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Posts in category 'Ethnography'

20 September 2014

An ethnographic introduction

 

A Simple Introduction to the Practice of Ethnography and Guide to Ethnographic Fieldnotes
By Brian A. Hoey, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Anthropology, Marshall University
Marshall University Digital Scholar (June 2014): 1-10

Abstract
In this article, I will provide a simple introduction to the practice of ethnographic fieldwork and practical advice for writing fieldnotes. Ethnographic approaches, while born of the work conducted by anthropologists over one hundred years ago, are increasingly employed by researchers and others from a variety of backgrounds and for a multitude of purposes from the academic to the applied and even commercial. I will provide an introduction intended for those persons new to the approach but who have already had some basic experience or training. I also provide a discussion of the centrality of fieldnotes to the conduct of this very personally engaging form of research. Finally, those in training are given lists of questions to ask and points to consider in the conduct of their ethnographic fieldwork projects.

8 September 2014

Experientia @ Epic 2014: focusing on relationships and values

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It’s that time of year again, when ethnography professionals come together to exchange knowledge, discuss ideas, and share experiences about the practice of ethnography in the business world. EPIC 2014 kicked off yesterday (Sept 7th) in New York, with a focus on relationships, and particular on how positive relations create new values in the things, places, and people ethnographers engage with.

On that theme, senior Experientia ethnographer Gina Taha is presenting a case study of transformation in the finance industry, and the different roles and relationships user experience consultancies need to play when dealing with large, traditional business structures. Experientia’s presentation will be on Wednesday September 10th, in Session 5, which runs from 11:15 to 12:30. The theme of the session is Evolving and Expanding the Value of Ethnography in Industry.

If you’re interested in checking out the great papers being presented, the draft proceedings are already online. Experientia’s paper starts on page 249.

Co-author, and Experientia President, Michele Visciola, is also at the conference, which will continue until September 10th. Remember to say hi if you spot either Gina or Michele!

5 September 2014

Draft proceedings of EPIC 2014 conference online

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The 2014 edition of EPIC, the premier international gathering on the current and future practice of ethnography in the business world, will take place in New York next week.

The draft proceedings have just been posted. Here is the table of contents:

Papers 1: Ethnographic Cases | Dawn Nafus, Curator

  • A Perfect Storm? Reimagining Work in the Era of the End of the Job – Melissa Cefkin, Obinna Anya, Robert Moore
  • Manufacturing Expertise for the People: The Open-Source Hardware Movement in Japan – Matt Krebs
  • Corporate Care Reimagined: Farms to Firms to Families – J.A. English-Lueck, Miriam Lueck Avery
  • “Co-Creating Your Insight: A Case from Rural Ghana” – Evan Hanover

Pecha Kucha 1: Exchange

  • China Over/Under: Exploring Urban China’s Informal Markets – Zach Hyman
  • The Concierge Diaries: Research by Analogy – Derek Kopen
  • Bodywork and Productivity in Workplace Ethnography – Sam Ladner
  • Pathfinder: An Adventure at the Interface of Design and Business – Erick Mohr
  • Everyone’s Trash: Recycling in China – Molly Stevens
  • Trapped in Traffic: A Story About Finding Connection on the Go – Nora Morales, Santiago Negrete

Papers 2: Place and the City | Kate Sieck, Curator

  • Service Designing the City – Natalia Radywyl
  • Community Centered Design: Evolving the Mission of the Creative Industry – Jacqueline Wallace
  • Place and Small Businesses: Reflections on Ethnographic Research in and on Place – Josh Kaplan
  • Ethnography Inside the Walls: Studying The Contested Space of the Cemetery = Annika Porsborg Nielsen, Line Groes

Papers 3: Rituals, Magic, Politics and Power | Simon Roberts, Curator

  • Business, Anthropology, and Magical Systems: The Case of Advertising = Brian Moeran
  • Consulting Against Culture: A Politicized Approach to Segmentation – Marta Cuciurean-Zapan
  • The Model of Change: A way to Understand the How and Why of Change – Johanne Mose Entwistle, Mia Kruse Rasmussen
  • Quotidian Ritual and Work Life Balance; an Ethnography of Not Being There – Jo-Anne Bichard, Paulina Yurman, David Kirk, David Chatting

