Design Rituals and Performative Ethnography



This paper proposes a course for ethnography in design that problematizes the implied authenticity of “people out there,” and rather favors a performative worldview where people, things and business opportunities are continuously and reciprocally in the making, and where anthropological analysis is only one competence among others relevant for understanding how this making unfolds. In contrast to perpetuating the “real people” discourse that often masks the analytic work of the anthropologist relegating the role of the ethnographer to that of data collector (Nafus and Anderson 2006), this paper advocates a performative ethnography that relocates the inescapable creative aspects of analysis from the anthropologist's solitary working office into a collaborative project space. The authors have explored the use of video clips, descriptions and quotes detached from their “real” context, not to claim how it really is out there, but to subject them to a range of diverse competencies, each with different interests in making sense of them. Hereby the realness of the ethnographic fragments lie as much in their ability to prompt meaningful re-interpretations here-and-now as in how precisely they correspond to the imagined real world out there-and-then. We propose that it is precisely the investment of one self and one's own desires and agendas that lifts an ethnographic field inquiry out of its everydayness and into something of value to further-reaching processes of change and development of attractive alternatives.