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Epic 2022 day 2 conference notes

Onwards to day two of EPIC. You can find follow the links my notes for Day one and Day three.

Keynote: Kurt Ward

Kurt Ward is a Senior Design Director at Philips Healthcare, based in the Netherlands. His goal is to design sustainable and adaptable health systems by redefining the social determinants of health and reframing humanity’s relationship with the natural world

Challenge: Rethink how we think about health and ecosystems; to rethink how we think

Have been at Philips Design for 22 years. About five to six years ago realised he was part of old guard, and needed to devleop his coaching and mentoring skills.

“How did I learn how to think?” - not just theory of epistemology but the practical act of thinking.

History of how we’ve done and think about healthcare at Philips:

Twenty years ago, Philips focused mainly on product design - usability qualities, patient interaction quality, brand and product etc.

Had lots of great product designers: They were artesans.

At the same time, embraced ethnography over last 30 years: everything needed to be based around people’s insights. people-orient. The product is just one aspect of this - patient and clinicians are parts of it too. Patient goes through an anxiety-ridden experience. How do we improve that? Maybe use animation, sound? Maybe support workflow of staff? resulted in creating the first ambient healthcare design. This worked - patient experience score improved, as did staff experience and outcomes: More people you can process, more people you can treat.

Moving from product -> holistic patient experience.

Could we apply this to the entire radiology experience? Moved to working with architects to redsign the entire hospital building as well.

Next step: can we do this on a country level? Did that with seven counties in Kenya

In addition to service design, there were also medical technology improvements that led to other transformations as well.

Should say: I have one of the best jobs in the world, at one of the best companies in the world that cares about societal impact as well as biz outcomes.


The current state of healthcare: most healthcare systems around the world are under extreme stress. extreme shortage of clinical and non-clinincal staff. Existing staff are burnt out. “Who’s caring for the carers”. In Europe, there is unforseen new energy costs to the tune of hundred of millions of dollars.

Healthcare cost rising from 9% of GDP several years ago to 14% (by 2030

Carbon footprint: 5-10% of a country’s footprint comes from healathcare. Sometimes greater than transport

Populations are increasing at a rate we never foresaw. Also aging rapidly.

45% of population has chronic disease. Some have 5 or more

2022 growing % of world wihtout access to any immediate medical care. Not just remote places but also in rural america. Some hospitals in Canada closing ER on certain days because they do not have enough staff.

Inequitable access to vaccines and healthcare.

This leads me to question that over the last 20 years, we have been [wrongly] focused on individual interventions.

This systems, clock-work view of life began with Descartes

Descartes’s systems view of the man as independent of nature and can be understood mechanisitically. If we are to understand some things, we need to break it down into individual smaller pieces. Our discoveries in DNA probably comes from that worldview.

But - When do we enter the healthcare system? When we show a symptom of a disease or potential disease. This means our health system is designed in two ways: by specialites and mostly funded, staffed, and organised around you already being sick or an illness. Where does this leave us with the ability to think holistically about organic life to prevent or avoid entering the system in the first place

If you take a Cartesian view of the body, why would you consider the microbiome in our guts? They are not produced by the body.

From the microbiome to sunlight (our Circadean rhythm), to air, we exist within and are interrelated with multiple systems

2021: 3.1m ppl died from covid; 4m died from air pollution-related diseases

Team from Japan monitored glucose level of diabetics, and asked them to do a forest walk for 3km-5km. Afterwards, glucose level reduced by 40%.


We need to think about health in a more holistic way instead of in a symptom-based or “-ology” way. This need is independent from natural disasters, pandemic and war

How do we do a major transformation? We’re not going to be able to tear the whole system apart, so how do we adapt it?

Could we look at people across their lifetime instead of just when they are sick?

Taking this further, could we create a ‘digital twin’ or simulation of you that can do two things: 1) help inform your personal choices to make you healthier overall, and 2) support the health system to provide integrative care?

Data privacy issues and infringement of rights are important issues for this vision and needs to be solved. Encouraging behavioural change is also difficult. We’re nowhere near this being possible at the moment.

We need to think of health holistically from a mental health and ecological perspective.

