I could tell you how many steps make up the streets rising like stairways, and of the degree of the arcades' curves, and what kind of zinc scales cover the roofs; but I already know this would be the same as telling you nothing. The city does not consist of this, but of relationships between the measurements of its space and the events of its past...A description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira's past. -Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
Monday, May 23, 2005
Office culture and the limits of applied anthropology
There is actually lots of interesting info (too much to talk about) but I was disturbed by the comment of one of the consultants they interviewed. He noted, "What we try to do is describe what is happening, but we don't present solutions. We let the company decide that."
Perhaps it is because I work in design and innovation, but I believe that part of the value we can bring as anthropologists IS in offering solutions, not just observations. What is observation without interpretation, and isn't a solution a form of interpretation?
A few years ago, when I was entering the applied world, I did a bunch of informational interviews. One lead at a design firm was very polite to me, but noted that they were not interested in hiring anthropologists anymore because based on their experience, the anthropologists did not know what to "do" with their observations.
So, if we are going to practice applied anthropology, in my view, we should really apply it...Anyway, I recommend the article!