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Most of the videos of this week’s EPIC Conference, hosted by the Savannah College of Art and Design [SCAD], are now online.

EPIC, which stands for Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, promotes the use of ethnographic investigations and principles in the study of human behavior as they are applied in business settings.

The theme of the 2012 conference was renewal, focusing on the current turmoil in our world, and encouraging attendees to reflect on their own contribution to the field of applied ethnography and the role of EPIC in pushing communities forward.

Here are the videos in chronological order:

Opening keynote
Speaker: Emily Pilloton
Tell them I built this: A story of community transformation through design, youth, and education [51:15]
Emily Pilloton is the founder and executive director of Project H Design, a non-profit design agency founded in 2008 to use design and hands-on building for community and educational benefit. Trained in architecture and product design, Emily now spends most days teaching her high school Studio H design/build curriculum, in which students design and build full-scale architectural projects for their hometown. She is the author of the book Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People a compendium and call-to-action for design for social impact, and has appeared on the TED Stage as well as The Colbert Report.

Paper Session 1: Renewing ethnographic theory (curated by Stokes Jones)
Speaker: Tony Salvador, Intel Corporation
Epic Endings: The Key Is Renewal [20:59]
Innovation is about new ways to do old things and new ways to do new things. Yet, products, services, systems and even countries do end. As markets become increasingly volatile, we introduce the necessity of the concept of designing intentionally for things to end by purposefully designing the rituals to go with it generating renewal experiences and providing an emic potential for creative destruction.

Paper Session 1: Renewing ethnographic theory (curated by Stokes Jones)
Speaker: Sam Ladner, Copernicus Consulting Group
Ethnographic Temporality: Using Time-Based Data in Product Renewal [14:54]
Breathing new life into a flagging product requires a deep understanding of the rhythm of everyday life. When do customers begin to use this product? When do they stop? It is tempting to rely on the automatically collected time-data from “big data” to answer this question. But ethnography offers a unique cultural lens to understanding the temporal aspects of the product lifecycle. In this paper, I analyze several technological products using the concept of the “timescape” and its three dimensions of time to show how products succeed or fail. I then suggest how to integrate this with digital time-data.

Paper Session 1: Renewing ethnographic theory (curated by Stokes Jones)
Speakers: Min Lieskovsky, Charlie Hill and Morgan Ramsey-Elliot, ReD Associates
Function and change in China: Reviving Mauss’ “total social fact” to gain knowledge of changing markets [21:32]
This paper attempts to revive Mauss’ concept of the total social fact as a method to establish understanding of new markets. Our case study of alcohol in China illuminates the spirit baijiu’s connections to the total social facts of guanxi and hierarchy. We outline a methodology based on using total social facts as a heuristic device, removed from the problematic assumptions of classical functionalism.

Paper Session 1: Renewing ethnographic theory (curated by Stokes Jones)
Speakers: Fabian Segelström and Stefan Holmlid, Linköping University
One Case, Three Ethnographic Styles: Exploring different ethnographic approaches to the same design brief [17:51]
To inform the redesign of a Christmas market we employed three styles of ethnographic approaches. The three approaches were based on (social) anthropology, interaction design and mobile ethnography. We present the methodology chosen by each team and discuss the nature of the insights gathered by each team.

Pecha Kucha 1 (chaired by Michele Visciola, Experientia)
Renewals of Place [01:05:52] starts at 01:55
Presentations (in order):

  • Anthony Leonard (SCAD): The Resilience and Adaptation of OccupyDC
  • Jessica Grenoble (SCAD): Fading Into the Horizon: the disappearance of Appalachian hollow communities and culture
  • Arvind Venkataramani (SonicRim): Middle Perspectives: a walk through the High Line
  • Shubhangi Athalye, Stuart Henshall, Dina Mehta (Convo): Rebuilding Mumbai – Dreams and Reality
  • Chelsea Mauldin (Public Policy Lab): Public & Collaborative: Designing Services for Housing
  • Simon Roberts (ReD Associates): Peckham, Poundland, Post its and the Peace Wall: Staging a Post-Riot Renewal

> Presentation abstracts

Paper Session 2: Emerging Practices for Renewal (curated by Eric Arnould)
Speakers: Thomas Madsen and Laura Hammershoy, ReD Associates
Ethical dilemmas in business anthropology revisited: How a phenomenological approach to the practice of ethnography can shed new light on the topic of ethics [19:12]
Business anthropologists are caught between two ethical worlds: the ethics of the academy, and the ethics of the business community. While traditional discourses on ethical behavior are founded on universalistic ideas of morality, the paper presents an alternative ethics for our field that is contingent on the specifics of context.

