SUZANNE L. THOMAS1
JOHN W. SHERRY
University of Salzburg, Austria
COVID-19 has precipitated a massive social experiment – the sudden shift of millions of knowledge workers from their traditional offices to homes or other remote work locations. This has inspired heated debates and new ways of imagining the future of work. This paper hopes to contribute to a better understanding of these changes by reporting on the results of several dozen in-depth interviews with remote workers from a variety of geographies, industries and professions. We focus in particular on their experiences of remote meetings, with special attention to complaints workers have with their current implementation. As we learned, workers’ complaints tended to be driven by social – rather than productivity or technical – concerns. We explore this social dimension in depth, propose a framework for thinking about meetings...
SHEILA SUAREZ DE FLORES
10 10 10, Eco.tter
In this catalyst, we the authors describe the benefits of ‘scaling out’: reaching out beyond one's organization to bring in external partners to accomplish UX research. Organizations scale out their research efforts in order to cover more ground, draw from more specialties, or conduct more research more quickly than they would be able to alone. As opposed to growing an in-house team to meeting research needs (‘scaling up’), scaling out can be a more inclusive approach to generating user insights, where the voices of diverse research partners throughout the world are brought together to produce powerful UX research outcomes. A case study example of work with suppliers and clients illustrates scaling out. Collective intelligence pushes scaling out even further, as it counts research participants, users and potential users as part of the network of partners who get work done.
Keywords: distributed collaboration,...
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley, MIT
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley
This paper explores how the design of everyday interactions with artificial intelligence in work systems relates to broader issues of interest to social scientists and ethicists: namely human well-being and social inequality. The paper uses experience designing human interactions with highly automated systems as a lens for looking at the social implications of work design, and argues that what human and automation each do is less important than how human and automation are structured to interact. The Human-Autonomy Teaming (HAT) paradigm, explored in the paper, has been a promising alternative way to think about human interactions with automation in our laboratory's research and development work. We argue that the notion of teaming is particularly useful in that it encourages designers to consider human well-being as central to the operational success...
Recent debates around the future of work have largely focused on how automated technologies are contributing to job loss or decline. However, in this paper, we draw from original ethnographic research with four types of automation-affected workers – insurance agents, pharmaceutical representatives, medical device salespeople, and medical device technicians – to argue that, rather than being replaced by machines, many workers are in fact adapting how they define and perform their work to survive in a more digital age. Uncovering such adaption tactics is crucial for recognizing the human agency that is present in, even definitive of increasing encounters with machine-driven technologies and can help large organizations solve some of their toughest challenges, including how to predict future trends in the labor market, define the added value of human labor, build and train a better workforce, and develop and evolve existing...
IDEO and DePaul University
Three service design projects, in hospitality, finance, and health care, highlight how to design for agency in the workplace, including the implementation of automated and data-driven tools. Inspired by Tacchi, Slater, and Hearn's work on ethnographic action research, Amartya Sen's capabilities approach, and Gibson's affordances theory, this paper examines work as an ecosystem, in which workers’ motivations, values, and ability to achieve what is important to them should be a continual input into how structures and tools are designed. In order to design for agency, teams must shape access to information in order to support workers’ autonomy. Second, project outcomes should reflect the emotions and values which create a sense of progress and purpose. Third, tools, technologies, culture, and incentives within the work ecosystem should be aligned with workers’ goals. Finally, workers must feel safe and protected from censure when they participate in co-creating...
Ad Hoc, LLC
Ad Hoc, LLC
“I got verbals, but verbals don’t hold up in court….I need it in black and white.”
After Sheila submits hospital quality data to the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), reports indicate that her data hasn’t been received. She makes countless calls to the CMS Help Desk to get answers. They reassure her numerous times that they have her data, yet Sheila is insistent that she needs to see the change explicitly stated in the report. Sheila makes it her personal crusade to obtain material evidence because only written testimony will prove that her data has been submitted successfully and protect her facility from CMS penalties.
At a time when we are becoming increasingly reliant on data and technology as the ultimate bearers of truth, Sheila exemplifies how people become stewards of evidence in service to these technical systems. As she moves her facilities’ data through CMS’ error-ridden reporting system, the burden of proof is on her to provide...
PechaKucha Presentation—Meetings are a central part of how we work as commercial ethnographers. We meet with our clients to plan our projects and share our findings. We meet with our informants to explore and understand their worlds. However the cultures and practices that inform meeting behaviour can be antithetical to our goals as researchers through their reinforcement of pre-set patterns of thinking and being. In this presentation I explore how we can challenge the affordances imposed by meeting culture. I draw on my experiences founding a global volunteer network and reframing meeting contexts for corporate clients to challenge conventions and identify fresh opportunities for ethnographic praxis.
Tom Rowley is a partner at Stripe Partners, a global strategy and innovation consultancy based in London. He co-founded www.goodfornothing.com a global volunteer network that brings together designers, developers, strategists and researchers to volunteer their skills for positive social causes.
by BILL SELMAN and GEMMA PETRIE, Mozilla
In his 2015 novel, Satin Island, Tom McCarthy’s protagonist (known only as “U”) is a corporate anthropologist working for an outre design research firm whose work embodies all the absurd contradictions of late capitalism. The highly influential firm’s logo is “a giant, crumbling tower.” The visionary owner and boss of U takes pride in telling his clients that he is selling them “fiction” and in talks to Davos-like conferences speaks primarily in Nietzschean aphorisms. Ultimately, McCarthy portrays the role of his protagonist and design researcher as the ideal specimen of the late capitalist job.
