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date: 28 February 2021

Design Anthropologyfree

  • Christine MillerChristine MillerIllinois Institute of Technology


Design anthropology and the factors that converged to facilitate its emergence are examined. Design anthropology has been alternately described as a “fast-developing academic field” and “distinct style of knowing” (Otto and Smith), “an emerging transdisciplinary field” (Miller), and “as a distinct subfield of interdisciplinary research” (Clark). These descriptions have in common an agreement that design anthropology is a distinct form of knowledge production that integrates design and anthropological practice and theory that is supported by a growing network of proponents, both academic and practitioner. Design anthropology’s origins have been traced to several factors: the emergence of the participatory design movement in Scandinavia toward the end of the 1990s, the introduction of ethnography in design in the late 1970s, and the earlier influence of the work of designer and educator Victor Papanek in the early 1960s. In the United States, it is often categorized as a subdiscipline of business anthropology. Within Europe and Scandinavia, it is accepted as a field in its own right with a “distinct style and practice of knowledge production.” In spite of these differences and amidst the creative tension resulting from the convergence of anthropological and design methods, concepts, theory, and practice, design anthropology has emerged as a new form of naturalistic inquiry that is based on rigorous empirical research and critical inquiry, a transdisciplinary field that is intentionally interventionist, participatory, and transformative.

Design anthropology reflects shifting attitudes and changing modes of engagement in its parent fields. Within anthropology, the concept of an interventionist, transformative, and future-oriented practice runs counter to deeply embedded attitudes around passive observation research and ethics. Likewise, in design where craft, “doing,” and “making” have dominated, there is a renewed surge of interest in more scholarly-based design research, emphasizing empirical research and a designerly version of theoretical reflection. Theory in design has traditionally been related to various aspects of form. Design theory is also “made through” design. Johan Redström refers to this form of theory as “transitional theory,” “a kind of design theory that is inherently unstable, fluid, and dynamic in nature.” This conceptualization of theory is similar to the grounded theory approach in the social sciences in which theory emerges from original data and is developed from the ground up.

Beginning with a summary of the conditions and forces that engendered the emergence of design anthropology, the field is described as evolving in ways that are provoking change in traditional forms of design and anthropology. Beyond the influence on its parent disciplines, design anthropology represents an evolving trajectory of emerging fields that open to the possibility of imagining, designing, and co-creating sustainable futures based on social justice and virtuous cycles of growth.

Origins of an Emerging Field

The relationship between design and anthropology is multifaceted. For anthropologists, interest in design spans a variety of professional and academic perspectives. A 2018 seminar hosted by the School for Advanced Research (SAR) explored the “design-and-anthropology relationship” under three different configurations (Murphy 2016):

The intended goal of the seminar was to examine in depth the rich relationship and mutual influence between anthropology and design by assembling a group of scholars whose work critically engages one or more of the following configurations: anthropology for design, in which anthropological methods and concepts are mobilized in the design process; anthropology of design, in which design is positioned as an object of ethnographic inquiry; and design for anthropology, in which anthropologists borrow concepts and methods from design to enhance traditional ethnographic forms.

(Murphy 2016; School for Advanced Research 2018)

Anthropologists and designers have engaged in individual projects at various levels of collaboration for several decades. Murphy and Marcus (2013) note that the nature of these partnerships was often interdisciplinary, with the goal of enhancing the design of “things” or making incremental improvements or upgrades to what was already there. “Not until very recently, however, has there been much of an attempt to formalize this relationship as a cohesive field of its own, with a common body of knowledge, methods, and research assumptions shared by a like-minded community of practitioners” (Murphy and Marcus 2013, 251).

Interest in the social dimension—in humans and users of designed products—was initially expressed by individual designers. Clarke (2018) notes that in the early 1960s, designer and educator Victor Papanek challenged the prevailing paradigm of “professional” design with the development of a low-tech radio receiver for “underdeveloped” countries. An advocate of social and ecologically responsible design, Papanek based the design of the tin can radio on ethnographic observation of indigenous Indonesian cultures. The device received UNESCO sanction as “a user-based project fostering participatory and appropriate technology approaches.” According to Clarke (2018), “In the broadest sense, the object foretold of a potential future in which design and anthropology co-joined in addressing cross-cultural issues of social inequality, rather than a burgeoning consumer culture, bolstering informal and alternative economies of product design” (xv–xvi).

During the same time period, anthropology was undergoing a fundamental shift that challenged existing forms of anthropological knowledge production which focused on the exotic, described by Paul Rabinow as the “faraway other” (Rabinow et al. 2008). Parallel to developments in social theory prior to and after World War II and the transition from modernity to the postmodern period, anthropologists documented the demise of colonialism and identified the fault lines in Western dominance through ethnographies based on fieldwork from research sites not only far away, but also “at home.”1 Eventually, and often painfully, this shift moved the anthropological gaze to focus on the dimensions of contemporary life, and in turn embraced the mantra “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange.” New methods and forms of applied practice were developed to study changing contexts, for example, the relocation of anthropology in business and organizations. No longer working as individual researchers who left the project after reporting their findings, anthropologists joined multiple disciplinary teams of engineers, designers, marketers, and other social scientists to work collectively on a common project. The role of anthropologists on these teams also changed from being strictly observers and interpreters of social phenomena to active participants in developing “solutions,” intentionally intervening to transform conditions. Along with other factors, including the dearth of academic positions compared to growing opportunities for young anthropologists in applied fields, the groundwork was laid for a new form of anthropological practice that was future-oriented, embracing intervention and transformative co-creation, while remaining true to critical analysis, problematizing, and theorizing.

