Ethnography

The increase in likelihood created by the Data Analytics part of the methodology produces a signal that takes us to the next step, in which we rely on more qualitative observations of the events at hand. A review is conducted that asks a series of ethnographic questions. Who and when questions shed light on the narrative surrounding the facts, which allows us to ask what strategic interests are mostly at play, which, in turn, gives us insights into the social influences. The last question, in which we look at the social influences, is the most important one. The objective, here, is to better understand each actor’s worldview within the context of the current events. Anthropological approaches are used to deconstruct recent actions and behaviors, and explain what normative stimuli may be presently at work.

The methodology uses this review to understand what social influences might be motivating and informing decision makers in the present and the immediate future. According to current social proclivities, what decisions are actors likely to make, and what effect will these decisions have on future developments? Will they increase tension or will they build trust? The answer to this question validates or not the signal created in the previous stage of the methodology.

Let us posit, for example, that the signal created in the previous stage (the one that sparked this review) points to an increase in tensions. Let us further posit that due to the social influences we identified as being currently underway, developments in the near future may also likely increase tensions. In this case, the original signal is confirmed. If the signal and the review do not match, however, then the signal is not confirmed and we simply ignore it.  See diagram below.

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In sum, the goal of this project is to provide an understanding of events based on patterns of observed evidence. It does so through the use of Data Analytics and Ethnographic observation, two very different methods. Yet, both are rejoined through their common conception of individual events not as isolated occurrences, but as part of greater phenomena embedded within a specific time frame and geographic space. The focus is on events as part of a sequence, which means that the larger social and cultural context is essential.

The two methods are also rejoined by virtue of their relative strengths and weaknesses. The first is fast, but not always right, since it is based on abstractions and generalizations. The second is slow, but closer to reality, because it is based on specific and detailed observations. The mix keeps us up to pace, but at the same time it keeps us asking the right questions, too.

Furthermore, the expanded time horizons used in both stages of the methodology allow us to avoid the emotional bias that comes from analyzing current events as they are unfolding. One of the advantages of having a historical memory readily at hand is that events that may look extremely perilous today, lose some of their urgency when compared to similar events in the past. Likewise, we may be reminded that it is unwise to extrapolate current periods of relative calm too far into the future.

Also, the emphasis here is not on the number of variables and sophistication of formulas applied, or on creating a general, predictive instrument. The focus here is on using available information in an organized way in order to eliminate the most obviously unlikely course of events in a very specific set of circumstances and time frames.