Ethnography by Design

In 2019, Bloomsbury Press published Ethnography by Design, in which George Marcus, designer Luke Cantarella, and I chart our course through a number of collaborative “designed interventions” in fieldwork.

Since 2011, I have collaborated with multiple anthropologists and designers on projects that are intended to use design strategies and practices to extend anthropological analysis, and co-led “Ethnography by Design” workshops at UC Irvine, Wesleyan University, and the University of Western Ontario. My collaborators are too numerous to list, but I’m particularly grateful to Elizabeth Chin, Lindsay Bell, Barbara Adams, George Marcus, and Luke Cantarella (my amazing husband and frequent collaborator!) for creative and intellectual support and our shared work.

In 2016, we developed prototypes for a project entitled Yes, We’re Open (Collaboration Team: Christine Hegel, Luke Cantarella, George Marcus, Shonna Trinch, and Ed Snadjr), which used the speculative design of commercial spaces and storefronts to think about processes of gentrification in Brooklyn.

Yes, We’re Open design workshop (Photo, Shonna Trinch)

In 2012, Luke, George, Jae Chung, and I began a yearlong project entitled Trade is Sublime, which sought to use art and design to re-enter the field – in this case, the World Trade Organization in Geneva – following a multi-investigator research project that ended in 2009. We picked up questions that remained in George and Jae’s original work, which pertained to issues of transparency and modes of negotiation within both the secretariat and the committees. We created a multi-modal exhibition that was installed at the WTO for ten days, and have written about the processes of artistic and scholarly collaboration entailed in this project, as well as about new insights that emerged about the WTO.

In 2011, we developed our first ‘designed intervention’ or ‘productive encounter;’ entitled 214 Sq. Ft. Luke and I were commissioned by Project Hope Alliance, in Costa Mesa, CA, to design and build an installation to represent life for many chronically homeless families who shelter periodically in motels. The installation was first exhibited at the Balboa Bay Yacht Club for a gala benefit, and since that time has been re-staged in over 50 locales around southern California. George Marcus and Bill Maurer facilitated a two-week installation and public conversation on the UCI campus.

In June of 2020, I’ll be co-facilitating a workshop with designer Alix Gerber and staging a “Situated Action” with both Alix Gerber and Luke Cantarella at the PDC 2020 – Participatory Design Conference – in Manizales, Colombia.

Designing for Self Determination Workshop:

The Deafening Silence of Public Hearings Situated Action will be published in the PDC Proceedings in May, 2020.