Differences in Approach: The Loci of Development

Design anthropological theory and practice has emerged through networks of practitioner-scholars primarily in two parts of the world: the United States and Europe, especially in Scandinavian countries. Although the work is identified as “design anthropology” in both the United States and Europe, there are characteristic differences, for example, in the nature of collaboration between anthropologists and designers, the sources of funding and support, and the location and scale of projects. Christina Wasson (2000) and others have noted that the intersection of design and anthropology in the United States was located in contexts where business anthropologists had been engaged for decades in marketing and organizational research. In Scandinavian countries, design anthropology was rooted in the participatory design movement that emerged toward the end of the 1990s at a time when government and business partnered with designers to tackle a myriad of problems resulting from deindustrialization. Innovation and future-making are embedded in design anthropology practice and theory in both US and European contexts, but with differences in where benefits and value are accrued. Ehn et al. (2014) cite current managerial ideology that embraces the notion of the crowd as the source of innovation, “with strong rhetoric of accessibility and participation as keys to ‘democratizing innovation’.”2 However, Ehn et al. (2014) make a distinct difference in their approach:

We share the ideal of democratizing innovation, but we do so beyond the liberal ideal of the “free individual that can become anything he wants,” thus acknowledging that questions of democracy also are power struggles about distribution of resources and rights in which the voices and values of more peripheral but important groups may remain unheard and may not be taken into account. (3)

Critical anthropology and critiques of design and design-led innovation fall within the “anthropology of design,” one of the three configurations of design anthropology. Examples include Lucy Suchman’s (2011) classic article, “Anthropological Relocations and the Limits of Design” and Elizabeth Tunstall’s (2013) chapter, “Decolonizing Design Innovation” in Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice.

Design anthropology took shape in the United States in the late 1970s when ethnography, anthropology’s signature methodology, was introduced in design. During this period, design practitioners became interested in methods to gain insight into the everyday lives of consumers, how they solved the mundane problems posed by daily life, and the ways in which they interacted with various products. Anthropologist Christina Wasson refers to this as “the transmission of particular research traditions” (p. 377) to the field of design. Although anthropologists were already engaged in business and organizational contexts, Wasson suggested that designers’ encounter with ethnography was an “extension of applied anthropology to a new domain” (p. 377).

Despite these differences, there is significant overlap between networks of US and European-based scholars and practitioners (Miller 2018).3 Conferences such as EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) and the Participatory Design Conference (see “Links to Digital Resources”) and edited books (notably many of those referenced in this article) provide venues for the exchange and diffusion of concepts, methods, and theory. It is unlikely that the differences in the characteristics of design anthropology in the United States and Europe will disappear; however, it is possible to identify broad indicators that help to distinguish design anthropology from other forms of practice and knowledge production.

Operationalizing Design Anthropology

What are the indicators of design anthropological practice? How do we know it when we see it? Is design anthropology a “distinct style of knowing” even though there is no uniform methodology? Technically, design anthropology is a long way off from meeting the criteria required for recognition as a discipline (see Miller 2018, 76–78). However, as indicated in table 1, key indicators show that it is an emerging field. Scholar-practitioners note that the nascency of the field and the uneven development of skill leave its future trajectory uncertain (Bezaitis and Robinson 2018). In spite of the uncertainty, a set of principles found in the work of those who identify as design anthropologists is taking shape. While open to revision, these principles form a pattern across a broad range of projects and contexts.

Table 1. An Emerging Set of Principles Common to Design Anthropological Work

Transformative; future orientation

The explicit goal of the event engagement is to change or transform the current state of a phenomenon or system. Rather than “future-making,” design anthropologists think in terms of “future-in-the-making.”


This approach studies phenomena as embedded in whole systems rather than isolated events. Attention is given to the spatial and temporal dimensions of human activity.


The aim in working with multiple stakeholders is to achieve a shared vision and to generate solutions to a common problem.


A commitment to the unity of knowledge that complements disciplinary approaches and facilitates the emergence of new data and new interactions between disciplines, transdisciplinarity seeks to create common ground among disciplines as to what they share and the openness as to what lies beyond them (Nicolescu 1994).


A worldview that perceives people, things, and opportunities as continuously and reciprocally in the making (Halse and Clark 2008). Functioning as both a metaphor and an analytical tool, performance is “a bodily practice that produces meaning” and highlights interactions between social actors, or between a social actor (or collective action) and the immediate environment.

Emergent potentiality

The approach takes into account the continuous unfolding of possibilities and the implications for change on social, political, financial, economic, and other dimensions for a broad range of stakeholders and for the planet.


The approach implements an iterative design process that includes stages of preparation and planning, exploration, identification of opportunities, ideation, prototyping, testing, and validation. Iteration in this sense implies a willingness to rethink and revise and to test assumptions throughout the process.


The core team engages in a process of rigorous critique at each stage of the project to identify and evaluate intended and unintended consequences.

Note. From Miller (2018, 64).

A growing body of work—edited collections, case studies, conference proceedings, curricula, and lectures—provides an opportunity to evaluate and revise these proposed principles, which are illustrated in the project described in the following section.

How It Works: Design Anthropology in Practice

Design anthropology emerged at the confluence of two disciplines in the midst of transition: anthropology in its shift away from the traditional positioning as an observational and interpretive study of social phenomena in the “now” (observing and interpreting “what is”) and design’s shift away from “the object” as form in relative isolation from its position in an actor network. As noted in “Operationalizing Design Anthropology,” the future of design anthropology is uncertain; the field as it exists is far from being fully defined. However, to illustrate how this confluence plays out in practice, design anthropologist Mette Gislev Kjaersgaard describes her nearly year-long involvement “as a researcher for as well as a researcher of” the Body Games project (2013, 51–53), where she worked in tandem with designers to draw on elements from both fields. Kjaesgaard notes that design anthropologists integrate methods, concepts, and theory from anthropological field observation with the interplay of extant and emergent theory (“knowledge pieces”) to challenge established perspectives and reframe the phenomena of interest, in this case, children’s play. Informed by “various forms of knowledge and field material,” design principles were developed to guide the collective work of identifying design concepts.4 Alluding to the transition from interdisciplinary (design + anthropology) to transdisciplinary (design anthropology) practice, Kjaersgaard (2013) describes the culminating workshop as “(trans)forming” knowledge and design concepts:

As a kind of montage this design workshop juxtaposes incoherent research material, perspectives, and knowledge traditions within a dynamic composition, where design possibilities are not disclosed through a piecemeal gathering of facts about the world, but emerge in the friction between various more or less tangible and fragmented images of it. (51)

