Science of Desire Ever Since Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

, such as GE's entrance into the plastic fiber producing industry. Ante notes that "for big corporations that don't market directly to consumers, ethnography has a singular appeal" in letting them know how to work with other possible associates and subsidiaries (Ante 2006, pp. 73). GE had assumed the plastic fiber industry would work one way, but instead learned that things operated very differently, and there use of ethnographers allowed them to learn this difference quickly.

It is not an entirely rosy scenario that Ante paints in his article, however. Though many ethnographers are pleased to longer be relegated to academia, there have been negative results. The perceived "cheapening" of the science is one. Worse, "many ethnographers already complain about poseurs flooding the field," and others feel like mere rubber-stamps (Ante 2006, pp. 71).

In general, however, Ante makes it very clear that he is at least amused by, if not staunchly in favor of, this growing trend of using science to design and market products. In a way, his optimism is easy to understand. Many of the executives he quotes or cites in this article are using ethnographers to design products for different cultures, some of which are incredibly disadvantaged. It is not merely an issue of selling more products to more people, but really about designing and building products that people truly need. The increased focus on filling consumer demand, and adjusting the idea of demand to include affordability, will certainly have its benefits, and these are the effects that Ante seems to focus on. There is also a definite tone of bemusement running throughout the entire piece, as though it is almost hard for Ante to believe -- as it is perhaps for many of his readers -- that so much scientific thought and effort could go into designing the next iPod. Yet overall his article seems to suggest that this is simply one more change brought by the information age, and we might as well reap the benefits.

In my opinion, it is more than a little funny that corporations go to such academic lengths in order to make a buck. The story of General Electric's attempts at entering a new industry were the most indicative of corporate blindness and even idiocy: "GE discovered it was approaching its bid to break into the fibers biz all wrong: instead of cheap commodities, customers wanted help developing advanced materials" (Ante 2006, pp. 73). This seems to me like Business 101 -- knowing what your customers want. This type of fact should not need to be uncovered by ethnographers. The same is true f public research -- yes, it is important to objectively study consumers,…

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