What I’ve been reading lately: the not-so-weekly digest (#2)

farragut substation isaac sachsPhoto by Isaac Sachs

Presenting another installment of a most-highly-recommended collection of articles and websites that shaped my thinking throughout the past few weeks. The articles span across the topics that most excite me at the moment, including research, design, business, technology, food, and culture [change] and society.


Why do organizations have trouble embracing qualitative research?

Improve your communication skills by learning to really listen

Facebook uses ethnography to inform advertising design

How eBay’s cross-disciplinary research team uses mixed-methods and approaches to understand users

Empathy in Action: The Idea of Accompaniment

Will big data eclipse anthropology? You decide.


Putting the “U” back into UX

One anthropologist’s opinion about the new Blackberry phone

A history of how the Post-It Note came to be


Three things an anthropologist can “bring to the table” as an executive board member

Voices, not data points: building connections between clients and informants to create impact

Facebook’s Gateway Drug

How “I don’t know” can make you an authority in your industry

Etsy Bans Use of Washington Redskins Team Name and Logo


How will today’s technology change our concept of work?

Photos from inside one of the world’s largest bitcoin mines

Museum of Endangered Sounds

Reading literature on a screen: a price for convenience?

Where tech is taking us: A conversation with Intel’s Genevieve Bell

Welcome to Dataland: Design fiction at the most magical place on Earth

You are not late (to the internet party)


Where do cocktail prices come from?

What do Chinese dumplings have to do with global warming?

A taste of the road: ethnographer Bruno Moynie’s food-centric trip into the American South

Culture [Change] & Society

Rob Walker’s 2013 “Where Were You” – a zine of reflective entries at the intersection of mundane life and high-profile death

Going Public: What Alice Goffman’s new book tells us about the challenges of public ethnography

At 11, Marquis Govan has some things to say about Ferguson

Columbia student will carry her mattress everywhere until her rapist is expelled

The rise of the rental economy

#Iftheygunnedmedown attacks portrayals of black men killed by police

What it looks like when America’s college graduates move back home

What is “cool”? I don’t know, but probably a linguistic black hole


    1. Me too! The former is just a fun site and experience, although I didn’t recognize a couple of the sounds there. The latter made me think fondly of Memphis and all of its varied food culture.

  1. Thanks for the “Why do organizations have trouble embracing qualitative research?” article, very informative, but, I think it kind of explains why business stays away from qualitative – sometimes it’s too much information overload with words. While both quantitative and qualitative are valuable, quantitative fits nicely with dollars and cents. So how do we make qualitative more attractive to different types of industries is a question that is often on my mind.

    1. It’s an interesting conundrum! I agree with Young that it comes down to this notion of positivism as the driving epistemology of many engineering and business-driven organizations. Other researchers have talked about this as a way to think about the opposition to qualitative research, including Sam Ladner in her book “Practical Ethnography” (2014).

      One way we can make qualitative more attractive – and more understood and valued – is by helping people realize that there is more than one way to understand a phenomenon, that there are different ways of understanding significance – whether statistical or experiential. Both qualitative and quantitative research are important, both have their pros and cons, and both answer different types of questions – whether through Big Data (Big N via surveys, usability tests, analytics, etc.) and Little or Thick Data (little n via interviews, observations, participatory research, etc.) Helping people understand the nuances of research design and the purpose of different approaches and methodologies, rather than just shoving qualitative insights down their throats, is key.

      Here are a few other recent articles that address this in more detail that you might find of interest:
      View at Medium.com

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