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Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC)

EPIC promotes the use of ethnographic investigations and principles in the study of human behavior as they are applied in business settings. Program and event developments are regularly updated at: http://epiconference.com/


New York,  September 7-10, 2014 (http://epiconference.com/2014/)

Back in 2004, in a somewhat serendipitous encounter, two anthropologists from the industry realized the need for a forum to draw together their kinds and others as well. This was the inception of EPIC – the Ethnographic Praxis in the Industry Conference.

Ten years later, EPIC has become a conference that brings together a dynamic community of practitioners and scholars concerned with how
ethnographic thinking, methods, and practices are used to transform design, business, and innovation settings and outcomes. Participants now come from innovation consultancies, design firms, universities and design schools, government and NGOs, research organizations, and corporations.

EPIC 2014 will be held in New York City (Sept. 7-10), a place that welcomes multitudes of people, cultures, values, ideas. In NYC, new relations develop that are not possible in homogenized settings. NYC is about the exchanges, powers, dreams, and disillusionment engendered by longstanding and complex business cultures and practices – from the Rockefellers to the NY Stock Exchange to the World Trade Center to the Freedom Tower.

The 2014 host of EPIC is the Center for Positive Marketing at Fordham University Business School. The Center recognizes the positive value exchange relationship between consumers and marketers, and encourages leveraging this relationship for mutual benefit to all.

In the midst of this, EPIC 2014 asks researchers and practitioners from different fields to explore the ways in which positive relations can lead
to new beginnings and possibilities, or reestablish old ties. How can positive relations create new value or values in the things, places, and
people with whom ethnographers engage?  Presentations will frame the scope of value or values generated in methodological, theoretical, and business challenges, and the opportunities offered in empirical studies about the following topics:

  • Social, cultural or institutional values in flux and the associated
  • Values generated in co-creation and co-participation research
  • Our roles as change agents and triggers of transformation
  • Emerging practices such as, big data, lean, and agile: challenges and
  • Careers in flux: critical reflections on the shifting values of
    practitioner expertise
  • Reflections and projections on ethnography as EPIC enters its 10th

We are looking forward to celebrating the 10th Anniversary of this great idea with you all in New York City. Please send us your ideas, experiences, research, what have you, at http://epiconference.com/contact and join us in NYC in September.



Prepared by
Timothy de Waal Malefyt (Co-Chair) and Simon Roberts (Co-Chair)

EPIC is pleased to announce London as the site for this year’s annual conference. The elegant Royal Institution of Great Britain will host the conference from September 15 through 18, 2013. For both EPIC regulars and newcomers, it’s a chance to expand personal networks, learn new approaches to ethnographic work, participate in workshops, listen to top scholars, and deepen thinking about current and significant social and cultural dimensions of business.  EPIC is a conference that leads with ideas, thinking and analysis that comes from the “front lines” of people doing ethnography for a living. It is a place for real thinking about the issues that ethnographers face today. In this way, EPIC is different from other conferences in that it stresses “hands on” participatory learning from real ethnographic practitioners rather than just theory. People share stories of the field and learn from others as a result.

For those not familiar with EPIC, a little background might be useful. EPIC conference seeks to promote the integration of rigorous methods and theory from multiple academic disciplines and fields such as Anthropology, Computer Science, Design, Marketing, Culture Studies, and so forth, into a range of business practices. It advocates business decisions based upon sound research and seeks to promote public recognition of practicing ethnography as a profession. It also supports the continuing professionalization of the field.

The EPIC conference has been held yearly since its start in 2005 by founders Ken Anderson and Tracy Lovejoy. What began at corporate headquarters, such as Microsoft in Seattle and Intel in Portland, has since expanded to settings as diverse as mountain ski villages and urban hotel complexes to university campuses. In its first 8 years the conference was held twice outside the United States and has gathered a strong international audience, many of whom return regularly. Participants come from academia, small businesses, corporations and governmental and non-governmental organizations. Attendance is a nice size of 300-400 participants. A diversity of organizations and corporations continue to sponsor the conference each year.

The featured keynote speakers in London will discuss the practice of ethnography in relation to issues of practice in the digital age and Big Data, the rise of sensory marketing, the relation of material culture to ethnographic practices and humanistic approaches to technology. Keynote speakers include Daniel Miller, Professor of Material Culture at the Department of Anthropology University College London; David Howes, an anthropologist based at Concordia University, Montreal and Director of the Centre for Sensory Studies; Tricia Wang, a global tech ethnographer who advises corporations, organizations, and students on utilizing Digital Age ethnographic research methods to improve strategy, services, and products; and Genevieve Bell, an anthropologist and Director of Interaction and Experience Research in Intel Labs, where she leads a team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists.


This year, EPIC had an extremely large number of high quality paper submissions. The papers cover topics relevant to the EPIC community and scholars, such as the changing face of healthcare and ethnographic practice, exploring energy use and electricity smart grid, a design-led approach to understanding everyday energy use behavior, and serendipity and business development: stories, rituals and building brand communities, among many other topics.

EPIC also includes a fast paced and lively Pecha Kucha session, where presenters offer a simple presentation, showing 20 images, each for 20 seconds. The images and topics range from observations on daily ordinary joy and creative mindset as the future, to humorous but poignant commentaries on work-life, such as Snore: Public Sleeping in China.

EPIC also supports ethnographic artifacts, which presents objects, ideas, and concepts in display format that are meant to provoke the viewer. Ethnographic practitioners offer suggestive titles such as Making Friends, One Concept Expressed in Five Ways, or The Life of Lines.


As far as workshops, EPIC offers a real hands-on learning practicum. Workshops include practice for students and professionals to develop their digital identity, learning to translate insights into innovation in design fiction, developing visual and narrative methods for “unfolding” creative thinking, better understanding mobile apps and the use of sensors.

With so much going on at EPIC, attendees can be assured they will come away recharged and changed. EPIC becomes a site for renewal and refreshment in the field of practice. Others new to the field of ethnographic practice can learn about career paths to getting to where professionals are, the influence and impact of using design, anthropology, cultural studies and marketing approaches to solving business challenges, as well as meeting those leading edge practitioners and top academics who promote the use of ethnography in a range of settings.

You can find out more about EPIC 2013, the papers, workshops, salons, artifacts and Keynote speakers by linking to the website: www.epiconference.com/2013. If you haven’t done so, please book your reservation. Attendance is filling up and this promises to be an epic year in London.


2012 Conference

Savannah, Georgia was the site of EPIC-2012 (October 14-17, 2012). NAPA members received a $50 registration discount as a benefit of NAPA membership.

For general information, go to EPIC website homepage.