September 17: Ethnographies of Design + Innovation

What constitutes “innovation”? What design methods promise to deliver it? How are its definition and realization dependent upon cultural and political-economic contexts and power dynamics?

I encourage you to skim the books’ introductions so you have a sense of how our selected chapters fit into the authors’ larger projects.


  • To compare / contrast with the design processes described in Irani’s book, check out some of the recent work published in CoDesign: International Journal of CoCreation in Design and the Arts; skim the tables of contents.
  • Paul Dourish, “Responsibilities and Implications: Further Thoughts on Ethnography and Design,” Proceedings of the 2007 Conference on Designing for User Experiences, Chicago, November 5-7, 2007.
  • Paul Dourish, “Implications for Design” Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Quebec, April 22-27, 2006.
  • Siobhan Gregory, “Design Anthropology as Social Design Practice,” Journal of Business Anthropology 7:2 (2018): 210-34.
  • Lilly Irani, “‘Design Thinking’: Defending Silicon Valley at the Apex of Global Labor Hierarchies,” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 4:1 (2018).
  • Lilly Irani on Her Book, Chasing Innovation,” Interview with Christopher Kelty, CaMP Anthropology (May 15, 2019).
  • Sarah S. Lochlann Jain, Injury: The Politics of Product Design and Safety Law in the United States (Princeton University Press, 2006).
  • Francis Jervis, Eating the World: A Political Economy of Silicon Valley, Dissertation, Department of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University (in progress) [thanks to Francis for recommending this].
  • Clapperton Chakanetasa Mavhunga, ed., What Do Science, Technology, and Innovation Mean from Africa? (MIT Press, 2017).
  • Daniel Miller’s work — e.g., Daniel Miller and Sophie Woodward, “Manifesto for a Study of Denim,” Social Anthropology 15:3 (October 2007) — and my own 2010-12 “Media and Materiality” class.
  • Keith Murphy,  Swedish Design: An Ethnography (Cornell University Press, 2015).
  • Natasha Dow Schüll, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas (Princeton University Press, 2012).
  • Lucy A. Suchman, Human-Machine Reconfigurations: Plans and Situated Action, 2nd ed (Cambridge University Press, 2007).
  • Lee Vinsell, “Design Thinking Is a Boondoggle,” Chronicle Review (May 21, 2018).
  • *Albena Yaneva, Made by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture: An Ethnography of Design (010 Publishers, 2009).

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