A Belated Who’s Who of EPIC 2017 – Perspectives

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In October, I had the pleasure of attending EPIC 2017 – Perspectives at HEC Montreal. I’ve been a member of EPIC for the last two years and am volunteering on their Learning Advisory. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect walking into a conference of anthropologists, but what I found was a stimulating intellectual and social gathering that ranged from the technical to the Anthropocene.

DANA SHERWOOD: A brilliant artist who is exploring the  the Anthropocene through creating confectionary for animal collaborators, who, in turn, are changing how she draws and paints. Field work + Studio work + Places + Inhabitants.

DAVID JOHNSON: One of the US’s leading historians of gay culture, Johnson argued persuasively that the consumer market for muscle magazines and book clubs targeted at gay men created the conditions for the Civil Rights movement to emerge in the late 1960s.

ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMMAKERS: Three films stood out: 1. Nicholas Agafonoff’s affecting portrait of a man recuperating from a stroke who refused to tap into his long-term disability benefits. Agafonoff made a passionate argument for ethnomethodology. 2. Bad Babysitters’ documentary about twenty-somethings and their mobile phones. 3. Yuebai Liu’s amazing documentary about Italian-Chinese men.

JONATHAN BEAN and HANNA LARSEN: My favourite paper of the conference was a marketing case study of Marcus Samuelson’s Red Rooster brand using remote user research technology and  principles of material engagement theory and brand gestalt to study how consumers, the chef and the restaurant enact meaning through objects.

SAM LADNER: I’ve followed Ladner’s work on Twitter for several years, and I credit Ladner and her book Practical Ethnography  for introducing me to the amazing community of applied research  anthropologists who participate in EPIC. Ladner’s workship was about design research, and she emphasized thehe foundations of applied research design: 1.  Thick Description, 2. Action Objects, 3. Precise Measures. Designers and researchers alike should adopt design management principles: Creativity,  Complexity, Compromise, Choice. Systematic reduction and systhesis of data.

EPIC 2018 will be in Honolulu, HI, and the theme this year is EVIDENCE. The conference sold out in under 24 hours, so I may have to settle for the live stream this year. I’m not surprised that the conference sold out. EPIC’s ecclectic, intellectual mix delights.