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 ALEX JINICH, Gemic
A person’s wellbeing is in great measure a product of a pleasant environment, and as a society we are placing progressively more value in creating such environments in the form of comfortable offices, welcoming homes, and inspiring shops. It is remarkable, for example, the degree to which the luxurious Dubai airport, where I am now, has been carefully designed to make you feel at ease as you leisurely cruise through it as though through a warmly illuminated exhibit hall. To a large degree, however, the precise features that make such an environment valuable are nuanced intangibles. In other words, environments are always experienced as unified wholes, and the value they create for us is greater than the sum of its parts.
In the airport, the warm and gentle lighting is as much a part of the overall experience as are the carefully curated glossy brands and the well-dressed ladies and gentlemen that sell them. The harmony and general atmosphere creates value above and beyond the sum of the values of the individual...
Bad Babysitter MEG KINNEY
To residents of New Orleans, there is a special brand of pageantry and community surrounding the Mardi Gras ritual. At the center of it all are Parades—the heartbeat of Mardi Gras. Each Krewe (social club) puts on a huge parade sometime during Carnivale Season. They each have their own personality, costumes and “throws”. Throws can be as simple as the iconic beads we all know, or elaborate handcrafted items that are highly sought after prizes.
During parades, a strange thing happens—objects that have little commercial value become incredibly valuable, even for a few moments. People jockey for position to catch beads, toys, custom medallions, and above all the prized throws of each Krewe. There is a whole system of value attached to each parade, which the city celebrates. We will explore how the gift economy of the Mardi Gras parade unites old and young, and bridges racial boundaries in a shared ritual.
Hal Phillips and his partner Meg Kinney founded Bad Babysitter, a...
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile BERNARDO FIGUEIREDO
Gift-systems build relationships and create various types of value for the individuals who participate in them. Organizations may also reap the benefits of gift-systems when they understand, support, and foster practices of object circulation within these systems. We adopt a theoretical framework based on anthropological approaches to value-in-action to explain value creation for individuals in contemporary gift systems. We mobilize ethnographic and netnographic data on the circulation of small wooden chapels containing a statue of the Virgin Mary among Catholic households to develop a conceptual framework that illuminates value creation in gift systems and demonstrates how practices of circulation (setting, protecting, registering, retrieving, keeping, passing on, monitoring, interacting, and storytelling) can be used to generate value for organizations....
EPIC Profiles Series
by PHIL BICKERDIKE, Swinburne University
I caught up with Johannes Suikkanen after he returned to Helsinki from EPIC2014 in New York City to discuss his career, ethnographic praxis and the future of the EPIC community. Johannes co-founded Gemic, a human-centric strategy and innovation consultancy, about six years ago – and it has been a fascinating journey.
Johannes first encountered the intersection between the worlds of business and anthropology as a student. Coming from a family that was deeply interested in humanities, his rebellion against his parents was to go to business school. Originally focusing on economics and traditional management science, he faced a dilemma:
“I always felt that in the way economics and management sciences look at human beings, there was something fundamentally wrong in my opinion. The view was of a rational agent that maximizes his or her own benefit and it was always about an individual. At that time, economics that I became familiar with (or management science)...