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Future Frictions in Innovation & Reconfiguring Work in the Age of AI Panels

October 22, 2023
1:00-4:00pm CST
Hermann Hall
3241 South Federal Street
Chicago, IL 60616
Join EPIC at the Institute of Design for panels on Future Frictions in Innovation and Reconfiguring Work in the Age of AI

Join us for two panels of the EPIC conference hosted by the Institute of Design. EPIC is the premiere international conference on ethnography in business in organizations, and for these panels, we bring experts together for spirited and thought-provoking discussion we hope to open up to the ID and Chicago community.

1 - 2:15 PM Future Frictions: Social Complexity in the ‘Blue Skies’ of Innovation

2:15 - 2:45 PM Coffee break

2:45 - 4:00 PM Reconfiguring Work in the Age of AI

For more on EPIC and to sign up for the conference in Chicago (October 22-25th hosted by the Institute of Design at IIT):

Panels and panelists:

Future Frictions: Social Complexity in the ‘Blue Skies’ of Innovation

Innovation is often conceptualized as taking place in ‘open space’, as though the work starts from a tabula rasa in a terra nullius. Design and innovation processes that focus on gaps, unmet needs, and new or unserved markets as opportunity spaces generally assume that a product or service will be simply additive. In contrast, in this session we emphasize the focus of innovation as complex social worlds, present and future, and the nature of innovation as social change. Drawing on their expertise across a range of experience–from mobile networking, encryption and DIY biology, to developing countries and urban infrastructures–the panelists have grappled with how notions of past, present and future are cast onto spaces of innovation often without fully accounting for the peopled nature of those spaces. Through examples, the panelists will consider and debate how the frictions of context and lived experience serve as productive forces and as resources for innovation and design.

Marta Cuciurean-Zapan / Panel Chair is co-chair of the EPIC 2023 conference. She is a design researcher and Senior Director based in IDEO’s Chicago studio. As a co-lead of Research and Insights at IDEO in North America, she is focused on building innovative research approaches, futures perspectives, and the intersection of content, belonging, and culture in teamwork. Marta also teaches human centered research and design at DePaul University. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology from Temple University and a BA in Anthropology and Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University.

Lydia Timlin-Broussard / Panelist is Lead Strategic Designer at BCG X, the tech build and design unit of BCG, where they leverage their expertise in design ethnography, product innovation, and market-fit discovery to help organizations enable innovation at scale. Lydia thrives on challenging the status quo and uncovering new possibilities for customers and businesses, using a mix of creative, strategic, operational, and analytical lenses. Recent projects include in-house variants of the world's first geek and gamer subscription box and the world's first design manifesto on death and dying.

Meghan McGrath / Panelist is the Future Demands Lead for IBM Infrastructure. She led the design and ethnography work on IBM Pervasive Encryption, which work has been featured in Fast Company and in a HBS case study. She represented IBM at the 3Ai Institute from 2019-2020.

Michael Scroggins / Panelist is a lecturer at UCLA's Institute for Society and Genetics. He is currently writing a book about how Do-It-Yourself biology illustrates the multiple frictions facing would-be disruptive innovators.

Nora Morales / Panelist is a research professor at the Department of Design Theory and Processes at UAM University in Mexico City. Her research interests center in participatory processes and visual language, and considerations of how the future is used in the present in urban environments, questioning the role of cities in the Global South. She has been an active “scriber” at EPIC conferences since 2010. Nora holds a master’s degree in Information Design at UDLA Puebla and a PhD in social sciences from UAM University. She also collaborated with Insitum Consultancy.


Reconfiguring Work in the Age of AI

What is the nature of expertise and work? How are they redefined, practiced, and personified as waves of technological and social change move in and out over time? This panel will take the long view of expertise and labor in innovation, UX, and applied social science in order to understand and respond to the current moment of tech labor contraction and new generation of artificial intelligence tools. Attendees will come away with a greater depth of understanding of how to navigate and present expertise, via a historical versus reactive view of the current moment on reconfigurations of work.

Melissa Cefkin / Panel Chair is social and behavioral researcher and consultant who has played many roles at EPIC, and has had a long career as an anthropologist in industry, including having worked at Waymo, Nissan-Renault, IBM, Sapient and the Institute for Research on Learning. She specializes in people's interactions with autonomous systems on the roads and at work, organizational practices and labor, and on enriching opportunities for the bridge between advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences and work beyond the academy.

Lee Cesafksy / Panelist is a UX Researcher who specializes in AI and advanced technologies in complex contexts. They have held FTE roles at Renault-Nissan, Lyft and Waymo, on topics including: Autonomous Vehicle social acceptance, human-in-the-loop work systems, driver navigation, and developer tools and productivity. They are currently in a contingent role at Meta (via Magnit), where they are working on AR/VR applications and the next generation of computing experience.

Nathan Ensmenger / Panelist is an associate professor in the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering at Indiana University. His research focuses on the social and cultural history of software and software workers, the history of artificial intelligence, and questions of gender and identity in computer programming. His 2010 book The Computer Boys Take Over: Computers, Programmers, and the Politics of Technical Expertise, explored the rise to power of the "computer expert" in American corporate, economic, and political life. He is one of the co-authors of the most recent edition of the popular Computer: A history of the Information Machine. He is currently working on a book exploring the global environmental history of the electronic digital computer.

Ilana Gershon / Panelist is a professor of anthropology at Rice who has been interested in how people experience the newness of new media ever since she studied how people use new media to break up with each other in 2007-2008. She has written about transformations to hiring and the ways that workplaces function as sites of private government. She reliably finds herself criticizing neoliberalism and its historically specific effects on people's work lives.

Shakima Jackson-Martinez / Panelist is the Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at AnswerLab, where she leads the DE&I and talent acquisition functions. She is an advocate who specializes in foundational DE&I practices, inclusive talent acquisition, and building organizational empathy through internal research. Shakima has over 15 years of corporate experience in Human Resources, Project Management, Strategy, and Operations. She is extremely passionate about using research to foster a deeper understanding of company culture and organizational needs while also creating spaces where people feel a true sense of belonging. Shakima is a member of the EPIC Equity Council and presented The Myth of the Pipeline Problem: Creating a Diverse and Thriving Team at EPIC2022.