This blending and weaving of design and anthropological knowledge and practice not only suggests that design anthropology is more than an interdisciplinary collaboration, but is instead a unique transdisciplinary field, but also, because of the element of dynamic interplay, makes each project unique.5 Kjaersgaard (2013) states that shifting the perception of design as a form of montage means “recognizing that understanding the field (of use) as a collective endeavor that happens throughout the project, not simply the work of the anthropologist prior to it.” The anthropological contribution, she argues,

therefore depends less on an accurate representation of the world on the basis of research conducted prior to design and more on the continuous involvement with and reframing of practices (in the field as well as in the design studio) through the design process in the attempt to stimulate discussions about assumptions and frameworks that were taken for granted within the design team. (65)

Kjaersgaard’s description underscores design anthropologists’ claims as to its transdisciplinary nature as compared to other forms of collaborative engagement while simultaneously highlighting shifts within both fields in attempting to reach a new integrated perspective. As noted (see “Origins of an Emerging Field”), this implies a particular quality of teamwork and willingness among actors to transcend their own disciplinary boundaries (fig. 1):

In the case of transdisciplinarity, the requirement for negotiation is very high: all members must be willing to subordinate their individual disciplinary perspectives to achieve a common vision that encompasses the dimensions and dynamics of an entire system.

(Miller 2016, 39)

Figure 1. Types of pluridisciplinary teams: additive, integrative, and holistic.

Adapted from Choi and Pak (2006). Visualization created by Miller (2016, 39).

Tensions at the Intersection of Design and Anthropology

The description of design anthropology as a “confluence” between two distinct knowledge traditions calls up images of the murky turbulence at the intersection where two rivers converge, as depicted in fig. 2. This is a useful metaphor for the encounter between design and anthropology. The tensions arising from the encounters between the two fields have emerged in venues such as the EPIC Conference (Madsbjberg 2014).6 Some practitioner-scholars have warned against developing too close a relationship between design and anthropology.7

Figure 2. Confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda Rivers to produce the Ganges at Devprayag, India.

Photograph by Mark A. Wilson (Department of Geology, The College of Wooster).

A critical area of tension between design and the human and social sciences results from the model of early modernist design education as it was envisioned by Walter Gropius and came to fruition at the Bauhaus. Gropius emphasized the craft and art aspects of design and intuition over historical and theoretical studies, which left design in the position of being undertheorized. Although the Bauhaus existed for only fourteen years, its curriculum continued to dominate design education into the 21st century. At the Illinois Tech’s Institute of Design, efforts by László Moholy-Nagy’s New Bauhaus movement to incorporate theory that would be useful to designers were joined by those of professors from the Ulm School of Design in Germany to focus on theory that impacts the design process, including technology, social policy, and culture.8 The tension within design education regarding the proper balance between attention to craft, incorporation of theory, and consideration of political, economic, and sociocultural forces persists. Margolin (1991) argues that “the social implications of particular strategies of design education are mostly left unspoken in design schools where designers are implicitly prepared to serve the system rather than act upon it with their own projects” (52). As has been noted, the emphasis on craft, “doing” and “making” within the confines of the design studio, has shifted since the 1970s from an object-centric focus to a human-centered focus that acknowledges the impact of context and social, cultural, political, economic, and environmental forces on all stages of the design process. The shift to human-centered design (HCD) and subsequent focus on context increased the probability for collaboration with anthropologists and other social and human scientists. Some organizations, IDEO and E-lab, for example, intentionally organized teams to incorporate multiple disciplines with the aim of capitalizing on cross-fertilization between designers, social scientists, and technologists. In the domain of practice, intentional experiments in multiple disciplinary collaboration paralleled scholarly exploration in dissertations, theses, and academic programs. These projects and offerings did much to facilitate shared practices, language, and understanding.

Hunt (2018) notes that demand within design consultancies to hire cultural anthropologists was driven by the shift in design and business to incorporate methods of “user-centered” design, “a practice that foregrounds the needs and wants of the end-user as central to the development of new products and services” (87). At the same time, methods including design ethnography, co-design, participatory design, and design probes were used as tools to support the importance of social observation and “local knowledge.”

Like the confluence of two rivers, the “unproblematized incorporation” of ethnographic methods in design created a murky turbulence that left both designers and anthropologists uncomfortable and distrustful. Hunt (2018) suggests that the tensions between design and anthropology stem from the fact that the two fields represent “dramatically different orientations toward change and time” (88). The rigor and painstaking attention to detail and ethical concerns that are important to anthropologists was incompatible with the time constraints imposed by the commercial design process. Although constrained by the specifications of client design briefs, designers were unrestrained in bringing about change with little if any forethought to potential consequences or disruptions to everyday social life. Anthropologists, however, were alarmed by designers’ lack of concern about ethical issues related to human subjects and disregard for the short- and long-term unintended consequences of changes imposed by the unrelenting pace of new products and services. Despite some squeamishness, many designers embraced the parlance and mentality of the commercial innovation paradigm, riding the wave of design thinking’s embrace within the corporate domains where they were sought after. Other designers sought a different path. Integrating design and social theory, Arturo Escobar (2018) introduced “autonomous design,” a new vision of design theory and practice aimed at channeling design's world-making capacity toward ways of being and doing that are deeply attuned to justice and the Earth. Noting that most design—from consumer goods and digital technologies to built environments—currently serves capitalist ends, Escobar argues for the development of an “autonomous design” that eschews commercial and modernizing aims in favor of more collaborative and placed-based approaches.

Writing “for designers,” Scott Boylston (2019) addressed the constraints on “the characteristics of the design mind that make it a unique perspective,” which he identifies as a set of traits that include empathy, connecting multiple perspectives, tolerance for ambiguity, and creative and aesthetic expertise:

Yet, of all of these, only two—creativity and aesthetic expertise—are truly comprehensive as we commonly practice today, in that our opportunity to apply them is bound only by our ability to articulate their value. The rest of the characteristics, while seeming to be equally boundless are, in fact, restricted by parameters more rigidly set by single-minded clients: Empathetic to whose needs? Connecting the perspectives of how broad a group of people? A tolerance of ambiguity set within how broad a spectrum? Each of these characteristics allude to skills that are seemingly limitless, yet they’re constrained by the design brief so absolutely that it prevents them from manifesting their full potentials. (11)

Anthropologists, however, must contend with the constraints of their discipline, specifically those imposed by the strict ethical code of the discipline and the legacy of passive observation and interpretation of “what is” and admonitions against taking a role as a change agent beyond analyzing, documenting, and theorizing.

