Cover of Curious rituals by Nicolas Nova (Near Future Laboratory)

Nicolas Nova “Ethnography, Design, Design Ethnography”.

By Design or by Disaster Talk
Thursday, 16 May 2019, 18:00
unibz, room F 4.06

Nicolas Nova
Associate Professor at the Geneva School of Arts and Design (HEAD), co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory, author of Beyond Design Ethnography. How designers practice ethnographic research (Idea Books, 2014).

Elisabeth Tauber
Senior Researcher in Anthropology, Faculty of Education, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.

Based on Nicolas Nova’s experience as ethnographer in the field of design, meta-ethnographer of design ethnography (Beyond design ethnography) and on his ongoing (gonzo-)ethnography of the Alpine space of today/tomorrow (, the talk intends to discuss the role of ethnography in generating knowledge in and through various settings, domains, fields. Elisabeth Tauber, anthropologist, who teaches Anthropology in the Master in Eco-Social Design and who has recently engaged in a reflection on the tensions between anthropological and design research and on the role of ethnography in generating knowledge in the two domains, will be the discussant.

Nicolas Nova is Associate Professor at the Geneva School of Arts and Design  (HEAD – Genève) and the co-founder of the Near Future Laboratory, a futures research agency based in Europe and California focused on design fiction. His work lies at the intersection of digital anthropology, interaction design and design research. He is interested in observing and documenting digital and new media practices, in order to create new computing experiences centered around people’s needs, cultures and contexts. He holds a PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Geneva, and another one in Computer Science (Human-Computer Interaction) from the Swiss Institute of Technology (EPFL, Lausanne). He was previously a visiting professor at Politecnico di Milano (Italy) and a visiting researcher at the Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, CA).

3 suggested questions :

What is the epistemic value of design ethnography?
What can be the roles of design in ethnographic research?
Can one combine ethnography and speculative design?

3 recommended readings:

Anne Galloway, “Towards Fantastic Ethnography and Speculative Design”, Ethnography Matters, 2013 (available at:

Jentery Sayers, Making Things and Drawing Boundaries, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018 (

Rob Walker, The Art of Noticing: 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday, Knopf, 2019 (

Elisabeth Tauber is senior researcher in anthropology in the Faculty of Education of the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano.
Since her first fieldwork, Elisabeth Tauber has been interested in the possibilities of working as a social anthropologist in Europe. Through her ethnography with seminomadic Sinti family networks in the Italian Alps, she engaged with the challenge of doing research with people notoriously skeptical towards researchers and the documentation of their everyday practices. Her monograph, Du wirst keinen Ehemann nehmen! Respekt, die Bedeutung der Toten und Fluchtheirat bei den Sinti Estraixaria (Lit, 2014)  is the first to have analyzed the phenomenon of flight marriage, bringing it together with the spiritual presence of the ancestors. Currently she is in the process of establishing a new research network, looking at global issues of environment, climate change, gender, human-non-human relationships affecting the Eastern Alps.
She is a co-founder of Malinowski Forum for Ethnography and Anthtropology, through which she intends to revitalize alpine anthropology.
Since three years, she teaches Anthropology in the Master in Eco-Social Design

The talk is organized in collaboration with EVAA|Ethnologischer Verein Südtirol / Associazione Antropologica Alto Adige / Assoziaziun Antropologica Südtirol