Sociality: Are we getting enough?
The EPIC theme for 2005 is Sociality. Working within or with industry, ethnographers are expected to pay attention to corporate priorities and current trends. One of the predominant themes in new product development has been the focus on the individual and personalization. Although ethnography can address this issue, one that has received less attention has been on the social and collective nature of people’s interactions with products and services. Ethnographic work is often used to generate ideas about the individualized behaviors or experiences of consumers. However one distinctive contribution of an ethnographic approach is its ability to understand and translate the complexity of sociality into actionable terms. Sociality comprises the complex, dense and dynamic set of social relations within which people conduct their lives, and through which material culture comes to have meaning.
Some of the questions that could be addressed this year at EPIC are:
- How can we do good work around understanding the collective that draws on this strength of ethnography?
- Should we be focusing more or less on sociality?
- How does sociality manifest itself in different markets, populations and geographies?
- How does studying a collective differ from studying the social nature of individuals?
- How is the “social” different from the “cultural” in corporate research?
- How are people embedded in communities?
- How are we as researchers embedded in social collectives and how does that relate to our research questions, presentation of findings and conducting ourselves in research?
- How do techniques like “personas” limit or expand corporate understandings of the social situatedness of people?
- How do marketing messages draw on the strengths of collective enterprise and encapsulate the desires of individual?
- How do we understand the translation of our work into personas and scenarios, or market segmentation when considering sociality?
- What theoretical backdrops have proven fruitful in understanding sociality for corporate settings?
- What new methods have been particularly helpful in understanding collectives?
- What are some examples of successes and failures of moving corporations away from focusing solely on the individual?
- How can we best communicate findings around sociality to corporations?