Resolving Inherent Tensions in an Emerging (Transdisciplinary) Field

Given these constraints, how may tensions be resolved to allow a new field to emerge even as the way forward is contested? Transdisciplinary designer James Hunt (2018) argues that the large-scale, complex problems that threaten life on our planet require that “we can no longer be content with anthropology’s ‘hands-off’ sensibility and design’s ‘more is more’ mentality” (87). In spite of the challenges, Hunt insists that the emergence of a transdisciplinary field of “critical design anthropology” is urgently needed. However, designer Scott Boylston (2019) notes that “Many say the barriers we [designers] still have to transcend exist within our ability to authentically incorporate other disciplines such as anthropology and nanotechnology” (11). He argues that designers look inward before looking outward: “It requires that we tap into the intrinsic characteristics of the design mind, and transcend the boundaries that our infatuation with commerce has set for our discipline” (11). Bolyston proposes “social innovation” as the path forward.

In contrast to Boylston’s call for designers to look inward, new areas of focus such as Transition Design offer an opportunity to transcend the constraints that hinder deeper collaboration between design, anthropology, and other social sciences.9 Designer Terry Irwin (2015) outlines a continuum of design approaches, from the mature discipline of Design for Service, the developing discipline of Design for Social Innovation, and the emergent discipline of Transition Design, which challenges existing paradigms, envisions new ones, and leads to radical, positive social and environmental change (231). Transition Design acknowledges the need for “societal transitions” (i.e., systems-level change) to achieve just and sustainable futures. The 2019 Transition Design Seminar hosted by Carnegie Mellon University envisions a design based on “new knowledge and skill sets”:

The idea of and need for transition is central to a variety of current discourses concerned with how change manifests and how it can be initiated and directed (in ecosystems, organizations, communities/societies, economies and even individuals). These approaches inspired the term “Transition Design,” a new area of design focus that is informed by knowledge outside design such as science, philosophy, psychology, social science, anthropology and the humanities in order to gain a deeper understanding of how to design for change/transition in complex systems.10

Initiatives to integrate other disciplines into the design curriculum formalizes the recognition by practitioners that single disciplinary perspectives are inadequate for addressing the complexity of issues we face at local and global levels. Realizing the opportunities afforded by Transition Design and similar initiatives will require participating actors willing to tread the contentious transdisciplinary path. The increasing urgency around the need to act is compelling a willingness that did not exist previously.

Will design anthropology emerge as a distinct field, as it seems to be doing in Scandinavia, or will anthropology and design continue a tentative, informal relationship, appropriating methods and concept when it seems expedient to do so without attempting to forge a deeper bond? Should design return to its roots for a period of soul searching (recall anthropology’s extended period of working through its ties to colonialism), recalibrating, and reinventing? Or should individuals drawn together through “elective affinities” push forward within collaborative networks to transform their disciplines through formalizing relationships with other disciplines?11 Realistically, both of these trajectories—and probably others—will persist. It is likely that both scenarios will occur.

Experiments in Pluridisciplinarity

The obstacles to pluridisciplinarity are significant.12 Collaboration at deeper levels is hindered by the lack of shared language and common practices. Organizational scholars Kozlowski and Klein (2000) note that “the roots of the multilevel perspective are spread across different disciplines and literatures, obscured by the barriers of jargon, and confused by competing theoretical frameworks and analytic systems” (3). The process of commingling and integrating anthropological and designerly professional and academic perspectives and approaches was compelled by the frustration with the limitations of single disciplinary viewpoints. It was enabled by a willingness to engage in collaboration, experimentation, and often heated debate around the tensions inherent in pluridisciplinary work. In the United States, the formation of E-Lab by Rick Robinson, John Cain, and Mary Beth McCarthy “with the explicit goal of delivering research that could be a basis for design” provided the opportunity to work closely with clients to give them ways to “communicate internally” about (and win support for) projects with colleagues, superiors, and funders.13 A key milestone for E-Lab in demonstrating how research was able to inform design came through the development of the “framework,” described as “useful representations of how experience is framed for the user.” Frameworks, later known as “experience models,” provided a form of specific analytic organization that linked data to key questions. Frameworks were not static; instead, they evolved through the dynamic interplay of competing ideas: “How those analytic organizations took their various and particular shapes was a function of the collaborations and multidisciplinary perspectives that sustained the work right across the range of projects” (Kozlowski and Klein 2000, 57). A new form of practice merging social science and design required developing shared concepts, language, tools, and culture. Within pluridisciplinary teams, this tends to be messy work. As a small company, the collaborative and experimental ethos of E-Lab provided a space to incubate and test new ideas and approaches. Would this experimental form of practice, as yet undefined, translate in a meaningful way to large corporations? As a matter of fact, it did. Multiple accounts in the business and popular press featured new methods and the remarkably odd appearance of these unusual blended teams: designers, anthropologists, and other assorted disciplines. Something was working—far from perfectly—but the results were intriguing.14

“Migrations” and Relocations

Bezaitis and Robinson (2018) provide one of the more interesting accounts of the emergence of design anthropology. Drawing on their personal experience, they resist the impulse to label and “craft a singular identity” for what has become known as design anthropology. They describe how over the past twenty years, “the practices and values of the human sciences has added richness to a range of shared vocabularies and created, rather than simply altered, ways of working” (55). Referring to themselves and others who have been drawn to “the work” as immigrants, they begin by noting that neither of them is an anthropologist or a designer, explaining that “like most immigrants, our experience, as well as our expectations and outlook on the future, are blendedly influenced by both our originating contexts and our somewhat different understandings of the workings of the contexts we now find ourselves in” (53). They describe how the serendipitous paths that their careers took, beginning with formal education in the social sciences and humanities, included auspicious (though not random) encounters with companies and individuals from various social and human sciences, engineering, design, and business. In the migration in the early 2000s of individuals from design consultancies (e.g., Doblin) and start-ups such as E-Lab to large global organizations such as Intel, GfK, and IBM, “demonstrated expertise” simply provided the table stakes for entry (Bezaitis 2009). What really mattered was one’s ability to deliver “powerful explanatory research” on a continuous basis. A solid grounding in one’s home discipline was crucial to survival in large corporations because of what it allowed one to do: “Deep domain expertise rooted in disciplinary history and training is what allows a domain’s fundamental terms to evolve into something new” (Bezaitis and Robinson 2018, 62).

