17 May 2010

Embedded anthropology

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Simon Roberts
Anthropologist Simon Roberts, who manages the social science research and design research team for Digital Health Group at Intel in Ireland, spoke last week at an RSA event on Embedding Design in London, UK, on the role of anthropology within large organisations.

“I would argue that much of the work of corporate anthropologists is spent not doing fieldwork or analysing that fieldwork, but engaging with people within their organisations. The reason for this is that they know that their success is contingent on them engaging in a long conversation with their organisations.

For ‘embedded’ or resident anthropologists the transfer of their knowledge, or their research findings, is not an event. It is very rarely a matter of merely presenting of ‘ethnographically sensitive deliverable’ to a selected audience, although it may entail such communication. Rather it is a process, a long conversation, with multiple stakeholders all differentially located within the business (geographically, functionally, hierarchically): it is an ongoing set of interactions.

The intention is not merely to ‘debrief and depart’, but to inform and engage.”

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