This post is so late that I questioned the value of writing it all together, and obviously decided to go a head and do it. I went out to Keystone Resort in Colorado back in early October for the EPIC conference. I had the great honor of attending the conference on an Intel sponsored student scholarship. For those poor souls that had to pay, the cost of attendance was actually quite reasonable; a little more than the SfAA or AAA cost, but significantly lower than most other conferences. I’d say it’s affordable for students, and I would absolutely say that it’s worth it to students.
I registered for the conference and went out to Colorado thinking that it would be a “business anthropology” conference; many of the organizers have a background in the discipline, many business anthropologists that I know were going to be there, and “ethnography” is typically thought of as being anthropology’s baby within the academy. It’s true that many conference goers were anthropologists and that many sessions were “anthropological,” but post-conference, I don’t really feel like it was a “business anthropology” conference. If anything, I’d call it and applied ethnography conference. There was a heavy tech presence in the conference, but there were also medical professionals, designers of all sorts, and other people from other fields.
I’d actually recommend anyone planning on working in the private sector within the realm of applied social science research to go to the conference next year – and not only because it will be in Copenhagen, Denmark ;) Many, many of the presenters focused on the ways in which they use “rapid” versions of traditional ethnographic methods, and they did so in a very understandable way. After all, these are researchers that work in the business world, they are much more simple and to the point than our academic counterparts. I came home feeling like I understood how practitioners use ethnography in the fast-paced world of business and that really isn’t something you are likely to learn in school.
I really had a good time at the conference (aside from the altitude sickness!), it was a completely different vibe than either the SfAA or the AAA. Each morning the day started off with breakfast, then a keynote speaker. After a half hour break a panel of speakers started- everyone continued to be in one large room, there was no deciding what to attend (which is a hassle at the anthropology conferences because there are 15 sessions going on at the same time). Each day there was a catered lunch (they fed us well :) and in the afternoon there were a few breaks also. There was a lot of free time (but not too much) where people could socialize, or network, with each other (another nice aspect of the event). One afternoon there were two tracks and the second afternoon there was just the one panel. Saturday was full of free workshops, I heard they went well, but I actually left early to come home because of the altitude sickness.
Friday night there was a dinner for everyone. Everyone hung out (read open bar) for quite a few hours, ate, talked, and had an overall excellent time. This is really what set EPIC apart from other conferences in my mind, everyone was together, in one group, most of the time and there was plenty of fun time.
My favorite part of EPIC were the Birds of a Feather sessions, but more to come about that in a future post.