This “something new” launched design into the mainstream of business and provided a pathway for young anthropologists who increasingly sought careers outside the highly competitive academic domain. Within large organizations, the status of design compared to social science has not developed in an equal way, perhaps due to the training designers receive that allows them to communicate effectively across the organization through multimedia presentations and visualization. Although it is changing in some departments, for the most part young anthropologists are still trained in a tradition of reporting and presenting work that relies on individual projects, lengthy papers (frequently inaccessible to those outside the discipline), and text-heavy power point slides.15 Design has influenced anthropology by leading a shift away from text and toward more visual representations of information, as evidenced by gradual changes in presentation formats at conferences such as the American Anthropological Association (AAA), the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA), and certainly EPIC (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference).

Terms such as “user-centered design,” “user experience,” and “ethnography” are common in the business lexicon of the 21st century. Companies large and small have created a demand for the skill sets of applied human-centered research, which has resulted in the development of special academic degree and certification programs that signal further growth of the field.16 However, far from stabilizing, the landscape of the design-and-anthropology relationship continues to shift at a breathtaking, if not equal, pace.

What Comes Next

Bezaitis and Robinson (2018) identify two overarching organizing principles fundamental to redirecting the growth of the field: first, to acknowledge distinctions in kinds and levels of expertise, and second, to explicitly articulate the values of organizational entities, practice groups, and individuals. Where once it was a struggle to gain recognition, the increased demand for blended design and ethnographic research has engendered new challenges for the community of practitioner-scholars working at the design and anthropology intersection. Underpinning concerns about the commoditization of the work are issues of expertise (or lack thereof) and assimilation that have received much less attention and articulation. Consequently, “easy, oversimplified approaches will continue to evolve toward commodified toolkits and lose any critical differentiation they have from other market and consumer research approaches” (Bezaitis and Robinson 2018, 63). The idealistic tendencies of early pioneers in the field fall prey to the practical concerns of profitability.

Reflecting on the future direction of the design and anthropology encounter, Bezaitis and Robinson consider “what should happen next” now that the achievements of early experimental work and the successful migration to large-scale organizations has been established. Beyond what new methods can be developed to improve how the work may be done, they ask what ought to happen: “where a product or a techno-human ‘ecology’ should go, and the role the inquirers have in marking the way, becoming primary research objects in themselves” (Bezaitis and Robinson 2018, 67). Now that there is an identifiable body of knowledge, to what ends should this knowledge be used? Only after the value of the work has been demonstrated over a significant period of time (in this case, over twenty years) can questions about the values of individuals and the organizations that employ them come under question.

Future Trajectories

As the field of design anthropology matures, how may the values that motivate projects and frame the work, the values that individuals and organizations bring to the work, be moved to the center of attention? There is no guarantee (and is, in fact, unlikely) that the “deep humanism” common among human and social scientists and designers will find its way into the work they do as employees of large organizations or that humanism will influence the values of those organizations. Although user-centered (or human-centered) design (HCD) locates users or persons at the center of the design process, it is not intrinsically altruistic, driven by the desire to “do good.” Instead, it is explicitly aimed as serving organizational goals with “good” being an outcome related as much to the financial gain produced by the product or service as to any societal or individual benefit or improvement. Simply stating that values are important is meaningless unless values become integrated into everyday practice.

Conscious awareness of the values and assumptions that currently underpin the human-centric work funded by the commercial world is a first step but one that needs to be followed by action. Business anthropology, under which in the United States design anthropology is often categorized, has made significant strides to overcome anthropology’s traditional constraints on participating in transformative, interventionist, and future-making activities. However, anthropologists’ efforts appear somewhat lackluster in comparison to design where efforts to transition from awareness to action are reflected in the proliferation of new forms of design practice, including Design for Sustainability, Service Design, and Interaction Design, as well as emerging design subfields such as Transdisciplinary Design, Ontological Design, and Transition Design.

Scott Boylston’s call for designers to contribute to “virtuous cycles of growth” rather than vicious ones takes an optimistic tone, offering social innovation as a path forward. Referring to the characteristics of design mind—empathy, creative and aesthetic expertise, tolerance for ambiguity, and connecting multiple perspectives—he argues that

Social innovation offers designers a chance to expand out creative skills to their full potential. The virtuous cycle of growth in question here is simply this: human capacity. While technological innovation asks the question, what human capacities can be enhanced by improving technological capabilities? social innovation cuts directly to the point by asking, what human capacities can be enhanced by improving human capabilities?

(Boylston 2019, 12)

A single disciplinary proposal is unrealistic since it is not possible for either anthropology or design (or any discipline) on its own to bring the requisite skills and long-term investment in the acquisition of deep knowledge that is needed to forge a viable path forward. The experiments that are defining the possibility for a way (or ways) forward are many and messy, but they are also hopeful and inspiring.

Design for Anthropology

Of the three configurations within the “anthropology-and-design relationship” (School for Advanced Research 2018; see “Links to Digital Resources”), design for anthropology receives the least attention, but is one of the critical indicators of design anthropology’s growth as a field. In Rabinow et al. (2008), the authors discuss how to address challenges facing the discipline. George Marcus argues that in order to “reinvigorate” anthropology so that it is able to “thrive as a discipline,” it must meet the challenges of the present through pedagogy: teaching and education:

Rabinow and Marcus share a deep care for pedagogy and a sense that to reinvigorate anthropology—as a discipline and as a practice—one needs a pedagogy suited to the challenges anthropologists face today. The problem, though, is—or so they argue—that a pedagogy adequate to the present does not yet exist. It needs to be invented, and this is where their two different approaches become complementary.

(Rabinow et al. 2008, 10)

One approach they discuss seeks to solve the “complex issues of managing temporalities” in ethnographic fieldwork they consider the most pressing. The problem may be addressed by approaching pedagogy “in the form of the design studio” (88). The design studio would be open to anyone (85) and provide an alternative to the solitude of traditional fieldwork. Marcus notes that “the design studio is a way to develop alternative ideas about method in a more comprehensive way than traditional attitudes have permitted” (84). This acclimation to collective work and thinking is critical as anthropologists move beyond single-person projects to join multiple disciplinary teams.

