Monday, 16 September 2013
Welcome to EPIC 2013
Paper Session 1
“Is Data the new oil?” This has become a proverbial question that many organizations and research institutions have been asking themselves when they face the ever increasing proliferation of data (and data discourses, thereof). This is an enticing postulate, but not one without controversies. But, if data is the new oil, what does it mean for our ethnographic praxis? What roles will ethnography play? What forms of research methods and practices will spring up? In fact, what do we mean by data? These are some of the questions that lie at the heart of EPIC’s ongoing methodological and practical pursuits. All papers in this session thus contribute to this ongoing debate by exploring the boundaries (epistemological, methodological, and practical) between “big data” and ethnography. From describing the use mixed-methods for investigating mobile money to exploring the emergence of analytic technology tools to help ethnographers collect and explore data to investigating the ‘meanings’ of data in data-intensive social settings, such as, health and wellness communities, this session will offer a broad perspective on the subject, asking us to reflect not only on our own research practices but on the future of our field.
We produce vast amounts of data in our daily lives. Email, text, search, check-in, photos, payments – all these activities create a trail of digital exhaust. This personal data has been triumphantly declared a “new asset class” by the WEF and compared to oil as the world’s newest economic resource. This has sparked a frantic race to gather it.
This gold rush obscures the real value of personal data, and forgets a fundamental rule of innovation: start with the person. Why has this basic principle been largely absent from our obsession with big data?
This paper draws on global ethnographic research with data-driven individuals, experts, and start-ups to address five common misconceptions about personal data. It concludes with a set of simple principles and business case examples to bring a human-centred, small data perspective to life.
The rise of "smart" technologies and online research platforms are changing the landscape of qualitative data collection and analysis, while the ever-quickening pace of business demands ever-faster results. We propose a new paradigm for analytic tools focused on fast, flexible and visual analytic environments and present a case study demonstrating this new approach’s value.
I am going to talk about the need to move on the debate between Big Data and ethnography by introducing a new concept called 'Big Ethnographic Data'. I will make the claim that ethnographers have a new opportunity to develop our discipline in the business world by seeing Big Data and ethnography as forms of cultural interpretation that sit in the same space – this space is called ‘Big Ethnographic Data’.
Data as a discursive concept in and around data-intensive health and wellness communities evokes multiple social values and social lives for data. Our ethnography of the impact of pervasive and ubiquitous sensing in healthcare across the communities of technology designers, “e-health” providers and advocates, and users of health and wellness data finds that tensions emerge not around the meaning or legitimacy of particular data points, but rather around how data is expected to perform socially, organizationally and institutionally, what we term data valences. Data valences, we argue, have incredible importance for the design and use of data-intensive technologies and in the visions behind creating and managing the resulting data streams.
How do users incorporate mobile money into their existing practices and adapt it to their needs? The answers can be surprising. Simultaneously a commodity, a store of value and a social good, mobile money combines a large array of applications within the one platform. In this paper we compare our own research methodology with that of other studies of mobile technology to demonstrate how a mixed methods approach can provide significant insights into consumer behaviour.
Daily Ordinary Joy is a personal and open-ended research project devoted to exploring a hypothesized facet of experience: the momentary sense of joy or delight experienced in the course of everyday life sparked by an encounter with the world. Over the last two years I have asked people recruited ad hoc to report on and describe these moments. This presentation will show some participant responses as examples of themes that emerged out of the investigation. The project seeks to inspire thought about the possibility of using research with an embedded point of view (in this case, the value of simple daily moments of joy) as a generative tool in experience design, and open a conversation about ethnographic research as a process that can and does shift the consciousness of the people who participate in it.
When we design today, we isolate problems and then create solutions for them, and we then celebrate those solutions. But in reality we have no idea exactly what we've done, because in focusing on any particular problem we have really just ignored everything else. We have failed to engage with the complex realities of our interconnected world, and in our attempts at solutions have only created more problems.
So what would it look like if we attempted to design with everything in mind? What would the design intent of everything be?
I hypothesized that a desire for increased happiness is ultimately the reason we undertake any activity. With this frame I began questioning the design and construction of every aspect of modern life. The following talk recounts a series of elaborate self experiments to optimize my happiness and the insights that followed.
Work environments are changing. The digital era has enabled new models of work and life. People are increasingly gravitating towards new work environments, but how do these spaces fit within the greater context? Spaces that support collaboration, cooperation and collective innovation adhere to a similar network, especially within the modern metropolitan landscapes.
In collaboration with a leading furniture company, our student team methodologically involved ourselves in relevant spaces around Chicago. Entrepreneurial incubators, innovation labs, media labs, living labs, coworking communities and hackerspaces provided grounds for our design research. Ethnographic research, qualitative interviews and secondary research methods enabled the collection of rich user stories and context to test our hypotheses. We formulated a list of congruent themes that sought out to codify the attributes that make spaces foster the creative minds of the future.
Sleeping in public is common in China. The practice reflects an foggy border between public and private space, between work and rest, between open job markets and guaranteed positions. What will happen, if anything, to this common habit as China evolves from communism to market socialism? Is this habit grounded in a communist ethos where work is guaranteed and your performance is not measured? Will businesses begin enforce western standards for behavior, or will napping become a protest against non-Chinese institutions?
