The famous Oracle at Delphi had a secret: Its prophecies were interpreted by Temple Guides, using a very early version of ethnographic research. With today’s near-blind faith in the predictive power of Big Data, it’s time to take a lesson from the Ancient Greeks. Wang explores how “Thick Data” gathered through qualitative methods can enrich and complicate quant for a three-dimensional approach to data, with real-world lessons from Nokia and Netflix.
With more than 15 years’ experience working with designers, engineers, and scientists, Tricia Wang has a particular interest in designing human-centered systems. Tricia advises organizations on integrating big data and what she calls “thick data”—data brought to light using digital-age ethnographic research methods that uncover emotions, stories, and meaning—to improve strategy, policy, products, and services. Organizations she has worked with include P&G, Nokia, GE, Kickstarter, the United Nations, and NASA. Tricia recently finished an expert-in-residency at IDEO, where she extended and amplified IDEO’s impact in design research. When not working with organizations, she spends the other half of her life researching online anonymity and the bias towards the quantifiable. Recognized as a leading authority on applied research, human-centered design, social media, and Chinese Internet culture, Tricia’s work and points of view have been featured in Slate, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, Fast Company, Makeshift, and Wired. A sought-after speaker, she has given talks at conferences such as Lift, Strata, IxDA, Webstock, and South by Southwest. She has also spoken at Wrigley, P&G, Nike, 21st Century Fox, Tumblr, and various investment firms.
Tricia began her career as a documentary filmmaker, an HIV/AIDS activist, a hip-hop education advocate, and a technology educator in low-income communities. She has worked across four continents; her life philosophy is that you have to go to the edge to discover what’s really happening. She’s the proud companion of dog #ellethedog. She also oversees Ethnography Matters, a site that publishes articles about applied ethnography and technology to a public audience. Tricia has a BA in communication and PhD in sociology from UC San Diego. She holds affiliate positions at Data and Society, Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, and New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP). She is also a Fulbright Fellow and National Science Foundation Fellow, where she is the first Western scholar to work with the China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) in Beijing, China.
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