Reinventing anthropological pedagogy is well underway with methods and practices borrowed from design introduced into many anthropology programs.17 Anthropological theory and methods are being applied in training non-anthropologists to conduct User Experience (UX) research and other forms of design.18 Design anthropology as a distinctly recognizable field may simply be a way station on the evolving anthropology-and-design relationship. However, as Brandon Meyer illustrates in his depiction of the quadrants of design anthropology (fig. 3), formal and informal pedagogical experimentation in academe and in practice is continuing.

Figure 3. Four quadrants of design anthropology.

Used with permission from Brandon Meyer, “Design Anthropology Group,” indigetal Research,

Beyond Human-Centered Design

The basis of human-centered design rests on the perception of “the human” as a single entity, a relatively isolated, discrete individual defined primarily as a consumer with the power to make choices “but whose agency and participation in communal modes of resistance and power to counter corporations and governments, has been weakened” (Forlano 2017). Efforts to make sense of radical social and cultural transformation emanating from technological and environmental changes have quickened the diffusion of social theories such as Social Network Analysis (Freeman 2004), Actor Network Theory (Latour 2005), and Systems Theory (Meadows and Wright 2008) that shift focus away from discrete individual actors to networks of actors, and include both humans and nonhumans. These theories are challenging not only assumptions and values, but also the viability and sustainability of the human-centered design paradigm. Interdisciplinary by nature, network theory and systems thinking highlight in stark detail previously unacknowledged connections, revealing the impact between humans, other species, and robotic and disembodied technological entities.

Technologies and Post-Humanism

No discipline is immune to the impacts of rapid technological innovation and environmental challenges that individuals, societies, and organizations are facing. Design and anthropology are not exceptions. Over time, practitioners in both disciplines have incorporated new technologies in all aspects of their work. Along with the use of apps for ethnographic research and global virtual workspaces, practitioners working at the intersection of design and anthropology have pioneered technology that has challenged traditional practices of in situ observation and fieldwork. Notable examples include the use of global positioning systems (GPS) in fieldwork, video ethnography by E-Lab (Posner 1996), and the integration of sensor-based technology (IoT) and data analytics by Iota Partners (LaBar 2012).

Beyond the actual integration of a range of technologies into design and anthropology practice, rapid deployment of artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and robotics as well as the changing nature of interactions between human and nonhuman actors are prompting designers to reconsider sustainability of the human-centered design (HCD) paradigm that has dominated the field since at least the mid-1980s. Responding to the consequences of accelerating technological and environmental change, a body of literature is emerging as a new paradigm that challenges long held notions in the West about distinctions between human and nonhuman, culture and nature, and human and animal (Haraway 2016). Generally referred to as posthumanism, it reflects developments in machine learning, the growing sophistication of automation, the rate at which emerging technologies are shaping and changing everyday life, changing attitudes toward other species, and the increasing disruption of human impact on the environment.19 Forlano notes that to date, much of this discussion has been scholarly; however, more frequently researchers are being tasked with projects that require they engage in systems which consider both humans and nonhuman concerns.20. She argues that “that engaging with concepts of the posthuman is the very beginning of just such a discussion in the field of design” (Forlano 2017, 18).

As designers are increasingly tasked with projects involving complex sociotechnical systems, they are treading ground that has been carefully mapped and documented by anthropologists for well over a century. The anthropological archive includes a myriad of classic and contemporary studies detailing the rise and fall of sociotechnical systems and the social and cultural change that has come in their wake as they emerge and decline.21 Maryann McCabe (2014) notes that the concepts of cultural change and agency have been “a perennial issue” within anthropology, but one that has received little attention in the early decades of the 21st century (2). Anthropology’s grounding in in situ research, decades of development in culture change theory, and a long-standing tradition of social critique make this an exciting (but no less challenging) area of collaboration at the intersection design and anthropology.

The accelerating rate of change in the 21st century, particularly the effects of anthropogenic climate change, has ignited an unprecedented urgency to address “the myriad of wicked problems confronting us in the twenty-first century and an increasing acknowledgment that they are interconnected and interdependent (World Watch Institute 2013; Capra and Luisi 2014)” (Irwin 2015).22 It is uncertain if and how the formalization of a relationship between anthropology and design will continue or whether the emergence of other experiments in pluridisciplinarity will overshadow design anthropology. In any case, we need the added dynamic of cross-fertilization among multiple disciplines coming together in projects to address the critical challenges (e.g., existential threats) of our day. Given the need for multiple disciplinary interventions, the opportunities for anthropologists who are able to collaborate across disciplinary boundaries are increasing. Although anthropologists have for decades worked in fields such as medicine and business, working in the field of design requires an explicitly transformative and interventionist approach to projects in for-profit and not-for-profit organizations. Many design anthropologists work on UX (User Experience) design teams to conduct “systematic investigations of users and their requirements, to add context and insight into the process of designing the user experience.”23 According to design anthropologist Wendy Gunn, Jiangsu University Jinshan Distinguished Professor, “Design anthropology practitioners work in many different areas of design including the designing of processes, products, services, strategy and policy. Design anthropology can be involved during the entire design process towards what could be described as practices of future making” (Gunn 2013).

In the present, design anthropology continues to evolve on multiple trajectories: as a distinct form of practice and knowledge production, developing theoretical frameworks and building on its claim of transdisciplinarity, as a mode of critical inquiry into the nature of design and design practice, and “as a way in which anthropologists borrow concepts and practices from design to enhance traditional ethnographic methods” (Murphy and Wilf 2019). The turbulent confluence of the “design-and-anthropology relationship” should not obscure the powerful, if not always neatly defined, work within the intersection of these two established fields.

