technology

Time for a Digital Detox: Burnout, Addiction, and Desperation in Silicon Valley

SHAHEEN AMIREBRAHIMI University of California, Davis PechaKucha Presentation 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...

It’s Not Childs’ Play: Changing Corporate Narratives Through Ethnography

ANNE MCCLARD Intel Corporation THÉRÈSE DUGAN 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....

Have We Lost Our Anthropological Imagination?

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,...

Technological Raison D’être: Moving Beyond the Cynical Present

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...

Digital Trust: An Analysis of Trust in the Adoption of Digital Support Services

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....

Making Change: Can Ethnographic Research about Women Makers Change the Future of Computing?

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....

Researchers @ hackathon

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… Misconceptions 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...

Implementing EMRs: Learnings from a Video Ethnography

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....

On Radical Evolution

BRUCE STERLING 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 he...

Toward Industrialization of Ethnography

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...

Flux: Creating the Conditions for Change

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....

The Politics of Visibility: When Intel Hired Levi-Strauss, or So They Thought

ROGERIO DE PAULA and VANESSA EMPINOTTI This paper examines the politics of visibility – the ways in which the work of ethnographers is positioned inside and outside organizations not only as means of unpacking the “real-world” but often as means to create business and marketing differentiation. We contend that the institutional embeddedness of ethnographic practices shapes “the where,” “the who,” “the what,” “the how,” and “the when” of doing ethnography. Thus, the choice of sites, who and what researchers choose to make ‘visible,’ the narratives about the field, and how and when they tell them are not without political and business weights. To examine visibility as this political question, we shifted our gaze from ethnography as a methodology and practice to ethnography as a part of a broader business and marketing discourse and strategy. Specifically, we explore a few particular encounters with the field and the organization that took place in course of two studies conducted in Brazil....

Pushing New Frontiers: Examining the Future of Paper and Electronic Documents

JENNIFER WATTS-PEROTTI, MARY ANN SPRAGUE, PATRICIA WALL and CATHERINE MCCORKINDALE Rapid socio-technological change is underway in the world of work. The Xerox Future of Work team conducted ethnographic studies to explore the impact of these changes on the use of paper, printing, and electronic documents. Study findings revealed needs and requirements for workers of the future, and influenced the research directions Xerox is undertaking to explore how documents (both paper and electronic) play a role in the world of work. The team used several techniques to encourage innovation within the company, including the creation of an advisory board, a video podcast and a design directions document. By developing growth spaces that often require new business models and business innovation, the project is a strong example of how ethnographic studies can “take CARE of business.” The project has also “taken care of BUSINESS” by lowering risk, driving innovation, and demonstrating the value that ethnographic studies can bring to the corporate...

Living Avatars Network: Fusing Traditional and Innovative Ethnographic Methods through a Real-time Mobile Video Service

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’...

Techno|theory Deathmatch: An Agonistic Experiment in Theory and Practice

JAY DAUTCHER, MIKE GRIFFIN, TIFFANY ROMAIN and EUGENE LIMB Theories about humans and their relationships with technology are part of a lifeworld shared by many corporate ethnographers, although individuals’ practices for engaging with theory can vary considerably due to factors such as disciplinary training and workplace norms. Within the EPIC community the perception of a constrained relationship between theory and corporate ethnographic praxis has emerged as a matter of concern. This paper recounts our experiment with bringing theory into daily work by designing and playing a game that had us adopt the personas of theorists while engaging in rhetorical combat, competing to surface insights relevant to an ongoing technology development project. Each phase, from initial game design, through prototyping play, to the final event, supported our collective practice of theory, brought to light hidden assumptions about the role of theory in our work, and provided actionable value to our daily work activities....