We have a duty to help our stakeholders and the world to think holistically. Help them consider a broader systems view when scoping. i.e. in agriculture project, think about animal rights

Preservation Through Innovation: New Works Inspired by Tradition (Concertzaal)

Wildcard by Zosha Warpeha Curator: Allegra Oxborough, AERO Creative

In this session, violinist and composer Zosha Warpeha will speak about her artistic research in Norway, which involved an immersive study of Nordic traditional music and the creation of a new body of artistic work. This session will illustrate a participatory model of ethnographic research through which the artist built an embodied knowledge of traditional music and laid the groundwork for artistic exploration and expansion. She will discuss the tension between two visions of preservation—one that captures a tradition in a single moment in time and one that allows the tradition to organically evolve alongside a community—and make the case for the necessity of innovation as a method of preservation and resilience. This session will include musical demonstrations and a short performance of original music inspired by tradition.

Five years ago, attended a folk music festival in northern Minnesota - home to many of Scandinavian heritage. Remember looking across the room, and noticing she was not only the only person of colour in the room, but also one of few people under the age of 60. Noticed older musicians playing folk music in very traditional way, with not a lot of flair. This was interspersed with performances from ensembles brought in Scandinavia who were younger and played music in more contemporary ways.

People within Nordic diaspora within the US were resistent to change. They shared a repertoire, but they were hesitant to develop the music further.

When she spoke to people about her desire to bring music to her own creative practice, met with scepticism and resistence: “This is how the music is played”.

How many young people have turned away from this music because they didnt feel free to express themselves in this music? How many generations does it take for folk music to disappear completely?

Started to believe that resistence to change could be the biggest danger to Nordic folk music in the US. Without diversity and innovation, Nordic folk music in the US wil cease to exist.

She has no Nordic roots. but did grow up in Minnesota. Studied violin from a young age. Learnt written music at the same time as learnt to play by ear. Composed own music: Something that I could feel in my body. That would evoke place.

Wondered: Why, within US nordic folk community, were so few people pushing the boundaries? What is folk music?

People’s reactions to her more ‘modern’ compositions: “It’s interesting, it’s pretty, but it’s not folk music.”

Started to question: “What is Norwegian folk music? What is my place in the tradition?” Decided to immerse herself in folk music in Norway. Learnt traditional tunes from fiddlers there by ear. Teachers would start lessson by telling the story of the tune, and lineage of who they learnt it from.

As student, would start my mirroring the action of the teacher. Learn by mimicing movements of just one phrase of the tune, then slowly layering on additional phrases.

Another strand of her practice and study: Engaging with the community in social settings. Folk music is inherently social - there’d be parties of musicians with just one fiddle that’s passed around. Folk music tradition also inseparable from dance tradition. Deepened understanding of rhythm by feeling through the body through dance.

Didn’t notice many new developments in terms of her own creative practice for the first year. But there was a moment halfway through her study that she picked up a fiddle and music just flowed out. Used 3 traditional tunes as starting and end points - the seed of new music. For the first time, didn’t feel that her music was derivative.

Didn’t understand this development at all until she saw it in terms of embodied phenomenology and embodied knowledge.

Describing this as ‘muscle memory’ is too much of a simplification. It’s a form of tacit knowledge of the music itself - technical and stylistic knowledge in addition to the actual finger movements.

“When you learn enough tunes, you learn the secret between tunes”

Also, inter-corporeality.

“My music became more about physical gestures - a certain feeling in my left hand or a bow gesture can be recontextualised.”

Came away of a new understanding of living traditions.

I have come to view folk music not as a collection of tunes and dances, but as a system of commmuication, learning and self expression - of offering a part of yourself to the music.

Even as an artistic researcher of this tradition, there is no way to separate myself from this tradition.

Practical Resilience: Ethnographic Impact that Endures in a Changing World (Zuilenzaal)

Curator: Lisa Kleinman, GoTo

There is a general belief that moving fast (and in some cases, breaking things) is a competitive advantage for business—but this ethos can be at odds with deeper knowledge building and strategic foresight, which are the hallmarks of strong ethnographic insights. These cases re-frame ethnography as a resilient method within shifting organizational structures and needs. They offer specific frameworks and practices for utilizing contextually rich human stories to not only keep ethnography resilient, but also in service of a resilient organization.

