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The unexpected pedagogies of working in UX

Photo by Headway on Unsplash In the second half of grad school, as I began to weigh my post-PhD career options, one of the things that strongly appealed to me about an academic career was the prospect of teaching. Through several years of working as a graduate teaching assistant for introductory anthropology courses, I found that I genuinely enjoyed helping

Three skills that make anthropologists great cross-functional team players

A sought after attribute of researchers from private companies is an aptitude to work cross-functionally, or work with colleagues outside of those from your own domain. Anthropologists are well poised to understand the importance of – and possess the ability to – embed themselves in teams and build relationships across them. In academics, the term cultural broker is often used

Learn This; Do That: Translating Anthropology to UX Research

Anthropologists are particularly suited to be qualitative UX researchers, and applied Anthropologists are well trained for careers in industry. I can only write about my personal experience, but if you earned a degree in anthropology, I would love to hear how similar or different your experiences have been. At the University of Memphis’ Masters of Applied Anthropology Program, we learned how to execute research methods and analysis, determine which method was best suited to particular research questions, and how to manage stakeholders. That’s all you really need to know to start your career as a User Experience Researcher (UER).

Four Tips for Moving Confidently into a Career in UX

Image Credit: Kosal Sen I work as a user experience (UX) researcher. When I sat down to write this post for NAPA, I was faced with a question. Am I also an anthropologist? I never thought of myself as a practitioner of anthropology. Maybe it’s because I didn’t study anthropology in school. Maybe it’s because when I hear the term

10 Must-Read Books on Anthropology in Business and Design

In 2011, when I first began my career as a researcher in the context of business and design, I knew almost nothing about the field I had decided to work in. I lacked a basic understanding of how products are designed, how businesses work, and how to work with people in this world. What I did know was that my

Anthropological Voice As An Imperative And The Ethical Issues of Loyalty

For most anthropologists, working in business isn’t just a career choice. Giving voice to the voiceless and bringing attention to the implications of business decisions on existing human values and social relations is experienced as a moral obligation. It is a perspective that is also seen as one that is desperately needed in the business domain.

“Do You Do UX Research?”: Articulating User Experience Research and Its Value to Clients

As anthropologists, whether we are undergraduate students or are pursuing/have pursued masters or doctorate degrees, whether we work in industry or in academia, we have a lot in common with each other: we learn the history of our discipline, the methods and theories, and we all learn to do ethnographic research. We have a common language and shared understanding of terms. Beyond our disciplinary boundaries, however, language and terminology get less common and understanding is less shared.

Businesses As Communities of Practice and Maintaining the Anthropological Perspective from Within

Vitally important to being heard and understood as an anthropologist working for business is an ability to recognize and adapt to the language, objectives, and models of the domain. However, even experienced anthropologists describe this undertaking as a delicate balance between overlapping worldviews that challenges their ability to maintain their own sense of professional identities and practices as anthropologists.

The Concealed Utility of Theory In Business

Anthropologists serve as interlocutors of diverse cultural paradigms, interrogating, recontextualizing, and ultimately enmeshing them in a “rigorous formulation” to close the gaps in divergent models and language practices between business and anthropology. It is unfortunate, then, that theory and analysis is rarely ever given its due credit in business domains.

Deadlines and Cycles

In the context of competitive markets and profit-driven motives, tracking progress and striving for efficiency makes sense as an imperative of all businesses. Within the business community, a practitioner’s ability to work within the standardized time constraints common across all business domains is a signifier of that practitioner’s experience and expertise – or lack thereof.

The Enduring Value of Anthropology For Business

New strategies and trends in business and design that derive from anthropological origins are presented as efforts to empathize with users and consumers by walking in their shoes. However, researchers that have been educated in a four-field anthropology program have developed habits of thought for analyzing what is generally accepted or understood and expand or reframe social and cultural knowledge through theoretical and conceptual frameworks.


Congratulations are in order for NAPA’s Organizational Relations (OR) Committee Member, Joshua Liggett, for his recognition as this year’s Volunteer of the Year. We asked Joshua a few questions for the August 2018 issue of NAPA Notes as he reflects on his time as committee member and Co-Navigator of the Expo: How did you get your start in anthropology? What drew

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