This year we had the chance to attend EPIC, the international gathering of ethnographers, in Honolulu this time － a change from our last EPIC experience in cold London.
The theme this year is Evidence (How is evidence created, used, and abused?). The organizers called out for data scientists to attend, and for papers connecting ethnography and data science.
Though half the programs are still to come up, so far I have noticed three approaches, or three viewpoints on ethnography and evidence in a broad sense.
One is combining qualitative information and data technology to make ethnography effective in business. Closely related to a familiar topic in this conference, making the results of ethnography actionable, sessions by big names such as Uber, Amazon or Adobe were attracting attention.
The second is, answering the organizer’s call, sessions from the field of data science and AI community reaching out to ethnographers for quant-qual collaborations.
And the third is about evidence itself, in ethnography or in society as a whole, and how it should be handled especially in regard to consideration to its original owners.
Compared to the previous EPIC conferences I’ve been to － in Tokyo 2010 and London 2013 － the sessions sounded more contained and mature, and the topics seemed less cutting edge specialist talk and more social issue oriented, easier to understand though maybe difficult to solve. At any rate, you can’t deny that the blue sky and poolside deck right in front of the rooms brought a laid back atmosphere to everyone.