Paper Session 2: Emerging Practices for Renewal (curated by Eric Arnould)
Speaker: Neal Patel, Google
If These Walls Could Talk: the Mental Life of the Built Environment [24:36]
This paper introduces a theory explaining why physical spaces become meaningful. Diverse modes of existence—exchange, retail experiences, lifestyles, identity—all occur in physical or virtual space. Yet ethnographers often divorce feeling at home or out of place from physical reality, as purely subjective mental forms. This paper argues the opposite, that there is a mental process which endows physical spaces with meaning. Renewing Lefebvre’s forgotten discussion of “rhythmanalysis,” I describe life in terms of overlapping, conflicting biological, cultural, and economic rhythms. I suggest human affinity with place depends on the extent that it provides refuge from such conflict, and increases relative to its restorative function.

Paper Session 2: Emerging Practices for Renewal (curated by Eric Arnould)
Speaker: Nicole Conand and Alicia Dornadic
The Ethnographer Unbounded: Considering Open Source in Corporate Environments [25:24]
Technological advances that enable seemingly endless information sharing, as well as various counter efforts that attempt to limit and control access to information, have prompted us to reexamine how industry-based practitioners of ethnography promulgate their research. A comparison of two distinct professional experiences reveals how varying degrees of information “openness” impact ethnographic work. One is an open source project supported by a Knight Foundation grant, and the second occurs within a large corporation in which research is proprietary and confidential. In doing so, we aim to discern which elements of open source ethnography have beneficial applications in corporate environments.

Invited Panel (curated by John Payne)
The Interaction of Ethnography and Design [01:00:44]
In keeping with the theme, EPIC has organized a panel of practitioners to reflect on how they use the combination of ethnographic and design practices to contribute to renewal in a variety of disparate areas of application, some established and some emerging. The panelists’ work sits at the intersection of ethnography and design in areas like technology, interaction design, service design, social entrepreneurship, and design of public services. They share some lessons learned and discuss the benefits and challenges they’ve encountered in bringing these two disciplines together.
The panelists are:
– Chelsea Mauldin, Executive Director, Public Policy Lab
– Shelley Evenson, Executive Director of Organisational Evolution at Fjord
– Dr. John Sherry, Director of Business Innovation Research, Intel Labs

Paper Session 3 (curated by Makiko Taniguchi)
Renewing Workplaces/ Organizations (video not yet online)

Paper Session 4 (curated by Dawn Nafus)
Visions of Renewal [01:02:47]
The works in this session all participate acts of envisioning the future. These visions, however, are not mere ocularcentric handwaving. No TED-style broad proclamations here. Each piece is grounded in specific evocative materials. One takes concrete—literally, concrete–as a site of envisioning what constitutes sustainability. Another investigates paper, space and embodied action as ephemeral materials that enact collective healing after a disaster. A third resituates “the digital” in relation to populations, social fields and city space to renew notions of civic participation. Through careful attention to materials, social processes and above all context, these papers all get beyond notions of vision as brash proclamation, and render new social dynamic conceivable in contextually-sensitive ways.
Presentations (in order):

  • Stokes Jones and Christine Miller (SCAD): STAND Where You Live: Activating Civic Renewal by Engaging Social Fields
  • Aki Ishida (Virginia Tech): Role of the Ephemeral in Recovery and Renewal
  • Laura Resendez de Lozano (Rice University): Concreting Sustainability: Renewing the Cement Industry through Sustainability Implementation

> Presentation abstracts

Paper Session 5: Renewing Places (curated by Ken Anderson)
Speaker: Fumiko Ichikawa, Hakuhodo, and Hiroshi Tamura, The University of Tokyo
Scaling-Out: An Ethnographic Approach to Revive Local Communities [19:35]
Between the 20th and the 21st century, what is considered innovations have changed from technologically-centered to human-centered. Taking Japan’s visions and potential recovery strategy as an example, we describe how Japan is to renew oneself and propose the power of ‘scaling-out’, where ethnography would play a central role in its success.

