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emerging after a midweek of ethnography

Last week I wasn’t active on #projcomm13 because I attended The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC The conference was a treat, daily keynote speakers, well presented papers and pechakucha’s and cool people talking about themes like: big data and how to interpret that (vs Thick data), the role of qualitative research in design and policy making and emerging areas of interest. A fine gathering of academics, independent UX people and corporate user researchers.

Tricia Wang started with a provoking keynote on how we are depending too much on measurable data to make decisions, being not much farther from the times of the Delphi Oracle. Or..


She studies the impact and use of technology especially in youth groups. I really liked her description of formal identities and informal identities, especially online. Sometimes we want to show our formal self to people we know (‘hey look how great my life is, I got married/a new job/to go on a trip’) which is used by the bigger providers of platforms to sell for advertisements. And sometimes we want to share stuff with people we don’t know, or just a small group of people, or we just want to experiment with a different side of our personality (I can be a 14 year football hooligan on tumblr or reddit) on a platform that allows anonymous registration.


I like this concept of ‘elastic self’ a lot and it made me think: when we study or try to build online communities, do we ever consider using more playful ways? Why not have an online meeting in Haris Pilton’s bar in Wow? 

It was all too much to talk about in a blog, and besides there are some really comprehensive ones about the conference already. So I’ll end with my learnings:

  • quantitative research is gaining momentum in design and industry
  • design can help society (or societies) towards a better world, but often makes it worse (great talk on the Brixton pound) when users are not considered
  • Unilever wants to quantify and structure ethnographic research 
  • Lord Byron seems to be behind every single piece of modern pop culture
  • project groups get lost when not led firmly in the first weeks of a project
  • Skype is terrifying because for the first time in history we are witness to our own behaviour when communicating to others
  • in multi cultural environments joking is still very dangerous
  • Magic can be the key to better technology


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Posted in Community, Faculty
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: mohandis Thissen
3 comments on “emerging after a midweek of ethnography
  1. I liked your summary of what you learned from the talks, good to see so many things we strive to do and I will be a happy camper if we can build on those :-).

  2. Maarten Thissen says:

    Sometimes, I could just use a ‘like’ button here

  3. Nancy White says:

    Oh, I went to an EPIC conference years ago when it was here in Seattle (and much smaller). It was wonderful. Thanks for the digital identity reflections. It really resonated for me!

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  • Nancy White { I appreciate that you included client liaison - I think this is often forgotten. Good catch. What advice would you give next year's students please?... } – Dec 18, 5:53 AM
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  • Nancy White { I loved this piece of advice "Nobody will spoon-feed you the content of the course, you have to make your own experiences but you get... } – Dec 18, 5:51 AM
  • Nancy White { I love that you used your own photo! But more important, I appreciate the clarity of your description of what you have learned. WONDERFUL! Thanks... } – Dec 18, 5:49 AM
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