actually increasingly problematic. I think an awful lot of it is very pretentious; it’s very...
Replacing the Network Society with Social Foam: A Revolution for Corporate Ethnography?
EPIC People • 0 Comments
NINA WAKEFORD What would it mean for corporate ethnography to think of society not as a network, but rather as an agglomeration of bubbles that constitute foam? The article offers a comparison of the metaphors of network and foam and their implications for the analysis of contemporary sociality. It draws on the philosopher Peter Sloterdijk’s theory that we live not in one mono-spherical society but rather in apluralityofmicro-spherestobedescribedassocialfoam. Anemphasisonatmospheres,affectand contagiousness follows from this conceptualization of the social world. These consequences are discussed, and some suggestions offered of how Sloterdijk’s ideas might shift the focus of corporate ethnography. Although primarily a conceptual intervention, the article also describes how organizational theory has started to deploy the concept of social foam. It concludes with a reexamination, through a focus on atmospheres, of a previous study undertaken at Intel, which shifts the emphasis of the analysis....
Contact Lists and Youth
EPIC People • 0 Comments
MATTHEW YAPCHAIAN This paper explores the nature of networked contact lists in an emerging new media ecology as they relate to a population of 10 American pre-teens and teens (9-15). Mobile, gaming, and Web 2.0 services are contributing to a shift in the role of the contact list from a static visualization of a database to an active communication tool and the site of sociality. We draw in material from ethnographic research illustrating contact lists as dynamic sites for social activity, existing across multiple media channels, which evolve in time with an individual user. We then describe how contact list use by American youth (9-15) produces new understandings of accessibility, sociality, and visibility within the scope of personal relationships, mobility, and play in everyday life. We conclude with how we are informing corporate strategy on youth marketing and new product development....