Paper Session 5: Renewing Places (curated by Ken Anderson)
Speaker: Colleen Heine, SCAD
Scene and Unscene: Revealing the Value of a Local Music Scene in Savannah, Georgia [20:48]
Throughout history, music has been central to the social fabric of communities, yet it is often perceived as an extraneous element in a city. “Scene and Unscene” is an ethnographic study of the local music scene in Savannah, Georgia. Interviews with key players and participant observation in local music events and venues, coupled with personal experience as a member of a Savannah-based band, provide an insider perspective on the local music scene—its current state and the collective vision for its desired future. The paper demonstrates the key roles a music scene plays in place-making, community building, and city life.

Paper Session 5: Renewing Places (curated by Ken Anderson)
Speaker: Siobhan Gregory, Wayne State University
“Detroit is a Blank Slate.” Metaphors in the Journalistic Discourse of Art and Entrepreneurship in the City of Detroit [18:28]
This paper is an investigation of metaphoric language in the contemporary discourse of Detroit’s “renewal.” News articles from local and national news sources from 2009-2011 provide evidence of critical and provocative metaphoric constructions found in the gentrification discourse of Detroit. As harbingers of gentrification, the discourse communities of artists and business entrepreneurs are the focus of this review. The author argues that metaphoric language in journalism must be critically evaluated and challenged to help ensure sustainable, equitable, and historically sensitive “renewal” of the city of Detroit and similar inner-city urban communities experiencing gentrification.

Paper Session 6 (curated by Shelley Evenson)
Renewing Services (video not yet online)

Pecha Kucha 2 (chaired by Suzanne Thomas)
Renewals of Culture [01:06:49]
Presentations (in order):

  • Daniel Goddemeyer (Unitedsituation): Exploring the analogue – digital legibility of our behaviors
  • Elisa Oreglia (UC Berkeley School of Information): 5 facts, 3 lessons, and 2 rules
  • Melissa Cefkin (IBM Research): Work and the Future
  • Richard Anderson: A Call to Action Regarding The Patient Experience
  • Robin Beers (Biz is Human) and Jan Yeager (Added Value Cheskin): Open Source Family | Implications for remaking and renewing notions of family
  • Carrie Yury: Don’t clean up and lie down: Ethnography and conceptual art

> Presentation abstracts

Artifacts Session (curated by Alicia Dornadic & Heinrich Schwarz)
Artifacts Introductions [34:49]
Features:
– Report by Heinrich Schwartz on EPIC Europe in Barcelona
– Introduction on the Artifacts by Alicia Dornadic

Paper Session 7 (curated by Nimmi Rangaswamy)
Renewing Our Discipline [01:25:13]
There always comes a time to reflect, explore and renew ethnographic praxis in industry. We face a felt need to cast a new light on praxis, be it broadening its coda, certifying its practioners or pushing boundaries of what are considered contexts of consumption. This panel will focus on three aspects of renewal: revitalizing practitioner ingenuity and expertise; pushing the limits of knowing consumers by enclosing broader discourses on context laden values; finally, incorporating an accreditation process to professionalize and certify a shared body of skills, methods and knowledge.
Presentations (in order):

  • Patricia Ensworth (Harborlight Management Services): Badges, Branding, and Business Growth: The ROI of an Ethographic Praxis Professional Certification
  • Arvind Venkataramani and Christopher Avery (SonicRim): Framed by ‘Experience’: Moving from User-Centeredness to Strategic Incitement
  • Susan Squires (University of N. Texas) and Alexandra Mack (Pitney Bowes): Renewing Our Practice: Preparing the next generation of practitioners

> Presentation abstracts

Closing keynote
Speaker: Philip Delves Broughton
Cracking The Marketplace Of Ideas (video not yet online)
Philip Delves Broughton is a journalist, management writer, and best selling author of two books. Philip was a journalist with The Daily Telegraph for ten years, latterly as Paris Bureau Chief (2002-04) before he took an MBA at Harvard, which became the subject of his first book, the best selling What They Teach you at Harvard Business School. Philip writes regularly for The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Spectator. From 2009-2010, he spent several months at Apple writing case studies for Apple University, its internal management program, and now works with The Kauffman Foundation for Entrepreneurship and Education. His most recent book The Art of the Sale: Learning from the Masters About the Business of Life is an ‘insightful scholarly treatise on sales’ with a global perspective on this critical business function.