Close Encounters: Anthropologists in the Corporate Arena

  • Melissa Cefkin IBM Research - Almaden

Abstract

The corporate encounter invites casting an anthropological gaze on the objects and practices of corporate worlds. This article delineates three perspectives of the anthropologist on this encounter: (1) with the things corporations make (products and services), (2) with the way they make them (acts of production), and (3) with organizational imperatives (corporate forms). This examination draws specifically on the work of those who operate from within the corporate arena by referencing papers from Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC). Corporate actors, in turn, seek more nuanced views on human experience and aim to exploit the “people” and “practices” dimensions of their existence and have turned to anthropologists in the process. A brief exploration of the hopes and disjuncture that help shape the encounter from the point of view of anthropologists’ interlocutors inside the corporation rounds out this examination of the anthropologists’ corporate encounter.

Author Biography

Melissa Cefkin, IBM Research - Almaden
Melissa Cefkin is a member of IBM Research - Almaden. She is a business and design anthropologist specializing in workplace ethnography, services research, product and service design, and organizational learning. Melissa was previously a Director of User Experience and member of the Advanced Research group at Sapient Corporation and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL). She is the editor of Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations (Berghahn Books, 2009) and has served as the co-chair and on the Board of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC). A Fulbright award grantee, she has a PhD in anthropology from Rice University. is a member of IBM Research - Almaden. She is a business and design anthropologist specializing in workplace ethnography, services research, product and service design, and organizational learning. Melissa was previously a Director of User Experience and member of the Advanced Research group at Sapient Corporation and a Senior Research Scientist at the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL). She is the editor of Ethnography and the Corporate Encounter: Reflections on Research in and of Corporations (Berghahn Books, 2009) and has served as the co-chair and on the Board of the Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC). A Fulbright award grantee, she has a PhD in anthropology from Rice University.
Published
2012-05-16
Section
Articles