Some deep hanging out at EPIC 2006
Something akin to what one feels like after getting off Space Mountain at Disneyland, then getting onto another ride... such has been the experience as of late. Just attended EPIC 2006, which stands for the "Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference" in Portland, Oregon. It brought together people who are thinking about the theoretical and methodological development in industry practice.
For me personally, going to a conference like this was a strange experience. Though some of us may have had internal debates and differences with critiques and such, the feeling as 'ethnographers' with a unified purpose and optimism was something else. The message: ethnography is a process, ethnographers are a group of people engaged in this process--and the number of governments, NGOs, and those in industry willing to listen to 'us' in our cultural insights is coming to a critical mass. This conference, only being in it's 2nd iteration, was a clear example of this and as Genevieve Bell from Intel pointed out: the fact that large companies like Intel and Microsoft were willing to be major sponsors for an event that brought ethnographers together, speaks volumes in and of itself. So that was the optimism part. The really really weird part was being amongst so many people who were not necessarily researching the exact same topics, but saw the world through a similar lens and mode of investigation as I did. I dare say that most of us were accustomed to being anomalies in the room at any given point! So that was quite refreshing.
I was able to meet many people I have only been able to know virtually thus far, and that was great--asking candid questions about their experiences and getting a feel for who they were. In many ways, going to what was for me a type of 'mecca' of ethnography... further strengthened my resolve to pursue the goals I had set out for myself almost a decade ago--taking steps (in leaps and bounds) towards the learning and training that I need in order to practice ethnography well in various contexts. I realize it probably sounds like a heady experience, and keep in mind I'm not utterly seduced--but rather my participation in this 'coming home' of sorts gave me peace of mind not only for what I am currently doing (which I am really happy with) but that I am doing the right things in order to get where I am going...eventually.
To those I managed to meet while there--you know who you are--keep in touch.
To those who I did not get to--we'll get in touch.
I'll write more from Calgary/Banff when I can! My Vancouver obligations await.
See the flickr photo set from this conference>>