Giulia Gasperi, TRIPTK

Ethnography and marketing & busienss can often be at odds with each other, but if we join forces, then we can be more resiliant.

Summer 2020, one of the clients was VF - global brand portfolio with brands like Timerbland, Supreme, etc. Love using ethnography, but what happens when stock price suddenly tanks?

Covid changed everything about fashion shopping everywhere all at once. Ideally, wanted to talk to consumers in every market, for each brand, over time (i.e take 6-12 months). But reality is that it was unsafe to travel, and they had 6-12 weeks.

So, asked: if we can’t do ethnography, how can we think like an ethnographer? Focused on Culture & social influence, market context, signals of change etc. and used a mishamsh of methodologies.

Instead of the big overall question of “How is the overall value proposition in A&F changing?” broke it down and adapted to the smaller + more specific pieces of research.

Resulted in lots of recommendations across new product, market comms, etc. Helped company turn around.

“If you can’t be an ethnographer, act like one with your clients”

“We’re in the people business and not the process business”

Triangulation, Triangulation, Triangulation - if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, etc… probably a duck.

Developed recommendations but did not call them that - instead, framed them as ‘no regret’ actions. Signalled that these could help business in best case, but would not hurt in worst case.

Creating Resiliency of Research Findings: Using Ethnographic Methods to Combat Research Amnesia (Case)

Kristen Guth, Reddit (@Kristen_Guth)

The reddit alien is a snoo (If you read reddit, you read what’s..snoo)

Research Amnesia:

The behaviour of fast-moving prodcut team generates this definition

Orgs evolve by creating new knowledge - can be explicit or tacit. A lot of ethnography work is tacit knowledge generation and recording how and why. Shared understanding and belief. Product teams can draw on memories of past reseach to face new challenges, facilitate learning etc.

It’s research managers’ perogative to manage our institutional memory

Why we forget in organizations:

  1. Significant data and decisions are not documented
  2. Records are lost
  3. Archived can’t be accessed easily (i.e. password protected airtables)
  4. Mentality against recourse to the past (i.e. perceive existing findings as inapplicable to new context)
  5. (individual) Subterfuge - obfuscation of past records

Johari window: known/not known to self/others. Research known to self and not known to others are facades/hidden. they’re in this area sometimes due to perverse individual incentives.

Challenges for researchers: maintenance, updates, accessibility etc

Did project at Reddit to address these challenges: archival research, survey, in-depth interviews and lit review. Also logged data to show growth, how the qualitative data aligned with quantitatve data, and Got all info needed, created narrative around emergent insights.

Insight examples: Great products are often inspired by users, not requested by them. The busines and the user moves together, etc

The project documented analyses and provided a narrative. Archived records. Made analyses accessible, etc Also built argument for creating reserch ops.

Impact of this work is tracked in time saved.

Cybersecurity in the Icelandic Multiverse (Case)

Meghan McGrath (@researchosaurus)

Iceland ranks both among the most connected nation states and the most socially trusting, which makes it a very interesting case study for cybersecurity.

At the national registry you can look up the national ID number for pretty much everyone, and then access a lot of their PII using that.

When she moved there a colleague congratualted her on being the 7th Megan in Iceland

For Iceland, what does it mean to be highly connected with social trust, especially in context of Ukraine invasion.

Students found it hard to grasp how cybersecurity was relevant to their lives, so taught a course on ethnographic approaches to cybersecurity:

Microchipping of icelandic horses:

Worked with both user personas and anti-user personas - i.e. people not anticipated by the system. Found that, while user personas was very rich, anti-user personas often very sparse, because the classic image of the loner hacker was so pervalent:

even though this was a very web 1.0 image of an anti-user.

Looked at different types of anti-users: breakdown by motivation, industry, capabilities, etc

All of the coursework became input to futures strategy work. Core question: What would it look like to wake up in those palces in ten years? How would the security needs change in ten years?

Ended up with an exhibition called ‘Spoiler Alert’ Lots of different protoypes made (i.e. designer odour masking perfume)

This research was created and informed by crisis: Covid pandemic in Iceland, Ukraine war, etc. Security posture of Iceland post Ukraine invasion became a lot more urgent, and the coursework became a vector for conversation around security in Iceland.