Tuesday, January 27, 2004

We are bad, bad bloggers—just look at the date of that last post! But if we lived in a world where 1 day = 2 weeks of our current time, we'd be medium-prolific bloggers.

Contrary to site activity here, we are all back and working. Kat, however, is still in Australia, but due back soon. Adam and Nina are both around and working hard, though deserving of rest after having successfully hosted an international 2-day conference called Approaching the City: Alternative Urban Studies. Jenny is pushing ahead with her work on reproductive technologies, and sadly-happily, due to be done with her post at INCITE early in February. Mary, Steve, Kate and Gerard appear to be bravely and gracefully leaping the various hurdles of their PhD work. And Sian, from the BBC, has moved onto the second phase of her secondment with INCITE: a position with an interesting London advertising agency (all in a quest to better understand how social science methods might help the BBC in the design of their programming). In more distant radar blips, Nina and I will be speaking again at the Banff New Media Centre in April, at a conference called "Simulation and Other Re-enactments: Modeling the Unseen". So, here's to better blogging.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

New Year!

I'm just back from the US and about to transition from my current research fellowship to a three-month period of writing and re-grouping at Surrey under the auspices of recently-won "bridging funds" (thank you Surrey).

Amidst holiday shenanigans, I met with Rick Robinson [this links to an out-of-date bio] for a chat about his new work at the intersection of qualitative and quantitative social research. In charting how he got from E-Lab to his current work, we talked a lot about the evolution of the perceptions and uses of ethnography in applied settings (esp. product design). Many of the changes Rick cites are the result of the extraordinary numbers of people now doing ethnography in the service of design. This means that now, a company who wants to use ethnography to support design has the problem of _choosing_ a good parter rather than _finding_ one. And this often means that market research groups, who have vast experience with "vendor relations" (locating, evaluating and choosing good partners) are increasingly in charge of hiring ethnography, in contrast to the small design groups who were once the seekers of ethnographic partners. In one sense, we are watching what happens when a formerly novel process (the introduction of anthropological and sociological theories to design) becomes routine.