"An ethnographic lens influences us to define ability and disability in a way that is maximally inclusive...many different abilities are present in our world, and each deserves to be taken as its own reality and respected as such."
—RICHARD BECKWITH (Research Psychologist, Intelligent Systems Research Lab) & SUSAN FAULKNER, (Research Director, Research and Experience Definition), Intel Corporation
EPIC Members Richard Beckwith and Susan Faulkner (Intel) have assembled a panel of luminaries in accessible tech research, design, and engineering for our January 26 event, Seeing Ability: Research and Development for Making Tech More Accessible. In anticipation, we asked them a few questions about their approach to accessibility and key first steps all of us can take to do more inclusive work.
How do you define ability and accessibility? How does an ethnographic lens influence your definitions?
Ability has to do with what an individual is capable of perceiving or physically doing with their body; accessibility has to do with...
While a number of scholars have studied online communities, research on games has been mostly focused on the business, experience, and content of gameplay. Interactions between players within games has received less attention, and toxic behavior is a newer area of investigation in academia. Inquiry into toxicity in gaming is part of a larger body of literature and public interest emerging around disruptive and malicious social interactions online, cyberbullying, child-grooming, and extremist recruiting. Through our research we reaffirmed that toxicity in gaming is a problem at a global scale, but we also discovered that on a micro scale, what behavior gamers perceive as toxic, or how toxicity is enacted in gaming is different depending on cultural context amongst other things. The generalized problem at scale, and its particular manifestations on the micro level raise philosophical and technology design questions, which we address through examples from our own research...
FANI NTAVELOU BAUM
Despite companies facing real consequences for getting ethics wrong, basic ethical questions in emerging technologies remain unresolved. Companies have begun trying to answer these tough questions, but their techniques are often hindered by the classical approach of moral philosophy and ethics – namely normative philosophy – which prescribe an approach to resolving ethical dilemmas from the outset, based on assumed moral truths. In contrast, we propose that a key foundation for ‘getting ethics right’ is to do the opposite: to discover them, by going out into the world to study how relevant people resolve similar ethical dilemmas in their daily lives – a project we term ‘grounded ethics’. Building from Durkheim's theory of moral facts and more recent developments in the anthropology of morals and ethics, this paper explores the methods and theory useful to such a mission – synthesizing these into a framework to guide future...
When we study human systems and organizations we have a job that requires to empathize or at the very least be compassionate towards the experiences others are having. This allows to understand their goals, problems, and how we can best make their lives better. When machines start to do things that we can't imagine how do we continue to work with them? What is necessary to create great combinations of humans and machines? What is a machine's purpose? Very simply: it is to serve human purposes. As technology continues to build facades that hide the human element we need to pull back the curtain (like the one in the Wizard of Oz) and see that the tools we build are really us reflected back. We have the choice to make tools that are good or bad for us.
Chris Butler, is the Director of AI at Philosophie and frequently speaks on the intersection of product, design, and AI. He has extensive experience from Microsoft, Waze, KAYAK, among others. Through his practice he has created...
University of California, Davis
There is a crisis brewing in the innovation capital of the world. From protests at Google bus stops, to rallies at San Francisco City Hall over Airbnb gentrification, to a stark increase in homelessness, there is a growing rift between the have and have not's in Silicon Valley. Meanwhile the average tech employee, told they are “making the world a better place,” is faced with escalating labor demands, hyper-connectivity, and a shift from “work-life balance” to “work is life.” The tech worker is in a contentious position – torn between corporate propaganda and the visible externalities of a for-profit business. To understand how this tension plays out for the average techie, I illustrate a “disconnect camp” where the everyday rules of SF techie sociality are inverted – no technology, no names, no discussion of work, no networking. This carnavlesque pacifies postmodern contradictions about “valueless work” by placing...
Facebook (formerly Intel Corporation)
Case Study—After discovering that there were over 25 projects going on in various business units in the company that involved children as end users, and that most people had a limited understanding of children's play, the researchers proposed a multi-cultural ethnographic project called ChildsPlay. This case study illustrates the many ways that a well-planned ethnographic study can influence the trajectory of a company's culture, highlighting institutional challenges, describing the ethnographic methods and theoretical underpinnings that guided the research and its analysis, and touching upon the importance of play as an anthropological focal point. The case study closes with a discussion of a notable shift in the narrative around Intel's child-focused product efforts, and the tangible outcomes of the research with respect to product development....
by SAKARI TAMMINEN, Gemic
Ever since the 1970s, the promise of increased productivity through technology has been under intense scrutiny. It’s a promise that has pushed questions about nature and the role of technology in society into the hands of scholars, including anthropologists. For those working in industry – really, one of the few places where anthropologists can engage with technology the real, rather than technology the theory – the question always boils down to value. Whether it’s big data, AI, biotech, nanotechnology, robots, smart dust or driverless cars, the one question we’re always looking to answer is: What’s the value of a new technology?