Media Resources

Further Reading

  • Clarke, Alison J. ed. 2018. Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Corbin, Juliet, and Anselm Strauss. 2015. Basics of Qualitative Research: Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
  • Escobar, Arturo. 2018. Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Hartblay, Cassandra. 2017. “Good Ramps, Bad Ramps: Centralized Design Standards and Disability Access in Urban Russian Infrastructure.” American Ethnologist 40 (1): 9–22.
  • Irani, Lilly. 2019. Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Miller, Christine. 2018. Design + Anthropology: Converging Pathways in Anthropology and Design. New York: Taylor & Francis.
  • Morse, Janice, Phyllis N. Stern, Juliet Corbin, Barbara Bowers, Kathy Charmaz, and Adele E. Clarke, eds. 2009. Developing Grounded Theory: The Second Generation. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
  • Murphy, Keith M. 2015. Swedish Design: An Ethnography. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  • Otto, Ton, and Rachel C. Smith. 2013. “A Distinct Style of Knowing.” In Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice, edited by W. Gunn, T. Otto, and R. C. Smith, 1–29. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Pink, Sarah, Elisenda Ardévol, and Débora Lanzeni. 2016. “Digital Materiality.” In Digital Materialities: Design and Anthropology, edited by S. Pink, E. Ardévol, and D. Lanzeni, 1–26. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Redstrӧm, Johan. 2017. Making Design Theory. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Smith, Rachel Charlotte, Kasper Tang Vangkilde, Mette Gislev Kjaersgaard, Ton Otto, Joachim Halse, and Thomas Binder, eds. 2016. Design Anthropological Futures. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Suchman, Lucy. 2011. “Anthropological Relocations and the Limits of Design.” Annual Review of Anthropology 40 (2011): 1–18.
  • Willis, Anne-Marie. 2007. “Ontological Designing—Laying the Ground.” In Design Philosophical Paper Collection Three, edited by A.-M. Willis, 80–98. Ravensbourne, Australia: Team D/E/S.


  • Bezaitis, Maria. 2009. “Practice, Products, and the Future of Ethnographic Work.” In Proceedings of the 2009 Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, edited by Melissa Cefkin, 92–107. Washington, DC: American Anthropological Association.
  • Bezaitis, Maria, and Rick Robinson. 2018. “Valuable to Values: How ‘User Research’ Ought to Change.” In Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition, edited by Alison J. Clarke, 53–68. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Boylston, Scott. 2019. Designing with Society: A Capabilities Approach to Design, Systems Thinking and Social Innovation. New York: Routledge
  • Capra, Fritjof, and Pier Luigi Luisi. 2014. The systems view of life: A unifying vision. Cambridge University Press.
  • Choi, Bernard C. K., and Anita W. P. Pak. 2006. “Multidisciplinarity, Interdisciplinarity and Transdisciplinarity in Health Research, Services, Education and Policy: 1. Definitions, Objectives, and Evidence of Effectiveness.” Clinical & Investigative Medicine 29 (6): 351–364.
  • Clarke, Alison J. 2018. “Introduction.” In Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition, edited by Alison J. Clarke, xv–xxv. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Ehn, Pelle, Elisabet M. Nilsson, and Richard Topgaard, eds. 2014. Making Futures: Marginal Notes on Innovation, Design, and Democracy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Escobar, Arturo. 2018. Designs for the Pluriverse: Radical Interdependence, Autonomy, and the Making of Worlds. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Forlano, Laura. 2017. “Posthumanism and Design.” She Ji 1: 16–29.
  • Freeman, Clinton. 2004. The Development of Social Network Analysis: A Study in the Sociology of Science. Vancouver, BC: Empirical Press.
  • Gunn, Wendy. 2013. “Interaction Design Engineering Course Outline: Design Anthropology, Spring 2015. Knowing, Making and Enskilment.” Interaction Design Course Syllabus, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Halse, J., & Clark, B. (2008). “Design Rituals and Performative Ethnography.” Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings 2008 (1): 128–145.
  • Haraway, Donna. 2016. Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Hippel, Eric von. 2005. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Hunt, James. 2018. “Prototyping the Social: Temporality and Speculative Futures in the Intersection of Design and Culture.” In Design Anthropology: Object Cultures in Transition, edited by A. J. Clarke, 87–100. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Irwin, T. 2015. “Transition Design: A Proposal for a New Area of Design Practice, Study, and Research.” Design and Culture 7 (2): 229–246.
  • Kjaersgaard, Mette G. 2013. “(Trans)Forming Knowledge and Design Concepts in the Design Workshop.” In Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice, edited by W. Gunn, T. Otto, and R. C. Smith, 51–67. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Kozlowski, Steve W., and Katherine J. Klein. 2000. “A Multilevel Approach to Theory and Research in Organizations: Contextual, Temporal, and Emergent Processes.” In Multilevel Theory, Research, and Methods in Organizations: Foundations, Extensions, and New Directions, edited by K. J. Klein and S. J. Kozlowski, 3–90. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • LaBar, David. 2012. “SapientNitro Deepens Capabilities in Data and Analytics as Iota Partners Joins Company.” Business Wire, September 18.
  • Latour, Bruno. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor Network Theory. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Madsbjberg, Christian. 2014. “Happy Birthday, Now Grow Up.” New York: EPIC.
  • Margolin, Victor. 1991. “Design Studies and the Education of Designers.” Temes de disseny 6: 49–54.
  • McCabe, Maryann, ed. 2014. Collaborative Ethnography in Business Environments. New York: Routledge.
  • Meadows, Donella, and Diana Wright. 2008. Thinking in Systems: A Primer. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green.
  • Miller, Christine. 2016. “Towards Transdisciplinarity: Liminality and the Transitions Inherent in Pluridisciplinary Collaborative Work.” Journal of Business Anthropology 2: 35–57.
  • Miller, Christine. 2018. Design + Anthropology: Converging Pathways in Anthropology and Design. New York: Taylor & Francis. See, esp. 81–86 for a detailed discussion of the overlap of design anthropology scholars and practitioners in the United States and Europe.
  • Murphy, Kevin M. 2016. “Design and Anthropology.” Annual Review of Anthropology 45: 433–449.
  • Murphy, Kevin M., and George E. Marcus. 2013. “Epilogue: Ethnography and Design, Ethnography in Design . . . Ethnography by Design.” In Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice, edited by W. Gunn, T. Otto, and R. C. Smith, 251–268. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Murphy, K. M., and E. Wilf, eds. 2019. “Anthropology Designed.” Unpublished manuscript, School for Advanced Research (SAR), Santa Fe, NM.
  • Nicolescu, Basarab. 1994. “Charter of Transdisciplinarity.” Paper presented at the First World Conference on Transdisciplinarity, Convento de Arrabida, Portugal, November 1994.
  • Posner, Bruce G. 1996. “The Future of Marketing Is Looking at You.” Fast Company 5: 105.
  • Rabinow, Paul, George E. Marcus, James D. Faubion, and Tobias Rees. 2008. Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • School for Advanced Research. 2018. “Advanced Seminars: Designs and Anthropologies.” Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research.
  • Semuels, A. 2016. “What a Chicken Wants.” The Atlantic, November 15.
  • Starke, Linda. (Ed.). 2013. Is Sustainability Still Possible? Worldwatch Institute. Washington, DC: Island Press.
  • Steward, Julian H. 1955. The Theory of Cultural Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
  • Suchman, Lucy. 2011. “Anthropological Relocations and the Limits of Design.” Annual Review of Anthropology 40: 1–18.
  • Tunstall, Elizabeth. 2013. “Decolonizing Design Innovation: Design Anthropology, Critical Anthropology, and Indigenous Knowledge.” In Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice, edited by W. Gunn, T. Otto, and R. C. Smith, 232–250. New York: Bloomsbury.
  • Wasson, Christina. 2000. “Ethnography in the Field of Design.” Human Organization 59 (4): 377–388.
  • Weber, M. 2002. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism: And Other Writings. New York: Penguin.


