Mike Youngblood: Design Ethnographer and Cultural Strategist: applied anthropologist finding new ways to address social problems & prevent negative consequences of design – The Human Show 60


Mike Youngblood is a cultural anthropologist working at the nexus of social science and human-centered design. He is the chief conspirator behind The Youngblood Group, an innovation consultancy focused on reimagining critical products, services, and systems to foster equity, social justice, and environmental sustainability. He has conducted ethnographic work with people around the globe—including North African camel herders, Arctic hunters, Indian farmers, Japanese motorcycle enthusiasts, Argentinian cancer patients, and North American small business owners. Mike earned his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and has taught at the School for International Training, the Masters in Social Design program at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University. His recent award-winning ethnography, Cultivating Community, explores culture and the politics of meaning in a populist political movement in India.

Today we talk to Mike about his transition from researching social movements to assisting technology firms with human insight analysis. We are delighted to learn more about Mike’s professional path which allowed him to stay an ethnographer in the corporate world. He shares how he preserved his interest in the idea of collective crafting working as a design ethnographer in industry; how he managed to stay loyal to his anthropological approaches and core ideas facing the demanding industry where only actionable recommendations are acceptable; stories from his experience when finding new ways to frame social problems helps prevent negative consequences that an industry might otherwise have. Lastly, he gives advice for those transitioning from academia to industry and for industries that want to hire anthropologists.

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/mikeyoungblood


Listen & Subscribe to the Podcast here:



Mentioned in podcast:

American Anthropological Association (AAA), https://www.americananthro.org/
The School for International Training (SIT), https://www.sit.edu/
Stanford University d.school, https://dschool.stanford.edu/
Maryland Institute College of Art Center for Social Design, https://www.mica.edu/research/center-for-social-design/  

Mike’s work: 

Mike’s recent book: Youngblood, M. (2016). Cultivating Community: Interest, Identity, and Ambiguity in an Indian Social Mobilization.
South Asian Studies Association. Read an excerpt from the book here.
Here’s a sampling of Mike’s thoughts on anthropology, design, and technology: Your Car Horn is an Archetype of Asocial Design

How Anthropological Thinking Can Help Make Business Greener and Just Better
(Video) Design Ethnography: Bridging Anthropology and Design for Social Impact
(Video) Fundamentals of Observational Research (available to EPIC members only)


Social Media:

Twitter: @mike_youngblood

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