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Quantified, behind the Scenes

by DAWN NAFUS, Intel Corporation *Join Dawn Nafus on September 1 when she hosts Ethnography & Quantified Self at EPIC2016. A few years ago, a colleague had asked me about the adoptability of biosensors—a rapidly evolving category of sensors that detect an ever-expanding array of stuff about the body or the environment. Water quality, air quality, hormones, temperature, microbiomes are increasingly possible to measure with consumer-grade devices and services. He had seen how medical sensing technologies had become smaller and cheaper, increasingly reworked into consumer devices for use outside of clinical settings. How much appetite would there be for an expanded reperotoire of data in ordinary people’s hands? Is that appetite really a consumer one, or one that was more likely to come into play in institutional contexts like biomedical research or technology-delivered healthcare? These were complicated social and cultural questions, made even more complicated by the fact that, at the time, there were really only limited...

Ethnography and IoT: Help Shape Relationships between Humans and Machines in 2016

by SUZANNE CURRIE (GE Digital) & CHRIS MASSOT (Claro Partners), EPIC2015 Salon Hosts IoT (the Internet of Things) took center stage at CES last January. Many watchers of the giant Consumer Electronics Show opined the array of new products entering this space (many aimed at mainstream consumers) was the main story from Las Vegas this year. Rewind a few months earlier to EPIC2015 in São Paulo, Brazil, and twenty-five ethnographers are sitting together in a room to consider how IoT fits with human behavior (and how our discipline can forge a better fit). This was EPIC’s Ethnography & IoT Salon, where attendees explored the question: With sensors being placed seemingly everywhere (including our bodies) allowing ‘things’ to ‘talk’ to each other, what sustained benefits do these measures provide? One Salon participant noted that so far, “Billions of dollars are being spent on IoT efforts that don’t make sense.” We think the issues uncovered in São Paulo are core to the growth of the IoT industry sub-field for this...