Already here, not evenly distributed
Ethno-Futures is about the connection between design and ethnography. Currently, anthropologists and designers work with topics related to the futures of everything around us.
Why do you think your computer has “folders” and “files”?
It seems, however, that anthropologists and designers are unaware of the whole universe of knowledge developed by futures studies, and often seen “futurism” under bad lenses. Conversely, futurists that were once deterministic in their ideas are shifting to more culture-conscious methods. Consequently, ethnographic methods are often applied to understand better the cultures they are discussing.
Focus of Ethno-Futures
Fernando Galdino guides a talk that explores how design has borrowed ethnography from the social sciences and as a result, creates products and services that better resonate with peoples and cultures. This session also aims to uncover ways to close the gap between these disciplines and professionals.
Related: GFK Veredin, Futures Research.
EPIC 2017 in Montreal, Canada hosted an Ethno-Futures Salon. As a result, there are key learnings to consider from the EPIC session.
Participants seem to agree that a vast majority of the work developed by ethnographers for the industry focuses on future developments. Meaning businesses are often trying to use ethnography to guide decisions about future possibilities – the next product, the next service, the next trend to be explored.
Besides this apparent consensus on these future implications, few practitioners are familiar with the methods and tools used in “futures studies” and “foresight”. These are areas of knowledge developed in the last decades, mostly in the fields of political sciences and business strategy. It seems that the EPIC community could benefit from more content in these areas.
There were many questions about the challenges of working with clients exploring futures topics. Questions such as:
– How much can biases and emotions influence the research?
– What kind of evidence can future-focused research offer?
– What level of rigour can ethnographers aspire to achieve in these contexts?