Session 2: Facing complexity

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Abstract

The second session addresses highly complex issues, from transforming energy consumers into producers of electricity, to modifying the nature of pharmaceutical trials. Ethnographers not only face change in social organisations, but in how to do research.

All the papers in this session report studies address highly complex issues, from transforming energy consumers into producers of electricity, to modifying the nature of pharmaceutical trials. The complexity that ethnographers face is not just in the elaborate social organisations they have to immerse themselves, which has always been a characteristic of ethnography, it is in the task that the research is to accomplish. All the projects aim towards a massive transformation of practices which have in common a significant increase in users’ participation and responsibility: in the relation to utilities and sustainable living, in the role patients and doctors play in health care. It is as though organisations at all levels have now assimilated the participatory philosophy of the WWW and are designing services that distribute part of their work and power onto their users. In this context the ethnographic practitioner stops being an investigator of hidden needs and expectations, but is asked to reveal the agents of change, the triggers of transformation. Yet another challenge for the profession

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