Week 7: October 12: Ethnography for Design

via Mary Matson; used with permission

We’ve looked at how anthropologists adopt designerly methods. This week we’ll examine how designers have historically employed, and continue to use, ethnographic methods. I encourage us to apply an anthropological lens in thinking about how these designers understand ethnography and its potential values for their practice, and to consider the ethical and political implications of these understandings and applications. We’ll also look at a few examples of various practices that are anthropologically-informed, even if the influence isn’t always made explicit. We can ask: what might a deeper engagement with ethnography contribute to these practices? 

🚨🚨 We’ll meet virtually this week to accommodate our external guest! 🚨🚨


  • Guests, 6-7pm: ROSTEN WOO, Artist / Designer / Writer / Educator; Co-Founder, Center for Urban Pedagogy; DHARA SHAH, Learning and Engagement Manager, Creative Reaction Lab
  • Full-Class Recap + Reading Discussion
  • Small Group Activity: methods toolkit audit 
  • Our Collaborative Notes


via Zak Jensen; use with permission


On Participation / Participatory Design / Community Engagement:

  • There are  countless resources on this topic. Here are just a few: 
    • George Aye, Christine Gaspar, Mari Nakani, and Liz Ogbu, “What Is Community Engaged Design During – and After – COVID,” Center for Urban Pedagogy, July 22, 2020 < video: 1:46:07 > [what role does, or could/should, ethnography play in “community engagement”?]. 
    • Christopher Kelty, The Participant: A Century of Participation in Four Stories (University of Chicago Press, 2019).
    • Bryan Lee, architect; Sue Mobley, anthropologist / political scientist), “Design as Protest,” Architectural League of New York, May 7, 2019 < video: 6:20 to 1:01:10 > [how does, or might, ethnography inform Colloqate’s work?]. 
    • Shannon Mattern, “Post-It Note City,” Places Journal (February 2020).