Ethnography Lab: Paul Hartley

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Date(s) - 27/11/2015
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

AP 330


Friday, November 27, 2015

Paul Hartley (Sr. Resident Anthropologist and Head of Human Futures at Idea Couture; Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)
Is Ethnography of the Possible Possible?
Ethnography Lab, 5:00-6:00pm, AP 330. Further info here.

An important transformation in business is creating the need for research at the point where applied anthropology, business, and design meet. This change is creating a new relevance for ethnography outside the academy and demanding a new critical perspective on the scope of ethnographic action. The cause of these changes is the development of the concept of ‘innovation,’ and its various manifestations. While innovation has captured the attention and imagination of companies, NGOs, foundations, and governmental organizations, it is built upon an underdetermined concept of humans and human behaviour. For innovation to mature it requires the help of skilled ethnographers from many disciplines.

Importantly, the work of ‘innovation’ demands an engagement with the future because it is necessary to strategically organize against expected and unexpected change when developing services, strategies, or products three, five, or even ten years in advance. A new discipline called ‘foresight’ has arisen within industry and the academy and has come to provide the only critical perspective on the future of human action and thought. It is critical that we develop an anthropology of the future to participate in this conversation.

I will discuss several issues facing applied ethnographers as we try to improve the work of innovation by engaging present and future action. I will outline Idea Couture’s nascent Human Futures practice and discuss our attempts to incorporate Joachim Halse’s concept of ‘ethnographies of the possible’ as a way to include the future in the work of an ethnographer.