Example: IKEA, a stalwart Nordic institution has been invaded by thousands of sleeping Chinese customers. How has, or has not, the industrial giant evolved their business practices to take into account this interesting behavior?
This presentation will explore some of the history and social norms associated with public sleeping in China in 2013 and discuss the current climate in the retail stores about this habit.
When people are faced with a situation that puts them on edge, what – and who – helps them ease off it? How can exploring trust and fear in these situations teach us about adding comfort and trust to new technologies?
Inspired by the how empathic design can be key to designing for trust in tough places, Han Pham shares the human geography of the line between fear and comfort through the eyes of people who are trusted by others to guide them back away from the edge daily, such as:
- A heart surgeon on his coffee break
- A driving instructor’s path of serenity through London
- An artist cushioning blow of the recession with a packet of crisps
Exploring these experiences will help frame:
- What does fear (and comfort) look, smell, or sound like – both tangible and hidden?
- How do these modern “trust-makers” navigate and negotiate unspoken needs, formally and informally?
- What techniques do they use to transform fear into a different experience for themselves and those they interact with?
- How does this collective wisdom of addressing hidden fears matter to designing for new user experiences?
This presentation will provide an overview of fieldwork conducted by ESRO in three of England’s young offender’s institutes for the Youth Justice Board. The work involved 300 hours of ethnography behind bars, looking at the experience of both young people and staff to help policy makers understand how to improve the rehabilitative impact of prison. Throughout this Pecha Kucha, Becky Rowe (Managing Director, ESRO) will challenge some of the assumptions about prison life and highlight some controversial recommendations – including why traditional suicide prevention measures may be counterproductive and what prisons can learn from retail environments.
Paper Session 2
All the papers in this session report studies address highly complex issues, from transforming energy consumers into producers of electricity, to modifying the nature of pharmaceutical trials. The complexity that ethnographers face is not just in the elaborate social organisations they have to immerse themselves, which has always been a characteristic of ethnography, it is in the task that the research is to accomplish. All the projects aim towards a massive transformation of practices which have in common a significant increase in users' participation and responsibility : in the relation to utilities and sustainable living, in the role patients and doctors play in health care. It is as though organisations at all levels have now assimilated the participatory philosophy of the WWW and are designing services that distribute part of their work and power onto their users. In this context the ethnographic practitioner stops being an investigator of hidden needs and expectations, but is asked to reveal the agents of change, the triggers of transformation. Yet another challenge for the profession.
How do we inspire people to do something, especially something new? This question lies at the core of marketing and brand communication. The anthropological literature about narrative and ritual, provides us with a background for an alternative approach to advertising that differentiates between "novices" and "elders" - those new to a product versus those familiar with it. We suggest a differential engagement with the two groups: using ritual to attract the former, and stories to rally the latter.
The emergent Smart Grid Technology has forced a Scandinavian Energy company to begin rethinking the relation between themselves and private energy end users. Originally a unidirectional relationship, the emerging technology in the form of an electricity smart grid has potential for a more bidirectional relationship between the company and their customers. The company has run a demonstration project simulating the face of the electricity smart grid in private households and has used ethnographic methods to investigate the system effect of private households’ participation. Our paper questions why this kind of approach is reproducing the unidirectional relationship instead of creating a bidirectional relationship. We propose an alternative approach whereby anthropological reflection is generated in the company in correspondence with and by the employees. Central to generating anthropological reflection, we argue for design anthropological reframing of the relation between the company and the private end user.
This case study on mobility in healthcare demonstrates how ethnography and design research helped Intel meet the business challenge of redressing market share. Ethnography enabled the team to assess the interplay between mobile devices and other hospital technologies, understand how they fit within or subverted existing practices, and document positive and negative features of the technology. Our deliverables not only answered the direct business question, but also expanded the scope of possible solutions
This paper discusses the impact of using theatre with professional actors to convey the outcome of ethnographic ‘user studies’ to industry. In a project on indoor climate control with five company partners, one controversial field study finding was that ‘Indoor comfort is what people make’ – as opposed to something fully controlled by technology and ‘provided’ to inhabitants. We explore how theatre improvisation can support the provoking role that ethnography often plays in organizations.
Ethnography and clinical research appear fundamentally disparate, even conflicting. Their objectives are different– the latter moves molecules ‘from the lab to consumer market’ in controlled environments, while the former studies the uncontrolled environment of everyday life. However, with the new reality of pharmaceutical research and development, companies are urged to look into new ways of delivering impact and value to payers, prescribers, and users. This paper explores how ethnographic research can fill that role in early stages of pharmaceutical clinical trials, challenging current paradigms of method as well as parameters for success – and how bridging methodologies can open new avenues for ethnographic practice in business.
End of Day Announcements
EPIC Conference Dinner
The conference’s big event! What would EPIC’s yearly conference be without at least one party? This year’s dinner reception will be held at The Cumberland Hotel, located next-door to London’s iconic Marble Arch on Oxford Street. The evening will include a delicious three-course meal, live entertainment and, of course, plenty of dancing! Good news: our venue is an intimate setting perfect for a rip-roaring evening amongst friends. Bad news: space is limited! Tickets are $60. Don’t miss out on the fun, be sure to get your ticket soon!
The Ocean Suite at The Cumberland Hotel
Great Cumberland Place
London, W1H 7DL
Nearest tube station is Marble Arch