Author Archives: Leonore Phillips

After finishing my PhD on tech startups in Berlin at the University of Minnesota, I ventured outside of academia and am currently working as an applied anthropologist for Resideo Technologies as a User Experience (UX) Design Researcher. I am also currently working on my Masters in Software Engineering, specializing in the Internet of Things (IoT), at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota. For the Platypus, I am interested in exploring topics associated with engineering work cultures, corporate impacts on software development, and the role of ethnography in tech environments. Other areas that excite me in the field of anthropology are technological/innovation imaginaries, computing ethics, and corporate anthropology.
A very squiggly line that straigtens out from left to right. Above the squiggle the left side of the line (the squiggle side) is labelled "Uncertainty/patterns/insights/" and the right side of the line (the straight side) is labelled "Clarity/Focus". Below the squiggle the squiggliest part is labelled "Research" the part just before it becomes straight is labelled "Concept" and the straight end point is labelled "Design".

The Messiness of Ethnography

Leaving academia forced me to think more deeply and critically about ethnography than I ever had before. In academic cultural anthropology, my classes, research, and readings all revolved around ethnography. However, my peers and I shared a basic understanding about the purpose of ethnography, the method of ethnographic fieldwork, and its definitions. Talk about ethnography often went largely unsaid, because, as cultural anthropologists, it was just what we did. (read more...)

Precarity, Exclusion, and Contract Work in the Tech Industry

At the satellite office of a Fortune 500 company, employees buzz around the main floor of the building. At first glance, they all seem similar. Dressed in business casual – jeans and a dress shirt— people wait in line for coffee at the coffee cart, stop and chat with coworkers, or zip past one another on the way to meetings. However, if you look at their badges, hanging from lanyards on their necks or trousers, a pattern appears. Some have dark green badges, while others have bright red ones. Those with the bright red badges, standing out in the crowd, are the contract workers. A 2018 NPR/Marista Poll reports that in the United States about 1 in 5 workers are employed under contract, and that number will only grow in the next decade. This number is especially high in the tech industry. In 2018, both Fortune and CNBC reported that (read more...)