REVIEW: ‘What the Anthropologist sees: Public toilets as cultural spaces’

This is a brief review/clarification of Dr. Jo-Anne Bichard's interview on the Ethno Pod podcast, part of This is HCD, with host John Curran, a business anthropologist, executive coach, and CEO of JC and Associates. During the interview they spent a bit of time discussing design anthropology as a field and it was a good conversation about the differently-oriented relationships formed between design and anthropology that also acknowledged the centrality of participatory practices. However, it's the first I heard of anyone crediting IDEO for the field of design anthropology! Maybe she meant their role in popularizing design ethnography as a method in design? The DA formulation as described also sounded more like the attainment of a symbiotic relationship between designer and anthropologist in their professional roles - but if that were the case design anthropology holds no claim to being a (sub)field and is merely just an applied area for anthropologists with a set of best practices. Granting undue significance to an elaboration on a successfully implemented Da practice. 

I also disagree that design anthropologists are not designers. As a proposed transdisciplinary epistemology for an anthropological design practice, it is a form of design. Design Anthropologists view designs as epistemic things with ontological implications and formulate design processes as speculative interventions to explore the emergent and possible through situated, participatory future making (i.e., designing). This is the direction of the theory of design anthropology that Dr. Bichard briefly acknowledges to exist in the interview and - say what you will about the chances of that perspective catching on - it's neither classic ethnography or how design is popularly practiced. That much is clear from Gunn and Donovan's description of the dA, Da, DA formulations, so DA can't just be a collegial practical relationship between the two as they exist...

You can listen to it here.

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