A graphic in grey and orange reads "Ethnography & Design: Mutual Provocations" and the date "October 27, 28 & 29" as an aside in a deep yellow circle.

CoLED is excited to announce our upcoming conference, ETHNOGRAPHY & DESIGN: MUTUAL PROVOCATIONS. The conference will be hosted at UC San Diego on October 27-29, 2016. This event represents the culmination of the first phase of our multi-campus collaboration through CoLED workshops over the past few quarters, and offers a public-facing three-day-long symposium and workshop series designed to open the CoLED conversation to a broader crowd of ethnographers, designers, practitioners and scholars at the intersection of ethnography and design.

About the conference theme:

In recent years, design and ethnography, and practitioners of design and ethnography, have found a variety of new engagements and mutual provocations. Many ethnographers work in collaboration with designers and design researchers. Others are curious about how designers have taken up, made use of, and transformed ethnographic research strategies to gain insights into how to redesign objects, infrastructures, and social or institutional systems. Many academic ethnographers see design practice as complicit with global capitalism, industrialized manufacturing, consumer product marketing, and modern nation building. Still others are interested in how ethnographic practice might be transformed by an engagement with studio design, bringing some of the research modes and strategies developed in design research back into the service of academic research. Many ethnographers are interested in innovations in research design that engage new media and frontiers in digital, visual, and performative formats.

Ethnography and Design: Mutual Provocations brings ethnographers working in all of these modes together for a series of curated, provocative conversations. Addressing issues in ethnographic design through a “keywords” format, the conference and subsequent multimedia production will ask: What is Ethnography? What is Design? Who decides? What are the implications for theory, practice, and real world outcomes?

About the conference format:

The conference will be organized into a series of roundtable events, with ongoing concurrent participatory workshops and performances. In keeping with the conference theme of mutual provocations between design and ethnography, the roundtables will be organized as a series of encounters between keywords. We will do so with the intention that the juxtapositions between the words will provoke discussion by highlighting tensions that populate the intersection of design and ethnography.

Concurrent with the roundtables, CoLED members will host workshops to share innovations in ethnographic theory and methodology. These workshops, such as Feminist Theory Theater, Ethnocharettes, and more have been debuted and examined with CoLED members during the course of a series of internal workshops leading up to the conference; the intention of the conference workshops is to share the work of CoLED with other conference attendees.

CoLED members are invited to submit and propose performances, exhibitions, dance classes, film screenings, or other types of engagements during the conference weekend to be promoted as part of the larger event. Proposals for workshops and other programming from CoLED members will be due in late spring.

All others (ethnographers not affiliated with the CoLED network) will be invited to submit workshop, panel, or other proposals in response to a CfP to be posted in late May 2016. Registration to attend the conference as an audience-participant will be available online in summer 2017.


Ethnography and Design: Mutual Provocations is made possible through funding from the UC Office of the President, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, and participating UC campuses.