Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: National Association for the Practice of Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Technology
Anthropologists are increasingly pursuing careers outside academia (e.g. Cefkin 2009; Denny and Sunderland 2014; Jordan 2013). Nowhere is this shift more evident than within the field of User Experience (UX). UX’s focus on understanding and articulating the in-context needs of the users has lead an increasing number of organizations to actively seek out the services of applied anthropologists. While significant attention has been paid to questions of how anthropological skills translate beyond the academy, there has been less consideration of the lived experience of anthropologists transitioning into UX design or research roles. Through the personal accounts of applied anthropologists, this panel explores what this transition feels like in lived experience. In particular, we address how anthropologists are navigating different workplace cultures and demands when they enter non-academic employment. Participants will also share their personal advice on how to make this shift, and how they work to stay connected--intellectually, emotionally, and socially--to academic anthropology. Rachel Fleming will speak about the tenuous value of research in agency work, while Matt Bernius will address reconciling one’s identity as anthropologist with one's role as a UX researcher. Yuko Okubo will examine the meaning of being an anthropologist in the IT industry from her experience working with professionals with different backgrounds, and Molly Rempe will confront the challenge of proving our value as UX researchers within product development. Tamara Hale, applied anthropologist and UX Researcher, will serve as discussant. This panel speaks to anthropologists thinking about or currently working outside academia, and to the larger question of what it means to be an anthropologist in the contemporary world.