Pecha Kucha 2: Value

  • Saving Journalism from Churnalism – Gordon Baty
  • How Being Rather Than Doing Can Add Value – Marlisa Kopenski Condon
  • On Empathy, and Not Feeling It – Tiffany Romain, Tracy Johnson, Mike Griffin
  • Well, That Was Awkward! The Value of Discomfort – Marta Cuciurean-Zapan, Evan Hanover
  • Collateral Revelation – Paul Ratliff
  • i remember you NOW. i remember you HOW – Sara Jo Johnson

Papers 4: Emerging Practices & Methods | Curator: Martin Ortlieb

  • Making Change: How Ethnographic Research on the “Maker Movement” Can Change the Future of Computing – Sue Faulkner, Anne McClard
  • You’ll Never Ride Alone: The Role of Social Media in Supporting the Bus Passenger Experience – Paul Gault, David Corsar, Peter Edwards, John D Nelson, Caitlin Cottrill
  • Digital Trust: An Analysis of Trust in the Adoption of Digital Support Services – Emilie Glazer, Anna Mieczakowski, James King, Ben Fehnert
  • Little Data in a Big Data World – Julie Norvaisas, Jonathan (Yoni) Karpfen

Papers 5: Evolving and Expanding the Value of Ethnography in Industry | Curator: Martha Cotton

  • Anticipatory Ethnography: Design Fiction as an Input to Design Ethnography – Joseph Lindley, Dhruv Sharma, Robert Potts
  • Transforming a Financial Institution: The Value of UX Professionals – Erin O’Loughlin, Gina Lucia Taha, Michele Visciola
  • Valuable Connections: Design Anthropology and Co-Creation in Digital Innovation – Mette Gislev Kjaersgaard, Rachel
  • Charlotte Smith – Iterating an Innovation Model: Challenges and Opportunities in Adapting Accelerator
    Practices in Evolving Ecosystems – Julia Haines
3 September 2014

[Book] Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture – A Beginner’s Guide

 

Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture – A Beginner’s Guide
By Piia Varis
Routledge
February 2015

Abstract

Ethnography, as a holistic approach to societies and cultures, can make a substantial contribution to the study of present-day online environments and our digital culture(s). However, the process of doing ethnography online is far from straight-forward.

This book aims to give a realistic account of what ethnographic research on digital culture is like, describing the whole trajectory of an ethnographic project from planning to finishing stages, including the potential ethical and practical challenges that are specific to this line of research. The discussion in the book will be supported – in the spirit of ethnographic research – by a collection of empirical cases, both illustrating the theoretical and methodological points made, as well as offering a panorama of different forms of analyses and types of data. Accordingly, questions related to data collection will be addressed and tips given as to how to manage the data collected and keep it organised. The book will specifically focus on studying different phenomena on social media and social network sites (e.g. YouTube, Facebook).

Useful for both the beginner researcher and the more experienced one, Ethnographic Fieldwork and Digital Culture gives students and scholars in media studies an accessible guide to the intricacies of conducting ethnographic research online.

Author

Piia Varis is a researcher at the Department of Culture Studies, Tilburg University (the Netherlands), where she also coordinates the research project Transformations of the Public Sphere. She teaches courses on digital culture and ethnographic online research at Tilburg University and University of Luxembourg. She is also a member of the Max Planck Sociolinguistic Diversity Working Group. She received her PhD (English, 2009) from the University of Jyväskylä (Finland), and has since published on e.g. forms of language use and identity online (Varis & Wang 2011; Varis, Wang & Du 2010; Blommaert & Varis 2011; Dong et al. 2012). She is co-editor of Tilburg Papers in Culture Studies (with Jan Blommaert, Massimiliano Spotti & Sanna Lehtonen).

3 September 2014

[Book] An Ethnography of Wikipedia

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Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia
By Dariusz Jemielniak
Stanford University Press
2014, 312 pages

Abstract

With an emphasis on peer–produced content and collaboration, Wikipedia exemplifies a departure from traditional management and organizational models. This iconic “project” has been variously characterized as a hive mind and an information revolution, attracting millions of new users even as it has been denigrated as anarchic and plagued by misinformation. Has Wikipedia’s structure and inner workings promoted its astonishing growth and enduring public relevance?

