University College London/ETHNO-ISS (NASA)
Since March 2020, many employees around the world have been forced to work from home due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have experience in working in isolation and confinement. This paper focuses on a comparison of astronauts on the ISS and Earth-bound architects and interior designers restricted to working from home (i.e. their sofas) due to the pandemic. Isolation at work emerges as a complex phenomenon characterized by the measured and perceived distances between physical, social, and temporal spaces. By examining the scale-making activities of NASA and HKS, analogs provide a possible means for studying and predicting the complex dimensions of isolation. The work ecosystem is a useful tool in conceptualizing and operationalizing the employee experience to design the future of work and workspaces.
Article citation: 2020 EPIC Proceedings pp 338–355, ISSN 1559-8918, https://www.epicpeople.org/epic
KEITH S. KARN
Human Factors in Context LLC
WILLIAM E. HUTSON
Now that they are beyond the initial start-up phase, it is time to take a critical look at ride-hailing systems such as Uber and Lyft. This ethnographic case study investigates these systems from the drivers’ perspectives and also addresses the ethnographic techniques and general approach that we used. Without a protocol, budget or equipment, we interviewed approximately 150 Uber, Lyft, and Taxi drivers in 23 US cities over 2 years during paid rides. Our loosely structured interview approach allowed us to collect information from drivers regarding the entire gamut of their jobs. This included how and why drivers work, their choice of work hours, rider pickups, driving, vehicle ownership and maintenance, rider behavior, perceptions of safety / danger, navigation, general likes and dislikes of the system, and financial matters related to their business. Our findings cover a wide range of issues, some bearing on poorly designed or missing functionality in the driver's...
The jokes people tell about their work can be a rich source of insight for user researchers. Known as “workplace humor” or “occupational humor,” these jokes refer to experiences where the user's pain or delight is instantly recognizable because it is so pervasive. This PechaKucha will discuss examples and practices your team can use to identify, synthesize, and leverage the occupational humor that resonates with specific classes of users, in order to build a more nuanced understanding of those users.
Meghan McGrath is the Design Lead for IBM Z's Security group in New York.
2017 EPIC Proceedings, ISSN 1559-8918, epicpeople.org/intelligences)...
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...
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.
Royal Holloway University of London
This case study is based on an ethnographic investigation conducted in 2003 at the BMW Plant Oxford automobile factory focusing on issues of staff retention. The study found that the workforce, as well as being diverse in conventional terms, was also divided in less immediately identifiable ways, and different groups within the workplace had quite different expectations from the experience or working there, and a programme to overcome these problems was developed....
Sapiens Strategies Inc.
Sapiens Strategies Inc.
A local division of a multinational manufacturer was experiencing declining enagagement and perceptions of leadership (measured in employee satisfaction surveys). In anticipation of coming waves of organizational change, they asked the research team to explore how “nostalgia” may be contributing to these issues and how they might define the unique culture of the division.
Combining ethnographic observations with other qualitative methods, across all levels and departments of the plant, the team uncovered other, more critical issues. Having built a trusting relationship with senior management of the plant, the team used extensive work sessions to help them to understand issues from employee perspectives. This new empathy was conveyed during validation session that spurred initiatives to address a variety of isssues that had been contributing to the problems that initially spurred the project....
Case Study—Hitachi America's R&D, comprised of five technical laboratories, opened the Center for Social Innovation in January, 2016. When the new office project emerged, the R&D group used the opportunity to reflect on and strengthen collaborative practices, organizational culture, and our customer engagement approach. We conducted an internal ethnographic study to investigate how space was used in our previous office, and based on our findings designed a new office space to facilitate collaboration and innovation for our group....
McGraw-Hill Education Download PDF
PechaKucha—This visual ethnography explores the hypothesis that some women in business subvert traditional power relationships by using existing stereotypes and all other tools at their disposal to become “right-hand women.” Drawing from examples of famous women in business and quotes from qualitative interviews with women from the U.S., Mexico and Colombia, “Looking to Right-Hand Women” tells the story of how some successful, intelligent women across several countries play a behind-the-scenes role in business, strategically impacting and influencing men in leadership positions to directly shape decision-making, and ultimately the path the business takes. Through the lens of navigating the highly nuanced challenges of operating as a woman in today's business world, this visual ethnography uncovers effective strategies for building trust and effecting change in the face of complex power dynamics. These strategies could potentially be applied by consultants...
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...
University of North Texas MOLLY SHADE
University of North Texas
Information Technology (IT) professionals are racing to keep up with cyber-security threats in the workplace. But, as any cyber-security expert will tell you, security technology is only as good as the people who use it. And, people are a mystery to most cyber-security professionals making them the weak link for security interventions in organizations. To broadly impact current cyber-security awareness, interventions and education, it is crucial to understand how security is understood and applied by the users of technology. Thus, it is no surprise that more and more cyber-security studies are focusing on the individual employee to understand computer-user risk mediation. However, users and their actions do not exist in a vacuum, and their perceptions and subsequent behaviors regarding security risk are shaped by a vast array of beliefs, social relations and workplace practices. This paper reports on a fresh theoretical approach to cyber-security as a group...
MARTHA COTTON, gravitytank
As practitioners, EPIC people continually work to help our teams, organizations and clients understand the value of ethnographic approaches and “the ethnographer” as a team member. We help colleagues and clients to think and work differently, adapting the value we bring to the organization’s existing work flow and process. In this tutorial, Martha Cotton shares the curriculum gravitytank developed to teach their clients—including many Fortune 500 companies—to work differently and in a way that better supports innovation and design thinking. This tutorial gives you concrete strategies and behaviors you can use in your own work practice and for creating change in your organizations.
Martha Cotton is a partner at gravitytank, where she helps lead research discipline and external marketing. Her career began at eLab in 1990s, and has included leadership roles at Sapient, Hall & Partners, and HLB. She has worked across a wide variety of industries as an applied...
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. firstname.lastname@example.org | @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....
JO-ANNE BICHARD, PAULINA YURMAN, DAVID KIRK and DAVID CHATTING
This paper reports on current interdisciplinary design research that explores values held by individuals in their performance of everyday or ‘quotidian’ rituals in family life. The work is focused on mobile workers who may be away from home and family for extended and/or regular periods of time. During the course of the research, a key hurdle that has arisen has revolved around gaining access to families for the purpose of conducting traditional ethnographic studies. For many mobile workers who are separated from the family on a regular basis, the idea of having an ethnographic researcher present during what becomes very limited and therefore sacrosanct family time has proved difficult to negotiate. Therefore the design researchers have had to develop more designerly means of engagement with ‘the field site’ through a series of design interventions that effectively provide forms of ethnographic data when both the researcher and the researched are away from...