The Digital Turn in Business Anthropology
This essay examines the emerging “digital turn” in business anthropology, a phenomenon propelled by the increasing prevalence and influence of digital technologies. Despite the significant underrepresentation of digital anthropology in current literature within the Journal of Business Anthropology, its relevance to the traditionally focused areas of organizational culture, marketing, consumer research, advertising, and user experience is irrefutable, given the rapid digitalization of the business landscape. By exploring evidence of the “digital turn” and the potential for digital anthropology to overtake design anthropology as a dominant paradigm, this essay advocates for integrating digital anthropology into the professional discourses and research practices of business anthropologists. It highlights the capacity of digital anthropology to equip practitioners with the necessary tools and perspectives to navigate and respond effectively to the ever-evolving digital landscape. Furthermore, the essay delves into the potential of emerging digital technologies, such as AI, to revolutionize anthropological research and practice. Simultaneously, it underscores the entrepreneurial opportunities available to founder anthropologists, specifically by productizing anthropological knowledge and methods. However, practitioners must also acknowledge and address significant challenges such as the rapid pace of digital transformation, privacy and ethical considerations, and the risk of introducing machine bias into the research process. In conclusion, the essay posits that the emerging “digital turn” in business anthropology offers substantial opportunities that will shape the discipline in the coming years, warranting its inclusion by practitioners and academics alike.
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