In Common Knowledge?, Dariusz Jemielniak draws on his academic expertise and years of active participation within the Wikipedia community to take readers inside the site, illuminating how it functions and deconstructing its distinctive organization. Against a backdrop of misconceptions about its governance, authenticity, and accessibility, Jemielniak delivers the first ethnography of Wikipedia, revealing that it is not entirely at the mercy of the public: instead, it balances open access and power with a unique bureaucracy that takes a page from traditional organizational forms. Along the way, Jemielniak incorporates fascinating cases that highlight the tug of war among the participants as they forge ahead in this pioneering environment.

Author

Dariusz Jemielniak is Associate Professor of Management at Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland, where he heads the Center for Research on Organizations and Workplaces. Beyond academia, he is a heavily engaged Wikipedian.

Book review [By Roisin Kiberb in Motherboard - Vice]

“The book pulls off a near-impossible double act, serving as both primer and detailed study on the habits of Wikipedians. It presents Wikipedia as a ‘parahierarchy’ thriving on its own conflicts, where even the dense catalogue of house rules is subject to reinterpretation.”

20 August 2014

Facebook uses ethnography to deliver more relevant ads

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“As researchers focusing on Facebook’s advertising, we led research trips with a cross-functional team of product managers, marketers, and engineers to Indonesia, Turkey, and South Africa to develop a solid understanding of cultural differences across these countries. [...] Forming a richer understanding of how businesses and people connect with each other—both on and off of Facebook—around the world works will help us develop better ad solutions that drive a positive feedback cycle: we will make better experiences for the people who use Facebook and for the businesses and brands who want to connect with their core customers and prospects.”

Read more here.

16 August 2014

How to conduct design research for home healthcare devices

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As healthcare shifts from the hospital to the home, design research must also morph to keep up, writes Shana Leonard.

Who is the typical user of your medical product and what is the use environment? These used to be easy questions for medical device companies to answer. But the increasing shift in healthcare from the hospital to the home has many designers scratching their heads in response.

As the industry adapts to serve these new stakeholders, the focus on user-centered design, observational research, human factors engineering, and generally designing with the user in mind is becoming increasingly critical in order to ensure compliance, minimize risk, and promote market adoption. Designers must be creative and nimble in the face of these complex new challenges.

16 August 2014

How Wells Fargo learned to innovate around the customer

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Wells Fargo, the world’s most valuable bank, learned to innovate around the customer.

In 1999, Steve Ellis, who runs the bank’s wholesale services group, went to a conference where Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems described a completely new era of digital banking that would unfold over the next decade. Nobody else seemed impressed, but Ellis was transfixed. For him, it was an epiphany.

Ellis realized that technology could be used to make the customer’s life easier, streamlining processes to enhance user experience, but he also knew how “customer is king” initiatives could easily devolve into useless platitudes. He wouldn’t find answers in boardroom discussions, but would need to look beyond banking for insights.

So Ellis immersed himself in Internet culture and eventually hit on ethnography techniques, which ha been commonly used in consumer products companies like Procter & Gamble, but were completely foreign to the banking industry. At first intrigued, then excited, he sent his team for training at nearby Stanford university to learn how to perform ethnography studies.

It seemed to be exactly the answer he was looking for. Instead of having executives brainstorm in the corporate offices, they would get out and observe customers as they navigated often confusing banking routines. As they uncovered problems and experienced frustrations first-hand, they could devise solutions.”

16 August 2014

Leveraging ethnography to improve food safety

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Carolyn Rose explains how ethnography can be used to improve food safety:

If done correctly, ethnography leads to a holistic and unbiased understanding of current practices and the motivations that drive them. Looking specifically to learn the existing challenges, workarounds, deviations and drivers within an interaction, task or activity, we are able to identify opportunities for process-based improvements. Such opportunities can ultimately take many forms, including new work flows, tools and/or techniques. For example, identifying specific areas of noncompliance might lead to new safety training protocols, while identifying comparatively labor-intensive or time-consuming tasks might lead to the implementation of alternative technologies/automation aimed to mitigate bottlenecks.

