Foundations, Displacement, Generation

This momentous 20th EPIC conference marks a pivotal moment when society, industry, and ethnography need to achieve profound transitions to create livable futures on the planet. We invite diverse people and creative partnerships to reexamine foundations, reckon with displacement, and craft new capacities for generation.


Organizations and communities create collective foundations, which become the myths and rituals that define them. But foundations aren’t just established. Through everyday ritual, strategic innovation, and social transformation, foundations are interpreted, extended, or directly challenged. We invite you to explore the foundational legacies that have defined your organizations, industries, social institutions, methodologies, and professional practices. What has been built and achieved? What or who has been excluded or failed? How can we engage ethnography to extend enduring wisdom, but avoid over-reliance on “conventional wisdom” that prevents positive change and new kinds of value creation?


Today, critical social and technological shifts are developing alongside rapidly unfolding ecological crises. Ethnographers can play key roles in illuminating these fault lines, assessing risk and opportunity, and charting paths forward. The models and metrics that have defined success in our organizations can be sources of insight, but may also create resistance to change—so what would it mean to move displacement from the periphery to the center? We invite reckoning and risk taking as pathways to positive change.


The next twenty years will depend on redefining our generative capacities beyond hyperscale. The value creation that ethnography foregrounds—interpretive, relational, heterogeneous, human, and more-than-human—is essential for livable futures. We invite generative and generational contributions that employ ethnography in creative partnership with technologists, artists, scientists, humanists, and the diverse communities our organizations serve. What new networks, collectives, industries, and ecologies can we help steward?


“The future of our EPIC community rests on our ability to talk across our differences and create frameworks where our diversity is also our strength.”
—Jeanette Blomberg, “The Coming of Age of Hybrids: Notes on Ethnographic Praxis,” EPIC2005

“We are all rabbits now.”
—Nina Wakeford, “Craft, Value, and the Fetishism of Method,” EPIC2005

For two decades ethnographers and kin in industry and organizations have met to build expertise, advance our pratice, and work through some of the most timely and interesting challenges that we face as professionals and as human beings. Most importantly, we have built a warm and generous, constantly learning, critically questioning community of change-makers. We have a lot to be proud of, and a lot to be thankful for.

But as much as we have to celebrate, we have urgent work to do. We have economic retraction and hyperscaling of AI that could amplify human creativity as well as automate inequity. We have inspiring manifestations of care and community, areas of spiraling violence, and an epochal ecological emergency. We need diverse  perspective, practices, and partnerships to create positive futures for our organizations, industries, and professions. Over the past twenty years we have wrangled with shifts in society and industry; we need to buckle up for the next twenty.

EPIC2024 will take on this meta-theme of past-and-future-twenty through Foundations, Displacement, and Generation. At this moment we need our community and new partners to come together to “talk across our differences and create frameworks where our diversity is also our strength.” Whether 2024 will be your first EPIC or your twentieth, we invite you to bring your expertise, hopes, fears, challenges, and creativity to Los Angeles!