The trailer appeared one day on the lawn between the fifth and sixth grade wings. It was completely white and unmarked on the outside, with a small wooden staircase leading to the front door. No one really seemed to take much notice of it as we lined up to go to lunch or passed by on the way to P.E., but eventually a small group of us got to know it very well.
When you walked in, you entered what our adult leaders called the “gathering room“ — a lounge-y space, loosely patterned after the ubiquitous conversation pits of the 1970’s…
I receive a lot of queries about my journey to and through anthropology, innovation, and industry; as well as requests for advice from people just getting started. I wish I had time to answer them all, but in lieu of that, I’ve decided to offer this post. I hope it’s both useful and engaging!
A circle of plastic chairs around a fiberglass table with an umbrella stuck in the middle — that was my ‘office’ for about three years. It was a very comfortable place for me; the smell of chlorine, the sound of flip flops scuffling along the pool deck…
Take a break and listen to my conversation with Rita Denny! We chat about how EPIC is pivoting for their conference this year in light of COVID-related restrictions, as well as changes in ethnographic praxis overall. We also touch on the early bias toward psychology in industrial research, the illusion of the sovereign and rational decision-making customer, the advantages ethnographers have as both insiders and outsiders in their organizations, and the opportunity to observe social change as it occurs in our current disruptive moment.
Be sure to check out some of Rita’s work below, as well as a profile by Josef Wieland on the EPIC site.
Please join me as I talk with Sam Ladner about her new book, Mixed Methods. We cover some of Sam’s critical insights, including: working in cross-functional teams, the importance of artifacts, creating psychological safety, luxuriating in the customer, and data exhaust. If you’re a current or aspiring UX Researcher, this episode is for you! (Thanks to Gerry Scullion and ThisIsHCD for hosting ethnopod!) And, if you’d like to dive deeper, check out some of these reading recommendations, including two of Sam’s books!
My colleague, Charley Scull, has been ‘unpacking’ weirdness for a while now, and reaching some intriguing insights about its anthropological usefulness. Most recently, he presented some of his thinking in this space at the EPIC 2019 conference. For those of you who missed it, he’s captured it below, just after his introduction to the work:
Charley: In this Pecha Kucha, I use an anthropological perspective to explore the theme of weirdness. The talk begins with an observation about weirdness while doing sustainable seafood fieldwork in Indonesia with the Future of Fish organization. It then goes on to explore the meaning of the term through philosophical and marketplace lenses and makes a case for weirdness’ value as a researcher superpower!
In retrospect, the signs that this was not a familiar research conference had been there all along: the list of participants and their roles within organizations, the sessions on the periphery with the trade booths and café in the center, the prominence of the word ‘disruption’, and the fact that very few of the talk titles even wasted time with anything as tangential as a semi-colon! This was a space where speed, efficiency, ingenuity and optimization were the dominant themes.
Although, I didn’t set out to explore the conference’s form as data, once the ethnographic brain is switched on…