As such, ethnography can be a critical first step in evolving food safety practices. With a sound understanding of current practices and the real needs and challenges therein, we can make informed and targeted process improvements aimed to optimize efficiency, quality, ease of use, consistency and safety.

19 July 2014

[Book]: Nursing Research Using Ethnography

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Nursing Research Using Ethnography: Qualitative Designs and Methods in Nursing
Mary De Chesnay, PhD, RN, PMHCNS-BC, FAAN (Editor)
Pub. Date: 08/28/2014
372 pp., Softcover
Springer
[Amazon]

Ethnography is a qualitative research design that focuses on the study of people to explore cultural phenomena. This concise, “how to” guide to conducting qualitative ethnography research spearheads a new series, Qualitative Designs and Methods, for novice researchers and specialists alike focusing on state-of-the-art methodologies from a nursing perspective. Scholars of qualitative ethnography research review the philosophical basis for choosing ethnography as a research tool and describe in depth its key features and development level. They provide directives on how to solve practical problems related to ethnography research, nursing examples, and discussion of the current state of the art. This includes a comprehensive plan for conducting studies and a discussion of appropriate measures, ethical considerations, and potential problems.

Examples of published ethnography nursing research worldwide, along with author commentary, support the new researcher in making decisions and facing challenges. Each chapter includes objectives, competencies, review questions, critical thinking exercises, and web links for more in-depth research. A practical point of view pervades the book, which is geared to help novice researchers and specialists expand their competencies, engage graduate teachers and students and in-service educators and students, and aid nursing research in larger health institutions.

Key Features:

  • Includes examples of state-of-the-art ethnography nursing research with content analysis
  • Presents a comprehensive plan for conducting studies and appropriate measures, ethical considerations, and potential challenges
  • Describes theoretical underpinnings, key features, and development level
  • Written by ethnography scholars from around the world
17 July 2014

Ethnography : an antifragile practice?

 

Simon Roberts of Stripe Partners continues his three part series on ethnography.

In the first two posts in this series he examined ethnography as practiced in two different contexts – the (1) market research (MR) industry and (2) corporate R&D labs.

He argued that ethnography in ‘MR’ has been devalued as a serious approach to understanding the world through lazy and incurious application. He suggested that ethnography had fared rather better in corporate R&D environments but that challenges exist there too.

This third post makes five initial suggestions for strengthening and developing ethnographic practices in a context of change:
1. Redouble efforts to understand systems and their dynamics: revel in cultural flux
2. Embrace technological tools but don’t forget that the situated observer and analyst remain at the heart of the ethnographic endeavour
3. Show your workings – or don’t hide behind the interpretation
4. Simple doesn’t mean the same as simplistic
5. Ethnography should act as the start point for collaboration

7 June 2014

IKEA’s Life At Home report

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Core77 has drawn my attention to IKEA’s newly launched Life At Home report, which explores the home lives of people all over the globe, with a focus on the morning routines, habits and wishes of those who live in Berlin, London, Moscow, Dubai, New York, Paris, Shanghai and Stockholm.

As Core77 correctly points out, with a focus purely on the numbers, the study is “absent any cultural explanations, and is therefore subject to misinterpretation; for example, upon reading that 59% of Londoners start their mornings with a shower or bath while only 8% of Shanghaiers do, one might conclude that the latter city is filled with unwashed masses. But those familiar with East Asian culture will realize it’s much more common to do the washing-up there before bedtime.”

Still, the study is very wide in scope and has some great photography easily accessible in a visually striking site.

30 May 2014

How to use ethnography for in-depth consumer insight

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Spending a weekend sitting in someone else’s house reporting when, why and how much they ate, drank, bathed, watched TV or used their mobile phone isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time, but for a marketer it is one of the best ways to gain deeper customer insight, according to a feature article in Marketing Week.

The process, often referred to as ethnography, can result in breakthroughs for brands, offering an insight into what people are really like, rather than what they want researchers to think they are like.