Economically, the promise and gains of technological efficiency – particularly information technology – is known as the productivity paradox. Whether a paradox or a series of assumptions about the impact of technology on productivity, the question of the value of technology sparked heated debate among economists over the first wave of computerization. In 1987,...
by LIUBAVA SHATOKHINA, Consultant, Gemic
Most of the people I know constantly complain about the role and use of digital technology in their lives. Too much time on Facebook, always distracted by emails, annoying notifications and all the ‘digital rubbish’ their smartphones and computers bring into their lives. Only a couple of years before, most of them were looking forward to the new iPhone releases, while today they are more and more skeptical about what Apple and the like are going to present next. The overall assumption that technology is here to make our lives better is now met with a growing skepticism, even resentment. The reason is twofold: first, constantly growing technological pollution that causes fatigue and enforces many unwanted behaviors, and second, the inability of digital technology to resonate with current values people share.
Move from user-centricity to human-centricity
The digital technology we currently have is born within a ‘design for addiction’ paradigm1, where the success of tech innovation...
EMILIE GLAZER, ANNA MIECZAKOWSKI, JAMES KING and BEN FEHNERT
Adoption of digital support services is mediated by varying experiences of trust. This paper deconstructs the notion of trust in technology through a design-led research project on the long-term adoption of a telehealth service – a context at once complex and fragile. The investigated daily experience of patients and healthcare practitioners in the UK and Germany revealed negotiations of trust that blurred boundaries between domestic and medical, and between system smartness and individual responsibility. Implications extend to the role of technology in changing healthcare landscapes, what trust means in developing digital support services more generally, and how appreciating the fragility of trust can bring both risk and hope in uncertain and evolving worlds....
SUSAN FAULKNER and ANNE MCCLARD
Two ethnographers from different parts of the same technology company set out to explore the role of women and girls in the worldwide maker movement. We wanted to know who is currently participating in the maker phenomenon, how they became makers, what motivates them to continue making, what kinds of things they make, and what their hopes are for the future. Most importantly, we investigated why women are underrepresented in the realm of tech making with the explicit goal of being change agents and triggers of transformation both within our company and in the broader technology landscape....
by JEFF DAVISON, Microsoft
I spent 44 hours with hackers to learn that everything I thought I knew about hacking was wrong. In the process, I learned that events like hackathons represent a similar social hub to those Jan Chipchase identifies in his book Hidden in Plain Sight. These hubs help researchers find their feet quickly in new cultures. As a research community, we can help one another by sharing details of these hubs and some of the reasons we have for choosing them.
Hackathons attract lead users, which makes them useful to people tasked with delivering formative research. If you work in the tech field, they should be on a list of essential events to attend together with Maker Faires and the various gatherings of the ever growing Meet Up culture. They represent a strategic starting point for field inquiry. My own journey went something like this…
Hacking culture has a special place in the hearts of the West’s techno-literati, and carries with it all the cultural relevance and formative...
ERIK VINKHUYZEN, LUKE PLURKOWSKI and GARY DAVID
This yearlong video ethnography of a healthcare clinic that transitioned from a paper process to a scanning solution documents in detail how the new technology impacted different groups in the clinic. While the scanning solution reduced the retrieving, filing, and paper-processing work for the Medical Record clerks, the ethnographic analysis showed that it also eliminated some of that work’s tangible benefits for providers. Ultimately, the scanning solution resulted in a shift in the division of labor in the clinic from Medical Records to the healthcare providers who were burdened with additional administrative tasks. Indeed, the scanning technology did not make the clinic more efficient overall, as the number of patient visits per day remained the same....
Thanks a lot. I enjoy being the last keynote speaker, because it means nobody gets to leave until I say.Thanks for having me in. It's been a very edifying three days. I enjoyed it here. I'm not gonna try not to keep you, because the weather is beautiful. But I have rather a lot on my mind today.Because I have this writing assignment which I've been working on, which ties in closely with the theme of your conference on “Evolution and Revolution". It has to do with this interesting book written by colleague of mine.
His book is called “Radical Evolution,” like this speech. “Radical Evolution: the Promise and Peril of Enhancing Our Minds, Our Bodies and What It Means To Be Human.”
The author of this book is now the Lincoln Professor of Law Culture and Values at Arizona State University, and his name is Joel Garreau. And Professor Garreau has this website, which is called “The Prevail Project,” where he wants to grapple with the problems he describes in this book. Or maybe acquaint many of us with what...
TAKANORI UGAI, KOUJI AOYAMA and AKIHIKO OBATA
This paper explores a way to expand business using ethnography as an industrial service or product. First, a challenge that companies are facing and trying to deal with, which is industrialization is described. In the software industry, as computer prices go down, the requirements for software development involve accurate estimates of the cost, the time and the resources involved in the process. Due to these new market demands, software development reached a level of maturity, which required a new approach to product development. Likewise, as ethnography grows into more intricate realms, there is a need for a more robust approach to ethnography application in business to help it achieve the right maturity level of industrialized processes. In this context of complexity, case studies from Fujitsu and examples from literature were used to test the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) framework to use to evaluate the practice of ethnography in business. As a result, a brief assessment...
MARIA BEZAITIS and KEN ANDERSON
To start to shape directions for new business opportunities, and to remain attentive to changing business landscapes, ethnographic practice must produce knowledge about the social world by looking at relevant shifts in social frames and then use this knowledge to shape the informed fictions that will move business climates and interests. Flux is an approach that demonstrates one way to evolve the work from its traditional focus on design and making good products to the development of new business models. This approach emerges from very specific sets of changes taking place presently in the technology sector and the desire to apply ethnography, interpretive work, theory to figure more explicitly as the central mediation between businesses and the social world....