ELIZABETH CHURCHILL, Chair
An EPIC2020 Sponsored Panel presented by Google
What does human scale mean through the lens of the environment? Alternatively, what does the scale of the Earth’s environment mean to human activity and life? We may start by thinking of the enormity of the problem to just describe these two perspectives. But, by stepping back and reframing our questions in terms of the tools we use—design, ethnography, AI, art—we gain a powerful and novel perspective.
Panelists discuss their work in terms of the world’s biggest threat, climate change. Approaching this topic from each one’s unique worldview and the tools of their practice, they follow out the scales of local to global and how small and seemingly one-off events can grow to a world scale. How do we design, provoke, educate—and ultimately change the world—by employing disparate data...
This tutorial examines ways ethnography is uniquely positioned to contribute to the design and innovation of environmentally sustainable (or even better than merely sustainable) products and services. It reviews several emerging design perspectives—such as circular design, regenerative design, systems-oriented design, and value-centered design—and explores ways that ethnographers in industry can use them their own practice and organizations to build sustainability considerations into their work. It is valuable for those who are relatively new to sustainability as well as those with deeper experience who are interested in expanding our collective impact toward more planet-friendly industries. The session covers:
Opportunity costs of doing design research “as usual”
Key perspectives and approaches for sustainable design and innovation
Baking sustainability perspectives into research
Ethnographic/anthropological theories and methods that can support a sustainability...
More Things Considered
More Things Considered
Our tiny provocation is that the word “sustainability” is not sustainable. Just using it is sabotaging our efforts to build a better future for the planet. Despite decades of global sustainability discourse, the world is still going to hell. What's gone wrong? Our paper is about willful ignorance and complicity at a global scale; the benefits of small talk; and a better, more effective word than sustainability.
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 300–321, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic...
by MELISSA GREGG, Intel
In the spring of 2019 I met Klara, a fashion blogger based in Malmö with a growing reputation in sustainable design. Klara was a classic millennial of the type I had been studying for years: ambitious, anxious, confident and concerned about her future job security. In the course of a long interview about her laptop routines, she worried about depending so much on devices. She was one of several participants in different parts of the world who were cynical about tech companies’ constant push to sell new products. She had high standards for quality, but didn’t think there were enough products available that focused on sustainability. Rather than feel guilty about buying something that compromised her brand, Klara was considering making her next computer purchase second-hand.
Several months later, the research complete and the presentations over, I am listening to another young woman from Sweden, Greta Thunberg. “This is all wrong,” she was saying on stage at the United Nations Climate Summit: “I shouldn’t...
by CAROLINE TURNBULL, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School & Maryland Institute College of Art
Sustainability & Ethnography in Business Series, Mike Youngblood, Editor
Sustainability initiatives—social, economic or environmental—can have universal value for stakeholders. But how sustainability is defined, and what successful solutions might look like, can vary dramatically among different communities, or even conflict. One particular interaction a few years ago forced me to re-evaluate my own definition of sustainability, and this experience has affected my approach to the solution-finding process ever since.
In 2014 I was working for a nonprofit organization that partnered with companies to certify their carpet supply chains as being free of child labor. I was just four years out of college, dizzy with optimism and eager to be working in a field that married my interests in products, ethics and sustainability. The 20-year-old organization I represented was doing incredible work – freeing children from licensed...
by THOMAS WENDT, Surrounding Signifiers
“The term ‘empathy’ has provided a guiding thread for a whole range of fundamentally mistaken theories concerning man’s [sic] relationship to other human beings and to other beings in general.”
Popular design discourse is full of articles, books, and conference presentations on the role of empathy in design. In both commercial and non-commercial settings, most designers argue the same thing: designers should attempt to build empathy for “users” so they can better design for them. But empathy as it’s generally practiced ultimately subverts its own goals. It tends to reinforce “otherness”, promote anthropocentrism, and ignore ecological considerations.
I recently moved from Manhattan to Queens. My old neighborhood, NoLita (north of Little Italy…thanks, real estate agents), had fully gentrified, with storefronts quickly transforming into cold pressed juice bars ($10/cup) and men’s shaving supply stores ($25 “beard oil”). My...
by MIKE YOUNGBLOOD, The Youngblood Group
Introduction to the Sustainability & Ethnography in Business Series, Mike Youngblood, Editor
Sustainability—we’re hearing this word a lot these days, even in business (if not, depressingly, in Trump Tower). It’s probably something readers of this post all generally support, and it’s definitely something we’re all connected to in one way or another. Whether we work in tech, consumer goods, education, government, or any other field, it’s pretty easy to see how the products, services, and organizations we serve affect larger social and environmental issues.
For most of us in the EPIC community, however, sustainability isn’t in our job descriptions. So how should we understand and act on this issue? What are our perspectives, capabilities, opportunities, and responsibilities with respect to sustainability? Are we actively addressing sustainability in our work, or is it properly “someone else’s job?”
This post introduces an EPIC discussion on sustainability. Over...