21 May 2014

Food safety and older people: the Kitchen Life ethnographic study

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Foodborne illness is a major public health problem in the UK. Recent increases in cases of listeriosis in older people have focused attention on consumer food-related practices. Previous studies highlight poor relationships between what people know, what they say they do and what they actually do in the kitchen. The aim of the Kitchen Life study was to examine what actually happens in the domestic kitchen to assess whether and how this has the potential to influence food safety in the home. Drawing on a qualitative ethnographic approach, methods included a kitchen tour, photography, observation, video observation, informal interviews and diary methods. Ten households with older people (aged 60+) were recruited across the UK. It was found that trust in the food supply, use of food-labelling (including use-by dates), sensory logics (such as the feel or smell of food) and food waste were factors with the potential to influence risk of foodborne illness. Practices shifted with changing circumstances, including increased frailty, bereavement, living alone, receiving help with care and acquiring new knowledge, meaning that the risk of and vulnerability to foodborne illness is not straightforward.

The research was conducted by the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and commissioned by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA).

> Summary article
> Scientific paper

10 May 2014

Anthropologists as scholarly hipsters

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Can looking at the hipster tell us something about the anthropologist and the academy?

Alex Posecznick (anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania) explores the role of anthropologists in academia from a parallel hipster point of view. With his blog posts Posecznick hopes “to contribute to an ongoing dialogue about scholarly subjectivities in anthropology vis-à-vis the cultural trope of the contemporary, urban ‘hipster.'”

Part I: What is a hipster?
What precisely is a “hipster” and does it actually exist as a meaningful category?

Part II: Critiques from the margins
In this second post, Posecznick focuses on a common characteristic that is both productive and frustrating for anthropologists and hipsters alike: their position at the margins.

Part III: The anthropological brand
In this third post, Posecznick wants to take a brief moment point to what anthropologists wear and the images they cultivate.

Part IV: Authenticity and Privilege
Examining the endless search for authenticity.

Alex Posecznick (@AlexPosecznick) serves as manager of the Division of Education, Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education while also holding an academic appointment therein, where he teaches courses in Anthropology and Education, Qualitative Modes of Inquiry and Merit and America. His scholarly work focuses on the ethnographic examination of neoliberalism, public policy, and the culture of meritocracy vis-à-vis institutions of higher education.

And related: Conference Chic, or, How to Dress Like an Anthropologist

9 May 2014

[Book] Handbook of Anthropology in Business

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Handbook of Anthropology in Business
Editors: Rita M. Denny and Patricia L. Sunderland
Left Coast Press
752 pp. / May, 2014

In recent years announcements of the birth of business anthropology have ricocheted around the globe. The first major reference work on this field, the Handbook of Anthropology in Business is a creative production of more than 60 international scholar-practitioners working in universities and corporate settings from high tech to health care. Offering broad coverage of theory and practice around the world, chapters demonstrate the vibrant tensions and innovation that emerge in intersections between anthropology and business and between corporate worlds and the lives of individual scholar-practitioners. Breaking from standard attempts to define scholarly fields as products of fixed consensus, the authors reveal an evolving mosaic of engagement and innovation, offering a paradigm for understanding anthropology in business for years to come.

> Table of contents
> Excerpt

23 April 2014

Ethnography, magpies, shiny things, and parallel worlds

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Three posts by Simon Roberts (?) explore the rise, fall and possible futures of ethnography in commercial settings.

Ethnography, magpies and shiny things
The first piece explores how ethnography fell victim of the enduring quest for fashion and the need to differentiate in market research. The market research industry commoditized ethnography and failed to capitalise on its potential. As a result, ethnography has become at best weakened, at worst sidelined in favour of newer, vogue ideas and approaches. It’s not just a lament – but a call for reinvigoration.

Ethnography in a parallel world
The second piece explores contexts in which ethnography has been used to greater potential – and chart the threats it now faces. It is a story of the rise and rise ethnography in contexts outside of market research where its application was more sophisticated and delivered more.

The third will attempt a resolution of the first two posts – charting a course for the future as a vital tool for businesses (and others) in their on-going attempts to understand and engage with a complex world.

