Embed: Mapping the Future of Work and Play: A case for “Embedding” Non-Ethnographers in the Field



This paper reflects on an experiment to combine an “ethnographic walking tour” with futures and foresight methods, as a means of enhancing and validating foresight exercises through the addition of valuable firsthand observation. The project, entitled Embed, was created to familiarize senior strategists, product developers, foresight specialists and marketers with the potential of ethnographic research to inform decision making. We introduce the concept of “embedding” to describe the process of placing non-ethnographers into fieldwork situations. We then reflect on the opportunities and limitations of creating spaces for embedding non-experts in such settings. In the recommendations, we summarize the experience from a practical as well as theoretical perspective. The paper raises two questions related to the spatialization of commercial ethnographic knowledge; first, the value of using “embedding” to extend the territory of ethnography to a wider audience. Second, what this experience reveals about the conditions under which commercial ethnographic knowledge is produced.