Our conference theme this year is SCALE. Throughout 2020 the EPIC community will engage, work across, and reframe scale in a world where “bigger, faster, easier, broader” is the prevailing framework that defines desired and expected goals. In these times of critical, planet-wide climate, technological, economic, political and social change, SCALE invites us to confront how concepts of scale define the scopes, contexts, and impacts of ethnographic work in creating value in the organizations we work for and with, and in sustaining our global futures.
We suggest three scales (of course!) for inquiry:
- Meanings and Uses of Scale: What does scale actually mean in different organisations, and what priorities and concerns does ‘scale’ gloss? We’ll investigate the many models, meanings, and uses of scale developed and deployed in our organizations and industries, addressing their successes, failures, and implications.
- Challenging Scale: How might ethnographic perspectives illuminate the importance of goals besides or alongside ‘bigger, faster, easier, broader’ and how might we re-orient stakeholders to new goals while still creating business value? We’ll discuss shared challenges and strategies for building corporate models of scale that can speak to and learn from alternative goals and metrics.
- Post-Human Scale: What happens when our focus shifts from individuals, or even humans, to complex systems and networks? We’ll discuss models of scale in our work that increasingly include post-human and non-human actors.
- Risk and Scale: How do we evaluate and manage risk when a product, service, process goes to scale? We’ll explore tools, methods, frameworks, and models we can use for recognizing and responding to vulnerabilities that are created through the design, development, adoption, deployment, and decommissioning of a product, service, or process.
- Navigating Scales: As practitioners we position ourselves as strategic actors at a specific scale and/or across scales. How do we mix scales, work with others on different scales, and combine knowledge gained through focusing on different scales? Together we will analyze useful tools, methods, and models for traversing them.
- Alchemy of Scales: How do we create and work in a post–qualitative-vs.-quantitative data world? We’ll discuss possibilities for how we work with smaller and larger data sets, mixed data sets, and multiple types of data, and challenge qualitative and quantitative, human and machine dichotomies.
- Agency, Capacity and Scale: Specific design and development processes are deeply ingrained in product and service focused organizations, and ethnographers face challenges and opportunities in working with and against them. We’ll address these issues across many realms of action: from defining the features of a product or an entirely new offering; to refining current business strategy or defining new businesses; to shaping or regulating a market or ecosystem.
Our Jobs and Careers
- Enacting Scales: Scale is a core component of the way our work is practiced and measured within User Experience, Customer Insight and Engagement, and other people/insight-centric teams. What are the perceptions and expectations of ethnographic work for types and levels of influence in organizational decision-making—and how might we shift them?
- Career Narratives and Scale: Particular ideas of scale frame our career paths and career trajectories with assumptions about our limits and opportunities. We’ll explore how narratives of scale shape job categories, team designs, and our influence within an organization over time, and how we might use language about scale to reshape our career paths.
- Ethnography at Scale: How does ethnography scale across teams and organizations? We’ll explore how the democratization of User Experience, Design Thinking, and other models within organizations and industries—as well as the popular imagination—are a source of opportunities and challenges for our community.