Master's Student Presents Fulbright Work at EPIC 2014

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By: 
Vinita Israni

Zach Hyman, a first year MA student at the School of Design, just spent this past week presenting at EPIC 2014 (Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference) in New York. The conference attracts people with backgrounds in anthropology who utilize the design research toolkit to understand more about human behavior so they can improve the design of products and services.

He presented on the informal economies in China’s overpasses and underpasses which he studied over the course of the year while traveling for his Fulbright Fellowship. While pursuing his primary project (understanding how people modified rural utility vehicles), he hung out in overpasses and underpasses in Chinese cities, talking to people making their living there. Zach was chosen from a variety of individuals to present as part of about a dozen Pecha Kuchas spread out over the four-day conference.

The conference not only brought together ideas about researching business and consumer-based phenomena, but also discussions with regards to how to define the field for the future. Zach had the opportunity to meet people that he knew only through the capacity of an online presence but also those that were immersed in a small subset of the field that was unknown to many. For example, Zach had the chance to meet another researcher who then directly influenced his research as she was speaking about how trash moved around in Chinese cities, featuring the three-wheeled vehicles that Zach was studying at the time.

Upon presenting, Zach reported an influx of people approaching him with affirmative feedback that they had recognized similar phenomena unfolding in various parts of the world. After hearing from audience members about other examples of thriving informal economies in unconsidered urban spaces, he someday hopes to observe and research this phenomenon further in places like Durban and Kiev in the future.

Date Published: 
Monday, September 15, 2014