Gigi Taylor, Patricia Sunderland, Marcel Rosa-Salas, and Matt Artz submitted a pitch to South by Southwest (SXSW) 2021.

Session Abstract

Anthropology is a discipline adept at aiding business and technology in reframing, understanding and interpreting the worldwide crisis we are collectively facing-not just as consumers, but as individuals and communities in an ever more fragile environment. Anthropology, with core competencies as a holistic, contextual, reflexive, and meaning-based discipline, is well suited to offer structural changes for business and society. This panel brings together leading business anthropologists working in advertising, technology, marketing, UX and consumer research to discuss how anthropology can illuminate the impact of business decisions on larger systems and how a holistic cultural point of view can lead to the (re)design of programs for the advancement of more sustainable and equitable futures.

Key Takeaways

  • Anthropology’s CULTURAL ANALYSIS is the in-depth questioning of implicit business & societal assumptions and the reframing of vexing, wicked problems.
  • Anthropology gives us a broader frame beyond traditional user-consumer-product interaction to illuminate MEANING and EXPERIENCES.
  • Anthropology’s notion of REFLEXIVITY provides a way to see how our actions impact larger systems and institutions.

Video Pitch

Pitch Transcript

Gigi Taylor: [00:00:00] Hi, South by community. My name is Gigi Taylor. I’m a cultural anthropologist working as a qualitative UX researcher at indeed here in Austin, Texas. The title of our panel is called anthropology as a crucial trait for change. Here’s a little backstory on the panel back in 2019. The last time South by met in person, I was invited to be on a panel about the application of anthropology to marketing.

[00:00:28] Based on the overwhelming positive response to that previous panel, I could tell there was a great curiosity within the South by community to learn more about this applied social science called anthropology. At the time, I was the only anthropologist on the panel telling the answers story. So I wanted to go a little deeper.

[00:00:47] I’ve been by my three business, leading anthropologists, working across industries to tell the business anthropology story. I’ll be the moderator. So now let me let each one of the panelists introduce themselves. Patty, would you like to start us off?

[00:01:02] Patricia Sunderland: [00:01:02] Thank you. Gigi. I’m Patti Sunderland. I live in New York city, six months a year and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

[00:01:11] Matt Artz: [00:01:11] Hi, I’m Matt . I’m a business and design anthropologists working as the head of product and experience for cloud shatter, where I lead the process of researching, designing, and building digital products.

[00:01:22] Marcel Rosa-Salas: [00:01:22] Hey everyone. My name is Marcel Rosa Salice and I’m a cultural anthropologist consultants and marketing professor at the university of Illinois at Chicago.

[00:01:32] Gigi Taylor: [00:01:32] Thank you everyone. So Patty, why don’t you kick us off and let the viewing audience understand what they can expect from attending our panel at South by.

[00:01:43] Patricia Sunderland: [00:01:43] Thank you JD. So what I think people can expect is to learn about cultural analysis, which means the lens and auditory filter or frame that anthropologists tend to think with as anthropologists.

[00:01:56] We all believe that thinking about a topic before, during and after having done research really makes a difference. Whatever anyone looks at listens to experience or feels. Is done through their own filter of experience, knowledge, assumptions, and so on. So as humans, we can’t help it. So we want to talk about this cultural analysis, meaning the lens and auditory filter of frame that anthropologists tend to think with.

[00:02:21] And I believe as most anthropologists, not just us here on this panel, but anthropologists from the very start of the discipline and across the globe have believed in living. But, and that’s that an anthropological outlook truly can be a powerful tool for making and keeping the world more interesting, just and safe place.

[00:02:43] Matt Artz: [00:02:43] Yeah, I’d agree. It great points, Patty, you know, it’s exactly where anthropologists shine. We are especially adept at studying the ways in which humans work. As much as the products and services we create. And by immersing ourselves in this problem space and looking at it holistically, we give meaning to the experiences creating and consuming, not from our perspective, but from the diverse perspective of all the people we interact with.

[00:03:04] In their context and it’s precisely this kind of richness that can assist business and governments and addressing some of the most pressing problems such as algorithmic bias, MIS and disinformation and digital surveillance.

[00:03:18] Marcel Rosa-Salas: [00:03:18] Yeah, building on Matt’s point. I think it’s really crucial for us to understand the ways that today’s consumers are holding brands so much more accountable to have a stake in political issues like anti-racism activism, for example.

[00:03:31] And it’s also really prudent for us to get more attuned to how and when brands are exploiting these movements for their own gain. And so I think that what anthropology can allow us to do is to better understand the more taken for granted cultural practices that contribute to bias in marketing and can also ultimately help us uncover a more equitable path forward.

[00:03:57] Gigi Taylor: [00:03:57] Great. Thank you everyone. So we hope that we’ve convinced you to vote for our panel. We would love to have the opportunity to share how anthropology can lead to the redesign of business efforts for more sustainable and equitable future. Hope to see you next year at South by buh-bye. Bye.