Fueling innovative software
July 15-18, 2019
Portland, OR

Get thicker data naturally with computational anthropology

4:15pm4:55pm Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Secondary topics:  Customer Centered
Average rating: ***..
(3.25, 8 ratings)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Tech industry professionals




A chameleon among the humanities and social sciences, anthropology explores the human experience through a patchwork of methods and modes of expression beyond the hypothesis, including written stories, documentary film, and computational analysis. Anthropologists have a long history of combining qualitative methods (e.g., ethnography) with computational methods for things like social network analysis, generating kinship diagrams, and even parsing folklore narratives. Software engineering and data science are fundamentally about human behavior problems, yet software engineers and data scientists are poorly equipped for the ambiguity and social impacts of these “human behavior solutions” we release into the world.

Augustina Ragwitz covers fundamental concepts in anthropology to explore what computational anthropology might look like, what happens when we qualify the quantities and thicken the big data, and what tech industry professionals and researchers could learn from an anthropological approach to computational analysis. She highlights open source examples of computational research analysis used in anthropological research on GitHub. You’ll also get resources for professional training in ethnography and connecting with applied anthropologists working in the industry to help your career growth.

What you'll learn

  • Gain exposure to rigorous, qualitative methods as used in anthropology and understand why qualitative versus quantitative and hard versus soft aren't particularly useful dichotomies
  • Learn to think big picture about software systems and data analysis as part of a human experience
  • Reframe software tools as a mode of expressing our worldview and what diversity really means (a.k.a. decolonization)
  • Question your assumptions about who you are in this imaginary little world we've constructed for ourselves
Photo of Augustina Ragwitz

Augustina Ragwitz


I’ve spent over 20 years working in the software industry and contributing to open source projects. I started exploring vision accessibility to manage my own ADHD struggles with vision over-stimulation thanks to advances in computer screens and increasingly complex user interfaces. Through my role at IBM, I am working with the Oregon Commission for the Blind’s vocational rehabilitation team to advocate for people with blindness in the tech industry.

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Jocelyn Matthews | storj labs
07/16/2019 4:53am PDT

I am thrilled to see that youre presenting. We met last year briefly at OSS and I am very much looking forward to hearing your latests thoughts and findings!!