  • 1. As a topic in the human and social sciences, modernity designates a historical period as well as the sociocultural norms that followed the 17th-century Age of Reason and the 17th-century Enlightenment. The postmodern epoch is considered to be the departure from modernism, “after or in reaction to that which is modern.” Paul, J. (2016). The Impact of Advanced Information and Communication Technology on Marital Instability In Tanzania: A Case Of Shinyanga Municipality. (M.A.). University of Dodoma, Tanzania. (p.22)

  • 2. Notions around user-driven innovation were introduced by Eric von Hippel and embraced by start-ups such as Threadless and Kickstarter, which embraced the concepts of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding, respectively. See Hippel (2005).

  • 3. See Miller (2018, 81–86) for a detailed discussion of the overlap of design anthropology scholars and practitioners in the United States and Europe.

  • 4. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, “Design principles are widely applicable laws, guidelines, biases and design considerations which designers apply with discretion. Professionals from many disciplines—e.g., behavioral science, sociology, physics and ergonomics—provided the foundation for design principles via their accumulated knowledge and experience.”

  • 5. For original sources on the nature of transdisciplinarity, see Basarab Nicolescu (1994).

  • 6. In his keynote at EPIC 2014 (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference), Christian Madsbjberg proposed that anthropologists, particularly design and business anthropologists, should “divorce design.”

  • 7. In a similar way, designer Kim Erwin cautioned against wholesale adoption of methods of anthropological practice that could compromise design practice (personal communication).

  • 8. Designers associated with the Bauhaus left Germany in the wake of the Nazi takeover. In 1937, László Moholy-Nagy established the New Bauhaus in Chicago.

  • 9. “Transition Design acknowledges that we are living in ‘transitional times,’ takes as its central premise the need for societal transition (systems-level change) to more sustainable futures, and argues that design and designers have a key role to play in these transitions. This kind of design is connected to long horizons of time and compelling visions of sustainable futures and must be based upon new knowledge and skill sets.”

  • 10. From the Carnegie Mellon University website “About Transition Design.”

  • 11. This theoretical construct is attributed to Max Weber (2002) “to explain why different sorts of things in the social world seem to ‘naturally’ bind together” (Murphy and Wilf 2019; see Weber 2002).

  • 12. Pluridisciplinarity is a term developed to describe a state or phase of disciplinary engagement in which it is not yet known or clear that a working arrangement has been established within one of three recognized collaborative modes: multi-, inter-, or transdisciplinary. The term was proposed by Brian Moeran (Copenhagen Business School), former editor of the Journal of Business Anthropology (Miller 2016).

  • 13. E-Lab intentionally sought to distinguish itself from the “productization” of market research firms and actual product development consultancies, focusing instead on making design the means to make research useful. See Bezaitis and Robinson (2018, 56).

  • 14. See, e.g., Posner (1996).

  • 15. Over the years, there has been a noticeable change in the format of presentations at the American Anthropological Annual (AAA) Meeting: fewer presenters are reading their papers from a podium and more graphics and visual elements are appearing on slide presentations. “Business Anthropology on the Road,” an initiative by the Consortium of Practicing and Applied Anthropology (COPAA) and anthropologists Elizabeth Briody and Robert Morais, “was designed to help fill a gap in colleges and universities with no dedicated courses on business anthropology and/or with limited ability to guide students in pursuing a business or organizationally-based career.” AAA’s quarterly publication, Anthropology News, recently changed from newsprint, primarily text format, to a colorful magazine format featuring rich visual imagery.

  • 16. By 2000 in the United States, anthropology departments at both the University of North Texas and Wayne State University had developed graduate and undergraduate programs in design anthropology and business anthropology, respectively. Boise State University’s Department of Anthropology began to offer a certificate program in design anthropology in 2017. See Miller (2018, 87).

  • 17. Examples include but are not limited to the University of California at Irvine and the University of North Texas anthropology programs.

  • 18. Boise State’s anthropology program provides a certification program in User Experience (UX) for non-majors.

  • 19. Forlano (2017, 17) reviews literature from actor-network theory (ANT), feminist new materialism, object-oriented ontology, nonrepresentational theory, and transhumanism that contribute to the posthuman paradigm. She notes, “The hybrid figure of the posthuman—and related concepts, such as the nonhuman, the multispecies, the anthropocene, the more than human, the transhuman and the decentering of the human—greatly expands our understandings of the multiple agencies, dependencies, entanglements, and relations that make up our world.”

  • 20. Forlano cites developments including an initiative by a major US producer of chicken to “improve conditions for both chickens and humans” within their operations (Semuels 2016).

  • 21. For example, Julian Steward’s (1955) theory of cultural change that results from cross-cultural encounters. 20th century examples include studies of the impact of the “Green Revolution” on traditional farming in Indonesia, India and Africa.

  • 22. Updated versions of the WorldWatch Institute report can be found at their website:

  • 23. UX Research.