design ethnography

Design ethnography: A view from an industrial think tank. Ethnography 0(0): 1-22 (online first), 2022. Anthropologists increasingly turn to design research for inspiration. Yet work in design anthropology is frequently cut off from ethnographic research. To some extent this is intentional, given concerns that ethnographic methods have failed to keep pace with a rapidly changing world. But anthropologists should not have to choose between ethnography and design research. This article examines the author’s participation in an industrial think tank in which anthropologists and engineers collaborated to address the environmental impacts of mining. This included discussion of unrecognized sources of pollution at mining sites and rising penalties for environmental damage. The members of the think tank also developed designs for new technology intended to reduce the exposure of artisanal gold miners to mercury and its release into the atmosphere, facilitate the recycling of electronic waste in developing countries, and reduce the catastrophic risks posed by tailings dams. Our collaborations point to the value of combining ethnography and design research in new ways.

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