Humanizing Business Technology

I attended the The Qualitative Report’s Fourth Annual Conference at the end of this week.  I enjoyed listening and learning to many of the sessions, and on Saturday morning I presented the Closing Plenary.  In addition to sharing a bit about my own personal and professional journey, I also had a chance share my thoughts about the impact that social sciences and design can have on technology in the business setting.  

Humanizing Business Technology

View the complete presentation on SlideShare.


How can methodologies from the social sciences – and from other fields like design – inform our understanding of and influence on technology?  In this presentation, anthropologist Natalie Hanson talks about her transition from academia to the software industry, and what she learned along the way.


Natalie Hanson has been working and researching at the intersection of business strategy, technology, social science, and design for nearly fifteen years. She serves as Associate Principal for User Experience at ZS Associates, a management consulting company. At ZS Associates, Dr. Hanson’s team provides user research, user-centered design, and User Interface (UI) development for the company’s cloud-based solutions and UX support for client engagements. She is responsible for identifying emerging trends from market data, executive messaging, and user experience research, and using those insights to create and execute innovative and pragmatic programs aligned with firm strategy.  Prior to her current position, Natalie worked 13 years for software company SAP in a variety of User Experience and operations management functions.

In 2002, Natalie founded a listserv called anthrodesign. This active online community is composed of nearly 3000 members worldwide that are interested in engaging in dialogue about cross-disciplinary collaboration, with a particular focus on the use of field research (ethnographic) methods in the business context. Natalie’’s research explores the ways in which institutions respond to macro-economic, industry, and regional trends, and how those organizational changes affect the lives of employees. Her dissertation focused on traditional management practices (HR, Finance, Marketing) as well as emergent practices like self-management (in the tradition of Foucault) that are critical for corporations to control their increasingly mobile and remote workforce.

Natalie received her AB in Religion and Biblical Literature from Smith College, her MA in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University Seattle, and her MA and PhD in Anthropology from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Conference Theme  – Qualitative Research and Technology

From the conference website:

The first qualitative research technology were the researchers themselves. As the primary instrument qualitative researchers used their human senses to see, hear, smell, taste, and feel the world around them. Through these channels researchers generated data and then used their cognitive abilities to make sense of the qualities represented by this data. As qualitative research progressed, the beginnings of new technologies could be seen in the enterprise. Pencils and paper in the field and typewriters in the office led to handheld devices on location and qualitative data analysis programs in the clouds. All along this evolutionary pathway, these technologies not only help researchers perform their instrumental duties, but also helped the change the nature of these acts themselves to the point that the prominence of the qualitative researcher as main instrument in qualitative research may be called into question by the dominance of technological advancements.

Qualitative researchers are not alone in these challenging encounters with technologies in their everyday lives. Each of us in our daily activities can observe the greater and greater place technology plays in how we live, work, and play. Discovering how we utilize these technologies, how we experience them, and how we enact change with them are all wonderful areas in which we as qualitative researchers can engage our inquiries.

At TQR2013, we want to explore technology and the qualitative researcher by featuring works of and on qualitative inquiry that exemplify the presence of technology in life and in our research about this technology-infused state-of-living. To this end we encourage prospective presenters to submit their paper and paper panel proposals that will inspire conference attendees to consider technology’s ubiquity in all its forms. Be it in business, education, government, healthcare, recreation, and home life, we are interested in studies which such a focus. We are also very interested in presentations on the application of new technologies in the practice and performance of qualitative research. As always, we are also open to receiving creative presentation forms and content especially those proposals incorporating technology in effective and creative ways.

2 Comments on “Humanizing Business Technology”

  1. Pingback: Agile – Implications for UX Research | Natalie Hanson, PhD

  2. Pingback: Agile – Implications for UX Research | Natalie Hanson

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: