An Annotated Bibliography of Business Anthropology, User Experience, and Customer Experience Research Methodologies

Burgh-Woodman, H. de, & Brace-Govan, J. (2007). We do not live to buy: Why subcultures are different from brand communities and the meaning for marketing discourse. The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy; Bingley, 27(5/6), 193–207.

This conceptual paper describes a literature review and case study that the authors utilized to inform a discussion on the differences between surfing communities and consumption driven subcultures. The article begins with a section on the subculture discourse. Subcultures are assumed to be separate from, or beneath mainstream culture. The authors make the argument that in marketing, subcultures can be better described as brand communities.” A brand community would be one that specifically developed because of a product or brand that is preexisting. A good example of this would be Bronies, a distinct cultural group of adults who love My Little Pony. Their culture would not exist without the brand. Conceptualizing brand communities shows a strong intellectual argument for market segmentation. The desires differ between each type of community, and so marketing language can be targeted toward those needs if they are clearly identified. Bronies are not the intended audience for the product, but they are clearly an audience now. The strength of the paper is the background of literature and discourse, but the weakness is that there is not a strong quantitative reasoning for using different marketing languages for different subcultures. Businesses like to see proof in numbers, and intellectual literature reviews are difficult to sell.

Fields, D. A., Grimes, S. M., & Roger, S. (2019). Best Practices for Designing Connected, Digital DIY Media Platforms for Kids. Kids DIY Media Partnership.

This recently released report provides recommendations for designing DIY websites with children. Their main recommendations are to provide a wide range of potential deign features, to facilitate reflective collaboration, and to make better use of copyrighted materials. Throughout reading this extensive list of recommendations, I found myself asking why each was chosen. The project included both a content analysis of 140 websites, as well as seven case studies. It is difficult to tell whether each recommendation comes from an already existing state, or some ideal that was uncovered during research. I think it is important to consider laws and regulations and design for children specifically. I think this is something a lot of designers miss when considering who their users may be. This piece showed up only recently on my twitter feed, but it reminded me of one I read by digital archaeologist Colleen Morgan. In that article, Morgan reminds educators that the platforms that share digital media are often monetized in some way. There is an ethical gray area in using minor-produced content for learning. I would be interested in seeing more of the data and analysis for this report. As it is now, I wouldn’t feel comfortable taking the recommendations without clear evidence as to why.

Gothelf, J., & Seiden, J. (2013). Principles. In The Lean Series. Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience (First edition). Beijing; Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

This chapter begins by introducing the three foundations of Lean UX which are design thinking, agile software development, and the lean startup method. In summary, the Lean UX process emphasizes collaboration and experience over in-depth documentation. There is still a large amount of data and design artifacts to use, but this process culls the expectation of reporting at each stage. The real focus of this chapter is on the principles of Lean UX. One of the principles I find to be central to their concept is that of outcomes, not output. With this principle, additional features are outputs. The features are meant to achieve certain business goals, and those are the outcomes. In thinking of the outcome first, the brainstorming becomes targeted and already constrained. This is clearly not the way to go for a brand-new product design, but for businesses with reassessment in mine, Lean UX seems like a good option. Another principle worth noting is the importance learning over growing. This principle considers building and scaling to be two different activities. They advise against scaling an idea to a full user-base before conducting thorough research. I think this is a good one for academic researchers to keep in mind. Often, we are tasked to design entire thesis and dissertation projects before meeting any participants. In my opinion, a lean, iterative practice seems like a more ethical approach to research design for most types of projects. 

Inal, Y. (2016). User-Friendly Locations of Error Messages in Web Forms: An Eye Tracking Study. Journal of Eye Movement Research, 9. Retrieved from

Understanding optimal error message placement is important, because users need to be able to recognize and fix their errors as per Nielsen’s essential design heuristics. This study examined 32 users’ reactions to four different error message locations on webforms. The researchers used eye-tracking to measure how long it took participants to recognize and correct their error. Eye-tracking allows researchers to observe where the user is placing their attention in real-time. The study found that the fastest response was when the message was located to the right side of the “erroneous error field.” This study is important, because error messages are an essential part of most online research. If users are interacting with a survey, for example, the entire data collection is form-based. A study like this one presents a good argument for anthropologists to have a better understanding of the software platforms they use for research. If a user has a hard time completing a survey form, that is the fault of the researcher, not the participant. This study used primarily younger participants, who were left-to-right readers. This is an important note for the validity of this sort of research, as different user communities likely have different needs. A group of seniors who read right-to-left would have shown a different image of user friendliness.

International Journal of Business Anthropology. (2011). The Growth and Future of Business Anthropology. International Journal of Business Anthropology; Ocean Ridge, 2(2), 11–14.

This is an introduction to a journal issue, so much of it describes the pieces that are included. The first half of the introduction presents a great discussion on the value of anthropology and business. The key areas noted for the future potential of anthropology are in working with Native legal topics (Specifically relating to the Native Title Act in Australia) and in business. This introduction stresses the importance of conceiving of anthropologists as futurists. This means that we can analyze current data trends to predict things like financial crises. I agree and think that more undergraduate programs should be teaching things like User Experience and business anthropology methods. This piece also calls for new MBA (Master of Business Anthropology) programs, where business and anthropology programs collaborate to develop curriculums. In my experience, the business and web development fields are already utilizing human-subjects research. It is usually not anthropologists who are leading the projects. The job market is saturated with designers and developers who know also know how to run focus groups and surveys. It is rare to see anthropologists who have design and development skills, unless they learned them independently. In these projects, however, it is the skills that matter to clients.

International Journal of Business Anthropology. (2016). Editorial Commentary: Anthropologists’ Contributions to Business Studies. International Journal of Business Anthropology; Ocean Ridge, 6(1), IX–XIII.

This commentary suggests that anthropology does not have as much of a presence in business as it should have. The piece then goes on to describe how the ethnographic process relates to business settings especially well. There are four core ideas of ethnography: Participant Observation (learning by doing), Natural Setting (observations), In Their Own Words (using participants’ phrasing, not jargon), and Holism (what else may influence people’s behavior?). The reasoning presented on why there is not more anthropology in business is that, although anthropologists have much to offer, especially with ethnographic methods, other fields are too dominant. My opinion on that reasoning differs. I would say that the primary reason that anthropologists are not more involve in the business world is that they do not share the same motivations for research. Most of the anthropologists I have met want the appearance of social justice and working for money just doesn’t hold that image. Businesses are motivated by their own individual interests and bottom line. I can agree that the field of Anthropology does have much to offer the field of business studies, but I would also strongly argue and urge anthropologists to be open to learning from business as well.

LaSalle, D., & Britton, T. (2003). The Journey Begins: The Experience Engagement Process. In Priceless: Turning Ordinary Products into Extraordinary Experiences (pp. 47–69). Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

This chapter examines different stages of consumer consumption. The five stages presented in this chapter were adapted from a decision model from John Arndt. The basic idea of this chapter is that through study of these stages, a business can better learn how to find their true value to customers in each stage of their experience. The first stage is the Discover stage, where the customer begins to look for products and services that may fulfill a need. The main advice from this chapter for the Discover phase is to be brief in the message and provide customers with a clear indication of the value they will receive. The next stage, Evaluate, is where consumers utilize internet research methods to compare and narrow down their potential choices. This section examines subtle persuasions such as targeted content marketing (although that is not the term they use in the chapter, but it’s from 2003). It also discusses the benefits of trying products in different scenarios.

According to the author, every customer comes in to the Acquire stage at some point, to purchase goods and services. I would disagree that all customers make it here, as there are other factors that may halt the process in between stages. The concept of this stage is basic, but, the process of acquiring involves many parts (and potential sacrifices). This is where things like location and accessibility, or loyalty programs influence motivation. After purchasing, the customer must Integrate the product into their lives. For some things this is simple, such as taking it home and putting it away. Services, however, demand a new schedule from the customer. This is the stage where the customer learns to use the product, and they may learn that they don’t like it anymore (or they love it). The final stage is Extend, where the customer is more likely to become loyal to a company or product. If the customer had a good experience, they are more likely to return to fulfil the same need from the same place. I included this chapter because this is the process many businesses still think of when it comes to loyalty. The information is all there in the chapter, but there have been updates to terminology that make it read outdated.

Li, H., Rau, P.-L., Fujimura, K., Gao, Q., & Wang, L. (2012). Designing Effective Web Forms for Older Web Users. Educational Gerontology, 38(4), 271–281.

The researchers studied how older users interact with web forms, and how this could improve web form design. Their study had 48 participants, all taken from the same senior citizen school in Beijing, with an average age of 66 years old. This study is important, because cognition is different in older individuals. They use the phrase cognitive decline, but I prefer not to see aging individuals as lacking compared to youth. In this study, they found that task complexity and the level of information structure impacted the performance of older users. They recommend giving older users a larger set of simple tasks, rather than a small set of elaborate tasks. I think it is important for researchers to realize that although older individuals may have different cognitive speeds when it comes to completing web forms, that does not necessarily mean they don’t know technology. My grandfather taught me about computers and then the systems changed, and I taught him some things. I think studies like this one are important, because there is no one-size standard when it comes to form design. It would be useful for businesses who already know that they have older users to be able to reference a set of design guidelines.

Lynch, P. J., Horton, S., & Marcotte, E. (2016). Research. In Web Style Guide: Foundations of User Experience Design (4th edition). New Haven: Yale University Press.

This chapter describes the key research methods relating to web design. The chapter starts by discussing brainstorming and ideation. The focus here is to find preliminary constraints to better frame research design. Brainstorming centers on “Design Thinking,” which utilizes creativity and constraints to solve real needs. The chapter provides information on user research methods including surveys, interviews, focus groups, and field studies. Good web design goes beyond user needs however, and the data gathered in research must be applied to the decision-making process. These design specific research methods described in this chapter are personas, goal analysis, and scenarios. Once design decisions have been made, they need to be evaluated, so there is more research required. Evaluation research methods focus on involving users as the designs are being iterated. Wireframes are a low-fidelity and low-cost sketches. From wireframes, more solid prototypes are developed to see how users interact. Finally, usability testing is done throughout the design process. This is where researchers observe users interacting with the website to complete specific tasks.

This chapter also includes a discussion on including people with disabilities into research. I spend a lot of time on twitter, and many UX experts argue that web accessibility and usability are so similar they must be studied together. Often, the features that benefit one group are also useful to another. Finally, this chapter discusses analytics of website metrics. This is where data from actual actions is seen. A/B testing is one method that can employ metrics from two different versions of a site to see which one better suit the needs of its users.

Maschio, T. J. (2016). Culture, Desire and Consumer Culture in America in the New Age of Social Media. Qualitative Market Research; Bradford, 19(4), 416–425.

In this opinion paper, Maschio draws from their 20 years of experience in conducting ethnographic research. The goal is to stress that the concept of desire should be a more central focus in consumer research. Desire drives not only the consumption of products and experiences, but also status and fulfilling ones’ destiny. In this perspective, products and goals may be considered as forms that are inhabited by human desires. This is an important concept when researching motivation and customer needs. What research questions would change if we start considering that products may be fulfilling a desire rather than a need? I am reminded of the saying, “Sex sells,” which shows that products are often marketed to fulfil that basic desire. But there are other desires that could be focused on. Some of the other desires I see marketed to are social status, community building, and activism or causes. While discussing this level of desire in consumer culture provides a new level of consideration for researchers and marketing professionals, it does not remove need fulfillment as an essential force of cultural development. I would argue that consumer culture is created by a combination of need and desire, and previous consumer experiences.

Moore, C. (2002). The New Heart of Your Brand: Transforming Your Business through Customer Experience. Design Management Journal; Boston, 13(1), 39–48.

In this article, Moore discusses how to develop meaningful experiences for customers. Understanding customer experience is important because, according to Moore, experiences are what influences the future behaviors of consumers above everything else. Interacting with a business is always an experience, whether it be good or bad. Moore references Chase and Dasu in illuminating that all that really matters is the customers perception of the experience. I find this to be a key point worth reiterating for not only business, but research. Regardless of intentions and execution, there is always the risk of harm. The key to creating better experiences, according to Moore, is to think beyond focusing on any single channel of engagement. Many businesses tend to think of having many channels, but those channels must integrate to help customers achieve their goals. For example, Businesses use email blasts, blog posts, and social media platforms. Not only do these present multiple places to share information, each one may also be an avenue for customer contact. Businesses may be trying to provide their customers with a good experience and be unaware that they are adopting the potential for negative experiences as well. As a researcher, my platforms may also include survey data, which presents a new concern of privacy that wasn’t explored too deeply in this article. I would add that along with becoming aware of customer experiences, businesses and researchers alike should be aware of privacy and data issues.

Noble, S. U. (2018). Introduction: The Power of Algorithms. In Algorithms of oppression: how search engines reinforce racism. New York: New York University Press.

This is the introductory chapter for Noble’s book. The book discusses how oppressive decisions are reinforced via algorithms. Since algorithms are programmed by developers, this shows a huge issue. Through multiple case studies, Noble shows that there are clear issues when it comes to what pages show up in searches related to race and gender. I think this text is an important wake-up call to programmers, and people who use search engines since we are also in a way responsible for how they have been developed. I can recall many times where I talked with researchers who used google to find sources, and didn’t realize they already have a personal algorithm set within their account if they are signed in. Even though I have been trained in how to use search engines, I still run into weird stuff and I am constantly reassessing my searches.  Noble even says this in the introduction, that her book is already obsolete once it goes to print. The systems are everchanging.

This work is important because this is a system that is already in place and causing harm. According to Noble, the architecture of technology was built on racism and sexism, and this issue requires immediate fixing. I absolutely agree. As a researcher, it is disturbing to have gone through so many search engines without this knowledge. Most of my literature came from doing searches in library search engines and online, and I wonder what important pieces may have been omitted from my searches.

Oliveira, P. (2012). Space and Place as User-Experience: Taking Notting Hill as an Example. International Journal of Business Anthropology; Ocean Ridge, 3(1), 62–81.

In this article, Olivera stresses the need for more focus on concepts of space and place as they relate to the fields of user experience, design thinking, and business anthropology. Olivera uses ethnographic fieldwork from the site of Notting Hill in London, to assert that researchers make meaning for fieldwork sites in much the same way locals do. This article reminds me of how often I hear archaeologists talk about “my site.” Researchers who work at a site assert ownership as a local, although their local perspective likely differs from those who are long-term local. Still, there is a clear connection of researchers to sites, and this is worth paying attention to. Researchers know a place in a different way and can therefore co-construct the place with a local population. I like to think of archaeologists as being users in a contemporary site occupation. While their activities differ from those of past occupants, they are co-creating the continual concept of the site as they work there. I think this could have significant impacts on research designs that intend to study space and place. With an awareness of themselves as part of the ongoing site experience, researchers may opt to add additional types of reflective data collection into their protocol.

Paharia, R. (2013). May You Live in Interesting Times. In Loyalty 3.0: how big data and gamification are revolutionizing customer and employee engagement. New York: McGraw-Hill.

This chapter talks about what Paharia calls the “Three Faces of Loyalty.” These faces refer to customers, employees, and other companies. According to the author, the traditional practices that have been used by business to build loyal customers have not actually worked to build true loyalty. They discuss Loyalty 1.0 programs such as frequent flyer programs and punch cards. They claim that there is not much motivation or real loyalty with these programs, since the payout is minimum for the work. Loyalty 2.0 is where we see an increase in direct mail and email campaign programs. According to the author, these also fail, because they are only serving to reflect customer data back at them. Loyalty 3.0 combines motivation, big data, and gamification to motivate and entice loyalty. Paharia also provides an interesting discussion on the age of distraction, social media changing power dynamics. This chapter discusses four tiers of loyalty, which are Inertia Loyalty, Mercenary Loyalty, True Loyalty, and Cult Loyalty. These four tiers reflect actual loyalty experiences. Inertia loyalty programs succeed because they make it difficult to exit the program. Mercenary loyalty programs work like bribes, with the sole motivation for customers being free or discounted products or services. True loyalty is when a customer has a trusting emotional connection to the brand. Finally, cult loyalty plays to cultural values, but is difficult to develop inorganically. This is where customers distinguish themselves through product choices, for example with Mac vs PC. I think these are interesting cultural takes on how customers interact with businesses.

Sauro, J. (2015). SUPR-Q: A Comprehensive Measure of the Quality of the Website User ExperienceJUS. The Journal of Usability Studies, 10(2), 68–86.

This article presents the research project that was employed to develop the SUPR-Q questionnaire, that has become an essential tool for user experience researchers. The SUPR-Q is aimed to measure website usability, trust, appearance, and potential loyalty. Having a standardized questionnaire is useful for assessing websites, because it allows for a more interoperative perspective, where all researchers will use the same form. This helps to reduce researcher and designer bias. Having used the SUPR-Q both in research, and as a test subject, it does make for a less stressful experience, but these surveys are often conducted remotely. Users who do have questions or issues with this questionnaire may find themselves unable to complete it. When developing a questionnaire like this, a lot of user data is necessary, as well as comparisons with current assessment methods. This article goes in depth with how extensive the research process was. This was a three-part study that was conducted over five years. With that attention to detail, I can see why this questionnaire became so popular in the User Experience field. I think it is important for researchers to understand how their data collection tools were developed, because it creates an even deeper reflective awareness of the how research influences experience.

Sheehy, B. (1999). Are you Listening? Firms Must Update Methodologies Used to Measure Customer-Perceived Value, 36(4), 41–46.

This article argues that customer values change faster than the available methods of measurement can track, thus making businesses fail to meet customer needs. The authors discuss the need for a new generation of customer listening tools. These tools will be better at predicting customer behaviors and will likely involve value mythology and storytelling methods. They say that better future tools will be a combination of perspectives from many fields, such as anthropology, psychology, and customer-satisfaction research. As technology changes, our ability to measure different factors will likely be enhanced. As neurotechnology develops, we may be better able to quantify how people experience motivation and expectations. They discuss the methods of value mythology and storytelling to illuminate the importance of cross-discipline studies. The problem with current methods still, according to the authors, is that what customers say and what they truly believe may not match up. I think this is important to remember when designing all aspects of research. As researchers, we cannot expect participants to be fully aware of every motivation, and even if they are aware, they may not be able to articulate their experiences into viable research data. Even with our best measuring tools and standardization, we cannot make claims that the data is a true reflection of what we aim to study.

Shevat, A. (2017). What are Bots? In Designing bots: creating conversational experiences (First edition). Beijing ; Boston: O’Reilly.

This first chapter to the text provides the defining context for learning and working with bots. A bot is a method of sharing software information through conversational text. There are other terms used, such as chatbots, or chat agents. The big key is that the bot is an interface of software service. According to Shevat, bots are going to be an essential consideration for all future software. In this chapter, Shevat traces the evolution of bot technology, claiming that it developed from web interfaces, to mobile interfaces, and then to the conversational interfaces. Of course, the linear model is just a model, and these technologies are constantly evolving with and against each other. One of the greatest benefits to adopting bot interfaces is that users are typically already accustomed to interacting with messaging apps, making them more likely to adopt them into regular use. This chapter also presents four stages of bot adoption in the software industry. These are: What are bots; We do bots too; We are bots first; and We are bots only! The same goes for user adoption in this model. I was happy I found this text since I had some completely incorrect idea of what bots really were. My perspective was entirely formed as a user interacting with the bot interface, so it is interesting to see them from a developer view.

Stull, E. (2018a). Personas. In Ux fundamentals for Non-UX Professionals: User Experience Principles for Managers, Writers, Designers, and Developers. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media.

Personas are non-real human entities that are based on real human qualities. In this chapter, Stull describes different types of personas. An ideal persona’s characteristics are based on a real person who is part of a population. Ideal personas do not really exist because individuals don’t reflect diverse populations. A demographic persona compiles fragments of data such as age, income, and behaviors to create the persona. Remarkable personas are the extreme types, reflecting unique needs. Regardless of the type, all personas should be backed by some sort of data, and not just made up. When I think of developing personas, I am reminded of Nancy Scheper-Hughes receiving criticism of doing something similar in creating her fictional village of Ballybran. This wasn’t the same thing, since her personas were created by very specific that she had personally collected, but it is interesting to compare, nonetheless. Scheper-Hughes mistake was using direct quotes from her data, and her participants could identify themselves and other people they knew. The chapter also discusses historical versus aspirational personas. Historical personas are based on information from users who have already interacted with a system. Aspirational personal are a compilation of characteristics from potential future users. I think one of the most useful points brought up in this chapter is that personas are often exaggerated too positively. The author states that users aren’t that motivated inherently to go to websites. People are apathetic until they have a need. I think this is a crucial perspective that is often missed by designers and researchers.

Stull, E. (2018b). The User is on a Journey. In Ux fundamentals for Non-UX Professionals: User Experience Principles for Managers, Writers, Designers, and Developers. New York, NY: Springer Science+Business Media.

This chapter is part of a larger text that describes concepts from the field of User Experience that is targeted to wared non-UX professionals. This chapter presents user journeys. The author likens the user journey to a marathon race, saying they are likely to quit an experience in the same way a runner does: all at once, or gradually over time. The reality of a user journey is more like a race of drunk runners. Races contain many intersections, which may act to detour users from the planned course. At these crucial intersections, users will be looking for information on which direction to proceed in. In order to plan better experiences, Stull recommends focusing research efforts on asking where the user was (their context), where they are in the journey process currently, and where they are going (their goals). According to Stull, the context is what will influence the journey most. One key point the author makes in this chapter is that the simplest option for a user is to do nothing. If there are too many choices, or if choices are presented at the wrong times, users are likely to be overwhelmed and leave the race. Likewise, if an incentive or goal takes too long to reach, users are also likely to give up.

Suldová, A., & Cimler, P. (2011). How to Assess Experience: The New Trend in Research Technique, Use in Nonprofit Sector of Entertainment and Educational Industries. E+M Ekonomie a Management, (4), 115–124.

In this article, the authors discuss an interesting option that has been used to collect an accurate representation of learning experience, while maintaining separation of the researcher. This method is employing recording glasses that are worn by the user to record their interactions with museum exhibits. The idea is that by recording from the location of the users’ eyes, researchers will have a better perspective of experiences in real-time. This study however, learned more about the exhibits than the visitor’s experiences. The goal was to study what the visitors learned from the exhibits, but as the researchers noted, this data does not reveal thought process, only the potential physical observations made by the users. Just because eyes fell on a location doesn’t mean the mind registered the information that was placed there. This issue is of primary concern and reveals the need for in depth and in time interviews to be conducted during user experience research. Although these methods present issues of co-construction, a combination of observation and reflective methods may help to create a clearer image of museum visitor learning experiences. I would be curious to see more studies on how the presentation of information in museums may affect learning, since this is one of the primary goals of such institutions.

Symonds, E. (2011). A Practical Application of SurveyMonkey as a Remote Usability-Testing Tool. Library Hi Tech; Bradford, 29(3), 436–445.

This is an interesting study that examined the viability of SurveyMonkey as a remote usability testing option. The researchers used the SurveyMonkey platform to conduct tests of a library digital collections website. At first, the intention was to compare different options, but SurveyMonkey was the only one that met the constraints. The other options were Usabilla and Loop11. These may be viable options for other types of sites, so I am glad the authors included their reflective reasoning on why they didn’t research those. A benefit to using SurveyMonkey in this context was that the library was already familiar with that platform. The authors mention that since SurveyMonkey is intended to be a survey platform, and not for usability testing, the assessments will need more extensive set-up. According to the authors, the success of the platform depends on the contributions of the participants. There are several reasons why participants may not attempt or finish a usability test. They are much more extensive than a simple survey, and users need motivation. Overall, SurveyMonkey is a great option for any survey-type research, but for more in-depth usability research it may discourage users. I have had good experiences with the platform when I have used it for surveys and thought it may be useful for user testing. It is possible, but specialized software seems like a much better option.

Tian, G., & Borges, L. (2012). The Effectiveness of Social Marketing Mix Strategy: Towards an Anthropological Approach. International Journal of Business Anthropology; Ocean Ridge, 3(1), 102–113.

The goal of social marketing is to study how marketing strategy can be applied to improving human lives, rather than making profits. Although the goals and specific methods may differ, social marketing is much like commercial marketing in the strategizing process. This article describes the planning process as conceiving a product, price, place or distribution, and promotion. The authors discuss how social marketing strategies rely on a couple of assumptions. One assumption is that there is some aspect of people’s lives that can improve in quality. The other is that society as a whole is responsible for influencing individuals to make good choices. I think this is a key point from this article, because it reveals that there is an alternative where people don’t always need life improvement. I also find it interesting that the other assumption relates to larger systems, rather than individuals. The authors make the comparison to the goals of health intervention programs, where the aim is to change how individuals behave. The five steps of social marketing are to identify the problem, do background research, design a solution, implement a solution, and evaluate the outcome. The authors recommend a SWOT style analysis to identify problems (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats). For background research, they mention interviews, documentaries, and surveys. To design a solution, they discuss piloting projects. The solution is then implemented and evaluated.

Walle, A. H. (2013). Substantive Paradigms and Business Anthropology. International Journal of Business Anthropology; Ocean Ridge, 4(2), 18–27.

Walle asserts that Neoclassical theories, which are a focus in business and economic studies, do not allow for emotional views of consumer choices. Economic anthropology is more socially focused, but the concepts are often too obscure to be picked up rapidly by businesses. Walle suggests that business anthropologists have a key role in translating these social concepts into strategic perspectives. Walle does remind readers that it isn’t that economists are unaware of the emotional and social factors but removing them makes modeling more possible. Walle briefly describes some of these models. The Economic Man Model views consumers as rational beings with goals they want to achieve as cheaply and easily as possible. The Perfect Information Model considers consumers to be well informed enough to make the best decision for themselves. Finally, in the Profit Motive Model, companies compete for buyer attention to grow profits. None of these models accurately reflect why people choose to do things, but they are modeled after norms and statistically significant data, so they do tend to be useful to an extent.

Walle also discusses different approaches to marketing. The goal of a functional approach is to learn what action will make economic activities happen. The commodity approach assesses interactions from a product level. Walle uses the example of steel girders vs televisions, and people’s motivation and ability to steal them. Institutional marketing is influenced by the context of established norms. Some institutions have a different set of cultural norms, regardless of what works outside. I think of college bookstores, and how electronics can be priced higher simply due to the expectation that parents want to simultaneously support the school and get everything conveniently in one place.

Walle, A. H. (2016). Ethnography: Naturalistic Research and Business Anthropology. International Journal of Business Anthropology; Ocean Ridge, 6(1), 27–46.

In this article, Walle presents an overview of ethnography to make a case for integrating more naturalistic research into business studies. This article reads like a crash course in the history of anthropology, highlighting key concepts of cultural studies. The author asserts that ethnographies present intricate breakdowns of cultures on their own terms. They discuss the key characteristics of ethnographies and remind readers that it may not be an entire culture that is described. Ethnographies also include focused areas of culture. They discuss the background of ethnographic research and compare emic and etic approaches. I like the way the author chose to present the key information in this chapter as tables. For example, there is a table that lays out the Lifecycle of an Ethnographic Project, and another one presenting the emic/etic contrast. I find this to be an effective way to present this material, especially since the aim of this piece is to illuminate the usefulness of ethnographic research. Presenting information in visual tables is something I find to be useful when trying to sell social research to more logically inclined fields. This would be the sort of article I would use in a course on business anthropology.

Wayman, E. R. (2008). Consumer Anthropology-Getting Down to Business: Anthropology and Marketing Research. Current Anthropology, 49(2), 169–169.

This is a brief article that presents ethnography as a useful addition to market research goals for businesses. The key argument Wayman makes is that ethnography fills the gaps of market research by studying behaviors in the field. To start, the author gives a good comparison of market research, noting the key goals of learning about customers. They also note that there are some drawbacks in only using standard market research methods.  The focus groups of market research, for example, are often run in laboratory settings.

According to Wayman, ethnography presents a way to observe customers as they are. In addition to the insights learned through market research, businesses can gain insight into real behavior, not just talk of what customers may remember. Wayman also makes a good point that the key difference between academic research and non-academic research is in the deadlines and timelines. I can say I have experienced this a few times. It was not easy trying to coordinate applied projects with thesis timelines. This article is another good one to share with non-anthropologists as I think it does a good job of selling the benefits of anthropological research from a business perspective. It is nice to see anthropology note the strengths of other disciplines along with the proposal of adding new methodology.

Journey through Rites of Passage

Throughout many cultures, rite of passage rituals are prominent. These rituals, as conceptualized by Arnold van Gennep, “mark a person’s passage from one identity to another” (Robbins 139). He laid out three key stages pertaining to such a passage: Separation- leaving the old identity behind. Transition (Liminal) – a marginal state of alienation and learning.  […]

Looking for a Reason to Launch Your Own Portfolio Website?

A Personal Portfolio Website Means More Control Anyone can make a social media profile, but a website takes some planning. When you design your site, you have control over the layout of how you present yourself and your experiences. Having this control helps you to communicate with your users exactly who you are, and your […]

How to Improve Online Learning Experiences

Online learning is far from new, but with social distancing requiremnets it has become the most viable option for knowledge exchange. As many instructors have learned, it is not easy to bring methods from in-person teaching into an online platform. Teachers may have the subject matter experience, but that experience is worth much less if […]

Published by Nikki M

Applied Anthropologist and Digital Dance Specialist

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