It’s not just Flint

Every day I read more news about toxins in our environment, and the growing body of research that makes the connection between these (largely unregulated) chemicals and a variety of insidious health conditions.  I feel like Americans generally don’t understand the seriousness of the situation, and how much corporations affect our environment and ultimately our health.  I do have some hope that the press about Flint Michigan will help, but that is far from the worst of it.

If we just look at lead as one well-known contaminant, we begin to see how very difficult the situation is.  The reality is that – in spite of the fact that the US government collects data on lead poisoning – many states don’t report lead levels in water at all:


Given the publicity related to the lead poisoning in Flint, maybe consumers will start to pay more attention and start to demand this information.  But, according to the comments in this post, there are 160K water systems in the US, regulated by a wide variety of local agencies.  And the most recent version of the Safe Drinking Water Act has a loophole that avoids any EPA accountability for issues in drinking water that result from fracking.

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Origins of anthrodesign

Anthrodesign is an active online community of about 3000 practicing social scientists and interested colleagues from other disciplines.  The focus of our dialogue is on the use of ethnographic methods in non-academic contexts.  I created the listserv in 2002, and many of the reasons for its founding are the same reasons it continues to be so successful today.  Over the years I’ve received inquiries about why I formed anthrodesign, what problems I intended to solve, and what I think about it today.   As anthrodesign approaches it’s fifteen-year anniversary, this blog post is intended to answer those questions and more.  I believe sharing some of our history may help shape our trajectory, and at the same time inform others who might be interested in establishing their own vibrant and long-lasting community of like-minded practitioners.

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EUX16 – Summary

In June 2016, I attended the second annual Enterprise UX conference.  I was energized both by the presenters and by the ensuing dialogue!  I met many people leading teams and/or doing work that was very similar to what my teams do, so I am looking forward to attending the conference again this year.  It is scheduled for June 8-9 at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, in the Innovation Hangar.  Workshops will precede the conference on June 7th.

Following the 2016 conference, I shared a seven-slide summary of my EUX takeaways with colleagues here at work, and I thought there might be value in sharing them more broadly as well.  This one was stuck in WordPress drafts for some reason, so consider this post a gentle reminder that #EUX17 is only six months away.  🙂

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AAA16 – Design Anthropology

This year, the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropology Association was held in Minneapolis, MN.  Our session on Design Anthropology was organized by Christine Miller and Emilie Hitch, and sponsored by the National Association for Practicing Anthropology (NAPA).

Innovation, Human Understanding, and Design
in the Software Industry

Presentation Abstract

The software industry today is still largely imagined and led by male engineers, but over the past 20-30 years, there has been a growing awareness of the need for a more balanced view of the world to both build and bring those technologies to market.  As a result of these and other trends, the ‘end-user’ has been problematized in the technology industry – an unknown and unpredictable entity who needs to be understood in order for products to succeed.  In this context, social scientists have a unique role to play in helping technology-focused engineering teams to both understand people and the context in which technologies are being used. However, social scientists alone are usually not sufficient in this case; a partnership with specialized designers enables the team to bring research and concepts to life in a way that is consumable by everyone – including the engineers.  This paper explores one such collaboration, and how each cross-disciplinary team member (and ultimately, the product itself) benefit from the varied perspectives of the team.

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Lessons Learned at the Lost & Found

[This article was originally posted on ZS Associates’ CX Factor blog.]

I lost my phone at the airport on Friday night. In a classic story arc, I had a brief adrenaline rush followed by a wave of despair, and then a whole lot of frustration before things were set right. Once I was done being completely stressed and exasperated, I realized that it was a moment to reflect on how we deliver experiences both large and small.

lost and found - journeyThe Opening Scene

I was at the Enterprise User Experience conference last week, and when I landed at O’Hare on Friday night, I was still feeling that warm, happy buzz that you get when you spend time with your tribe. For the three days of the event, I had woken up early and stayed up late. I had been engaged in complex, energizing and thought-provoking conversations, and I was writing and blogging like mad about all of the exciting things that I learned, so it’s probably no surprise that by the time my plane landed back home, I was definitely running on fumes.

Once I landed, I stopped at the ladies room and then headed straight to the baggage claim, where I immediately realized that I must have left my phone behind. Yes, the phone is expensive, yes, it’s covered by insurance and yes, it has a ton of data on it, but there was also the feeling of shame and stress about explaining the situation to my IT group and my insurance company. And how was I going to call my ride home from the airport?

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