In one scene, U describes a tactic he used to provide insight for analysis to a well-known client who manufactures jeans:
...to provide a framework for explaining to the client what these crease-types truly and profoundly meant – I stole a concept from the French philosopher Deleuze: for him le pli, or fold, describes the way we swallow the exterior world, invert it, and then flip...
by ALEXANDRA MACK (Pitney Bowes)
I spend a lot of time thinking about mail. Actually, I don’t just think about it—I interview and observe people sending things, and it is actually more interesting than watching people lick stamps. As an ethnographer, I look at the overall context of the work and business processes connected to what is sent, as well as the perspectives and values of the various actors involved. These include decision makers who buy postage meters, inserters, or software solutions but may not ever use them, product users, and the people who actually care about what is sent and received.
To do something as seemingly mundane as sending documents to a client, for example, a lawyer gives instructions to her assistant, who prints the documents, organizes them and addresses the envelope, then passes to a mail room with instructions on how to send to the end recipient. And this is just a relatively common scenario; more complex interactions and processes of documentation are often involved.
On the day-to-day level...
by CHRISTINE T. WOLF, IBM Research
From conference rooms to conference calls, from our homey desk at the office to a hotel room across the world, people are working “on the go” in various ways. Mobile devices make many of these forms of mobile work possible. From the early days of the personal laptop, to the revolutionary Blackberrys and PDAs, to today’s smart phones, tablets, and wearables, our work tools are rapidly changing, and enterprises must quickly adapt new solutions to keep up with our constant mobile demands. At IBM, the importance of mobile enterprise solutions is on everyone’s mind. As we tackle the demands of the enterprise on the go, we are using ethnographic insights to further and deepen our understandings of what “mobile work” means today.
Consider Sally*, a tech consultant. She uses her phone to join a conference call with her team while driving to a client site in the morning. At the client site, she presents slides from her laptop and uses her phone to demo solutions. In the afternoon, she is back...
EPIC Profiles Series
by LUIS MACHADO, University of North Texas
Walking a Different Path
The path of American anthropology is becoming ever more diverse. Under the academic umbrella of Anthropology the world has been explored, analyzed, reflected on, and then determined to be wanting of more exploration. The Indiana Jones stereotype of the archaeologist or anthropologist is still a familiar reference in popular culture, perhaps surpassed for recent generations by Dr. “Bones” and her TV show bearing the same name. Anthropology in common parlance brings to mind the bold researcher off in the exotic far away, taking and studying the strange, bringing it back to the university and, after knocking dust off the hiking boots, demystifying it for the social science community and curious students. Yet, explorers of new kinds of anthropology are changing the conversation about who an anthropologist is and what they can do. Donna Flynn is one such anthropologist, creating and expanding these new frontiers.
Donna Flynn is Vice President...
SAM LADNERMicrosoft Corporation
Office workers still rely on their bodies to communicate with each other, despite many decades of technology use. This Pecha Kucha explores how and in what ways office work involves people’s bodies and this “bodywork” plays in productivity. I argue that technology is now able to emulate some effects of bodywork.
Sam Ladner is a sociologist who researches the intersection of work, technology, and organizations. She is a senior researcher at Microsoft in the Applications and Services Group, where she studies emerging productivity practices. She is also the author of Practical Ethnography: A Guide To Doing Ethnography in The Private Sector. email@example.com | @sladner on Twitter
2014 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918. © American Anthropological Association and Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, some rights reserved.
Geertz, C. (2000). The Interpretation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Nardi, B., & Whittaker, S....
MELISSA CEFKIN, OBINNA ANYA and ROBERT MOORE
Trends of independent workers, an economy of increasingly automated processes and an ethos of the peer-to-peer “sharing economy” are all coming together to transform work and employment as we know them. Emerging forms of “open” and “crowd” work are particularly keen sites for investigating how the structures and experiences of work, employment and organizations are changing. Drawing on research and design of work in organizational contexts, this paper explores how experiences with open and crowd work systems serve as sites of workplace cultural re-imagining. A marketplace, a crowdwork system and a crowdfunding experiment, all implemented within IBM, are examined as instances of new workplace configurations....
AKIHIKO OBATA, SHIGERU YAMADA, HIROAKI HARADA, SADAYO HIRATA and SEISUKE ITO
We propose a new approach for project inspection applying ethnography to identifying IT system project risks. Guideline-based inspection is generally conducted in the IT industry to reduce project risks. Guidelines are created based on analysis of failures in past projects. However, it is difficult to detect new risks that emerged according to changes of project environments. We hypothesized that an ethnographic method would have some value to detect such emerging risks by capturing insiders’ perspectives. We developed procedures and guidelines to conduct inspection by ethnographic approach for IT experts. To clarify the value of the method, we conducted project inspection by the ethnographic approach on two projects that have already received guideline-based inspection. Problems found by the ethnographic inspection were not quite new for the members observed and interviewed. However, the ethnographic inspection successfully captured tacit problems that...