EPIC 2013: Day 1 – Afternoon papers

So after some excellent PechaKuchas, here some the next conference speakers!

Jacob Buur, Rosa TorguetSPIRE, University of Southern Denmark – Ethnographic Findings in the Organizational Theater

Jacob spoke about how researchers can use theater to promote stakeholder participation in research sessions and help them to understand user needs. He argued that using theater is a great way to promote participation with stakeholders in creative sessions and his colleague Rosa showed us the how much more effective it is when compared to a normal presentation:

Red arrows denote interaction

Red arrows denote interaction

Louise Buch LogstrupSPIRE, University of Southern Denmark – Exploring the intangible potential of private energy smart grids

Louise presented her work on the development of smart energy networks, where the user can feed in power to the grid through micro-generation. Energy companies in the traditional model referred to users as ‘loads’ who place loads upon the system, not humans with behaviours and needs.

The energy company conducted a trial of a new system which would give the organisation control over the energy input and output in the home. Louise’s team were brought in to assess the companies conclusion that the pilot was a success. They found that whilst the company thought their system was a success, the user’s human character traits brought up issues, such as a mother not being able to turn the light on at night in her babies bedroom.

The solution was to rethink the relationship between user and power company, moving the consumer away from being thought of as simply ‘loads’ on the system. Louise and her team ran workshops with the company, bringing in the insights they learnt from their research. Suddenly the organisation’s employees recognised the benefits of private energy users as part of their system is a positive way as a 2 way relationship.


Anna Wojnarowska, Gina Taha, Experientia & Nancy Vuckovic, Todd Harple, Intel– Mobility is more than a device: understanding complexity in healthcare with ethnography

Anna spoke about how they worked to improve mobile device use in hospitals situations. As part of the research, the team crossed 4 countries and discovered the variety complications involved in international research.

“We had to constantly deal with the fact that we as researchers, were always in the Doctors way.”

The difficulties they found when researching in the healthcare world meant that the research team had to be incredibly flexible in their approach. This understanding of the clinicians work environment also helped the team understand the challenges their users will face. Whatever the team designed had to help the doctors in their work without causing an additional barrier to their work. It was also challenging to encourage clinicians to try the new systems as they’re used to creating work-arounds to legacy systems.


Nancy spoke about how the two key ways of working were Agility and Trust. The way they worked has to be agile to work around the challenges Anna identified and the trust which was built through co-creation sessions with clinical staff.


Katharine Sieck, Olsen Marketing – Move Me: On Stories, Rituals, and Building Brand Communities

Is there a way to create a research template that is marketed on rituals? Culture and society uses rituals to make change happen (weddings, festivals etc), people go in at one end, something happens, and they come out of the end of the ritual appreciating something more (fasting), feeling part of something (initiations) or remembrance (intensely personal experiences).

Katharine’s challenge was to use these rituals as a model to research user behaviour and use these findings to help develop marketing activity. The example used was luxury sports cars. When the researchers tried to ask drivers what the cars meant to them,  they usual response was “you just have to drive it to understand”. Instead, they linked up with people who own the cars and experienced the cars with the drivers. This proved to be much more immersive for the researchers. The ritual of getting in the car and having an intense experience provided a much more fulfilling research experience.


Yosha GargeyaReD Associates – “Out of the labs”- The role for ethnography in guiding clinical trials

How does ethnography get involved with clinical trials? Before this talk I didn’t think any but Yosha’s team worked with a pharma company to gain insight. The condition in question was a new one for the pharma organisation so they had little understanding of the patients. The current drugs for the condition were very expensive and results (good or bad) didn’t show for 6 to 12 months after treatment began.


Working with the pharma company, they began research with patients, scientists and doctors. They spent time in people’s homes and clinics to get a full understanding of the consequences of the illness.

“We wanted to find out what it actually meant to suffer from the disease”

The illness they were working with had an unidentified cause so one of the biggest insights they found was that patients suffered constant worry about what had caused them to get this disease and if it was something they could have prevented.

The team then came up with ways for these insights to have impact at the clinical trial stage. About 1 in 10,000 drugs gets through the approval phase, and this was the main criteria for success. The team instead used their research to create other parameters for success for the patients and doctors. These criteria formed an objective for the scientists to use over the long term project, other than just success at the FDA approval stage.


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2 Responses to EPIC 2013: Day 1 – Afternoon papers

  1. Pingback: EPIC Speakers, help me to help you |

  2. Pingback: Why go to an ethnography conference?: Notes from the EPIC 2013 Conference | Ethnography Matters

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