Ethnography vs. Contextual Interviews: Methods Matter

Methods matter. It’s often assumed that an open-ended interview is ethnography and the reasons for the confusion are understandable, but an ethnographically-informed approach, which a contextual interview can certainly be, is not the same thing as a true ethnographic project.  Contextual interviews, which rely on self-report data, and ethnography, which focuses on observed data through […]

The Importance of Learning Participant Observation

Teaching and learning is interactive. Despite the fact that learning is all-pervasive in our life, there is no single, universal theory of how people learn. There are two major schools of thought concerning the learning process: one consists of behavior theories, the other of cognitive theories. Cognitive theorists view learning as a function of purely […]

Concepts of “Home”

I grew up on the edge of the Great Plains. To this day, there is a smell that comes with the arrival of summer that is unique, I’m in awe of a thunderstorm as it rolls in, and I am a bit uncomfortable when there are too many trees around. The plains are home. So, […]

Why REAL Ethnography Still Matters

Fieldwork takes us to strange places. It allows us to come face to face with unexpected moments of both clarity and confusion, which can, in fact, spark innovation. I once spent a day with a 29 year old man who made about $600K a year running all things web-related for a major clothing designer. He lived […]

Challenges of Chinese Beer

The beer market is a fickle place. Tastes change with the season and fashion is as much a part of the selection process as flavor. But beer behavior is hooked intrinsically to tradition, culture, and myth. It likes its regular place at the bar and distrusts strangers. So even with the rise of craft brews […]

Mythology, It’s What’s For Dinner

Mythology is perhaps the most archaic and profound record we have of our collective spirit. From the inception of cave art, and presumably long before that, we find myth and myth-making as a fundamental element in relating to the mysteries of life, the cosmos and the world around us. It goes beyond recounting the day’s […]

The “Authenticity” of Culinary Tourism

When walking around in highly frequented areas of France, Italy, or San Francisco there are no shortage of restaurants boasting assurances of authenticity and regional cuisine, but how many of the claims provide diners with accurate representations of the regions culinary history and traditions? Does the same hold true in New York? Or Alabama? I […]

Are Virtual Marketplaces Real? Does It Matter?

Over the past 20 years, give or take, virtual worlds have risen from the pages of science fiction and fantasy to a multi-billion-dollar industry that has slowly but surely become a large part of the lives of millions of people. Where they were once curiosities, they are now mainstays. Or at the very least, approaching […]

Deliberate Coffee

The form of the beverage we enjoy today originated in the 13th century and rapidly spread throughout the Middle East. Coffee growing was exclusive to Africa and the Arabian Peninsula until the 17th century, when European colonial powers began establishing plantations in Asia and the Americas. Coffee quickly became a craze among the Old World […]

Marketing Coffee’s Third Wave

Third wave coffee is arguably the most recent wave in coffee history. While the first wave made coffee ubiquitous across all nations, and second wave changed the way Americans consumed coffee, third wave has had just as dramatic of an impact. Third wave coffee can be boiled down to one central feature: the coffee itself. […]