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Is an Ethnography of the Possible Possible?

The Ethnography Lab is pleased to welcome Paul Hartley to the 2015-2016 Speaker Series on Friday, November 27th, 5-6pm, for a discussion about ethnographic action outside the academy.

Paul's bio picAn important transformation in business is creating the need for research at the point where applied anthropology, business, and design meet. This change is creating a new relevance for ethnography outside the academy and demanding a new critical perspective on the scope of ethnographic action. The cause of these changes is the development of the concept of ‘innovation,’ and its various manifestations. While innovation has captured the attention and imagination of companies, NGOs, foundations, and governmental organizations, it is built upon an underdetermined concept of humans and human behaviour. For innovation to mature it requires the help of skilled ethnographers from many disciplines.

Importantly, the work of ‘innovation’ demands an engagement with the future because it is necessary to strategically organize against expected and unexpected change when developing services, strategies, or products three, five, or even ten years in advance. A new discipline called ‘foresight’ has arisen within industry and the academy and has come to provide the only critical perspective on the future of human action and thought. It is critical that we develop an anthropology of the future to participate in this conversation.

I will discuss several issues facing applied ethnographers as we try to improve the work of innovation by engaging present and future action. I will outline Idea Couture’s nascent Human Futures practice and discuss our attempts to incorporate Joachim Halse’s concept of ‘ethnographies of the possible’ as a way to include the future in the work of an ethnographer.

BIO: Paul has 12 years of experience as an applied ethnographer and has worked in nine countries exploring a wide range of problems and topics. Originally trained as an ethnomusicologist, Paul is now Sr. Resident Anthropologist and Head of Human Futures at Idea Couture, a global strategic innovation and experience design company. In addition to being an ethnographic researcher, Paul is also a foresight practitioner and advises Fortune 50 and Fortune 500 companies to develop their strategic visions of themselves in a way that is sustainable, ethical, and human-focused.

Awarded a Fulbright-IIE fellowship in 2010 to conduct the research for his doctoral dissertation, Paul studied the social impact of compositional practices, new media, and technologies in the Turkish film industry. Paul is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Speaker: Paul Hartley, PhD Candidate, Sr. Resident Anthropologist and Head of Human Futures at Idea Couture; Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

WHEN: Friday, November 27th 5-6 pm

WHERE: Ethnography Lab Seminar Room 330, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto, 19 Russell Street, Toronto

This talk is open to the public. Free coffee and light refreshments will be provided. for more info

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