Log in / Register
Home arrow Business & Finance arrow Enterprise as an Instrument of Civilization
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >

5.5 Final Remarks

This chapter has observed how ethnography, the chief anthropological methodology, is appropriated outside of anthropology. Through the observations on the appropriation, I shed light on some features of Japanese-ness in firms and the relation between the Japanese-ness and anthropology while trying to clarify the logic of business which is different from academic logic.

Although I did not refer to the usage of ethnography in other academic fields (since it is beyond the scope of this chapter), there are other academic areas closely related to business world, such as human computer interaction (HCI) and humancentred design (HCD). They carry out so-called rapid ethnography (Millen 2000; Tedjasaputra and Sari 2005). It is conducted by making mock-ups or prototyping in agile development process. It appears to be similar to user studies in which ethnography-like observation on users is used only in the initial phase of the study process and is merely a method among many methods to understand users. It is still referred to as (rapid) 'ethnography'. (For researchers in these areas, incorporating 'ethnographic' observation into the study, even for a very short period, is fruitful to know users better.)

Then, in what sort of ways could anthropologists confront such situations? Encountering differences – in this case, business – broadens our minds. If Japanese anthropologists remain closed to these developments, they will lose chances to learn things from other fields or disciplines. Rather, encountering other realms might broaden the concept of anthropological ethnography – I believe that these will 'enrich' (anthropological) ethnography.

There may be a need for anthropologists to rethink ethnography produced by solo fieldworkers or ethnographers such as Malinowski, which is different from business, where cooperation and teamwork are key. [1] his chapter's subject may lead us to a further discussion how the discipline could be changed according to environmental changes outside of the discipline.

There is no denying that in the past I almost automatically displayed an adverse reaction whenever I heard of the prospect of applying ethnography to business,

i.e. profit-making-oriented ethnography (esuno). My initial reluctance at participating in profit-driven research stemmed from having been trained in traditional academic anthropology in Japan. However, it is somewhat necessary – if only on an experimental basis – to reconsider the ethnography that seems to have been awkwardly customised on the basis of the logics of business (in Japan). [2] Since anthropology is the study of the people who have different logics, ethnography used by business people with their logic can be a subject of anthropology.

The attitude of future anthropologists in Japan towards business-oriented ethnography might be different from my current reluctant attitude in the 2010s. As I men-tioned at the beginning of this chapter, anthropology is in the making, and as the relationship between industry and anthropology are close from the late 1920s through 1950s, it will continue to change in the future. The relationship between the two and the criterion for evaluating the engagements of anthropologists' business-oriented ethnographic research will change and be different from contemporary anthropologists and anthropologists of the future. There could be yet another possibility of a different association of 'anthropology (anthropological/anthropology-ness)', 'ethnography', 'behaviour observation' and so forth developing in 2030s or 2040s.

Note This chapter is based on several papers presented at the 43rd annual meeting, Japanese Society of Cultural Anthropology, International House, Osaka, 30 May 2009; the 74th annual meeting, Society for Applied Anthropology, Albuquerque, NM, 22 Mar 2014; and IUAES Inter-Congress, Makuhari Messe, Chiba, 18 May 2014. The author wishes to thank Dr. Elizabeth Briody for her informative comments on the draft.

  • [1] The discussion here might appear conservative for some anthropologists, especially for practicing anthropologists in the USA and UK, areas I am familiar with. The same discussion can be perceived differently according to the individual anthropologist, and it implies and is related to the plurality of anthropology/anthropologists, which I mentioned at footnote 1.
  • [2] I am still conflicted as to how to confront and deal with business-oriented ethnography, as well as with the differences between the logics of business and academia. Keeping as such to myself, I teach how to use anthropological methods and carry out ethnography for use with respect to business contexts to working students (professionals who are working and were trained as engineers, marketers, developer, etc.) at a business school-type graduate programme. Besides, I have been collaborating (and consulting) with some companies at various levels in relation to the use of ethnography these several years.
Found a mistake? Please highlight the word and press Shift + Enter  
< Prev   CONTENTS   Next >
Business & Finance
Computer Science
Language & Literature
Political science