Ethnography at Work
This course description is a courtesy of Professor Jennifer Cool.
Ethnography, the central method of cultural anthropology, was initially developed through the study of small-scale, mainly non-Western, societies. Today, ethnographic methods and principles are routinely applied in a variety of business settings from product design to understanding consumer behavior, work processes, localization, and globalization. Technology and media workplaces (e.g., Netscape, Disney/ABC) have been primary field sites for my research as an anthropologist of new media and digital culture. This course draws on that experience to guide an exploration of ethnography within and for corporations, setting it in historical context and working through class discussions and assignments to identity the distinctive features and key issues of this typ of research.
The course is structured around case studies — a genre and method common to both anthropology and business. We will examine ethnographic case studies from media and high technology industries in Japan, Silicon Valley, and India. Our aim is to understand ethnographic approaches to gathering, analyzing, and presenting data, and to identify and engage key themes and questions facing anthropologists in corporate arenas. While ethnography in business settings has a long history and is broadly practiced, it poases distinct challenges, such as accountability to multiple audiences and multiple forms of public communication (publication). If accountability to business needs and to the professional ethics of the discipline are two audiences, other audiences include local workforces, and clients, customers of corporate products or services. How ethnographers balance these interests is the framing question for the course.
For spring 2017, the course will include a field project with Northrup Grumman Corporation (NGC).