Researchers at EPIC face something of a trap. Situated in an ethos of twenty first century consumer capitalism, our professional duties overemphasise individual consumers, and the products of our research always diverge towards our respective corporations' interests. As a result we have little basis for collective enterprise as a discipline. However, if we remember that human beings are always part of naturally occurring social systems (communities, work organizations, etc.) we might find we have more to say, both to our corporations and among ourselves. When we shift our perspective this way we find our work is as much about catalyzing human social systems as it is about understanding “the consumer.” This paper uses three examples from my own experience at Intel to explain, and highlights some implications of this shift: we must adopt multiple levels of analysis, attend to the fact that structures emerge from human interaction, and account for divergent interests, needs and abilities as these networks form.
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