9 April 2014

Ethnography in action at Wells Fargo

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Only a few years ago, the corporate view of retirement planning at San Francisco-based Wells Fargo Bank tended to focus on dollars and cents — how much an individual needed to invest, by when and for how many years,” write Julien Cayla, Robin Beers and Eric Arnould, authors of the article “Stories That Deliver Business Insights,” in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review. This segmentation did not account for context such as whether a person was inclined to think about long-term financial goals.

“As part of an ethnographic project commissioned by the bank, researchers had customers walk through a life timeline and recount activities they engaged in that related to retirement planning in each decade of their lives — their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond,” write the authors. The stories showed that baby boomers faced “a complex phenomenon of continually negotiated personal travails and marketplace dynamics.”

As a result of what they heard, the Wells Fargo team reworked how they think of customers. The bank developed a behavior-based segmentation that divided retirement approaches into three groups — Reactor, Pooler and Maximizer. [...]

As a result, the bank adjusted its marketing strategy and “designed its retirement planning site to include the various life stages used in the ethnographic research to convey the message ‘we meet you where you are’ and provide relevant, unintimidating guidance — as opposed to producing numbers-dense material filled with endless financial projections.”

10 March 2014

Observing the technologists

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Nick Seaver, a PhD candidate in sociocultural anthropology at UC Irvine, makes the case for the importance of “studying up“: doing ethnographies not only of disempowered groups, but of groups who wield power in society, like technology developers. This project focuses on the development of algorithmic music recommendation systems.

“Just as ethnography is an excellent tool for showing how “users” are more complicated than one might have thought, it is also useful for understanding the processes through which technologies get built. By turning an ethnographic eye to the designers of technology — to their social and cultural lives, and even to their understandings of users — we can get a more nuanced picture of what goes on under the labels “big data” or “algorithms.” For outsiders interested in the cultural ramifications of technologies like recommender systems, this perspective is crucial for making informed critiques. For developers themselves, being the subject of ethnographic research provides a unique opportunity for reflection and self-evaluation.”

Now I am curious what his research results actually showed.

5 March 2014

De l’importance de l’ethnographie appliquée aux technologies

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For once a post in French!

Hubert Guillaud of InternetActu describes some examples – mostly from the recent EPIC conference – of the great contribution of ethnography in focusing our gaze on real life practices, in pointing out that what technologists do not see, and in explaining how the strictly technological gaze often fails. ["Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue."]

“L’ethnographie est une méthode des sciences sociales consistant en l’étude descriptive et analytique, sur le terrain, des moeurs, coutumes et pratiques de populations déterminées. Longtemps cantonnés aux populations primitives, les sociologues, anthropologues et ethnologues ont depuis les années 70 élargies l’usage de ces méthodes à bien d’autres terrains, et notamment à l’étude de nos pratiques quotidiennes, afin de mieux comprendre “les expériences humaines en contexte”. Parmi les repères de la conception ethnographique appliquée à la technologie, citons au moins le travail pionnier de Lucy Suchman au Xerox Parc dès les années 90, ou celui de Genevieve Bell qui poursuit ce travail chez Intel et qui a signé, avec Tony Salvador et Ken Anderson, en 1999, l’un des articles fondateur de l’ethnographie appliquée aux questions technologiques.

Depuis 2011, le site Questions d’Ethnographie (ethnomatters) interroge ces nouvelles pratiques de l’ethnographie et permet à de jeunes chercheurs de discuter la tension entre l’ethnographie universitaire et l’ethnographie appliquée, tel que de plus en plus d’ethnologues la pratiquent. Pour eux, si l’ethnographie est importante, c’est parce qu’elle aide à maintenir “le développement technologique réel”, concret.

Récemment, le site a publié une série d’exemples tirés de présentations qui se sont déroulées lors de la conférence Epic 2013 qui avait lieu en septembre dernier à Londres, une conférence sur la pratique ethnographique dans le monde des affaires (voir le brouillon non finalisé des actes (.pdf)), qui éclaire d’une manière concrète l’intérêt de l’ethnographie appliquée. Le grand apport de l’ethnographie est de renverser notre regard sur les pratiques en pointant du doigt ce que les technologues ne voient pas, d’expliquer en quoi le regard strictement technologique bien souvent, échoue. Prenons quelques exemples pour mieux comprendre les enjeux.”