ACCelerate Preview & GVU Center Brown Bag Seminar: Dave Snowden, "Complexity and Distributed Ethnography"

Come early ahead of the seminar for a preview of juried projects heading to the ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival taking place Oct. 13-15, 2017, at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

Sept. 28 ACCelerate Project: Creative Collisions
Georgia Tech technologists collaborated with artist Katherine H. Fisher to build an interactive garment that engages audience participation in her performance piece Characters.

Seminar Abstract:

Complexity theory has been described as the science of inherent uncertainty.  It deals with systems where we can understand the dispositional state, the ways the system might evolve, but about which we can make no predictive statements. From applications on biology and physics the science is increasingly been applied to understand social systems.   One of the new emerging techniques, which builds on longitudinal research, action research, narrative theory and ethnography, is the continuous real time capture of self-interpreted micro-narratives/observations.  Originally developed in the context of weak signal detection the approach has now been developed into a range of novel applications of relevant to society. These include: (1) Real time citizen engagement in which students act as ethnographers to their own communities.  In one project in Asia 50k narratives were gathered in a week, self interpreted at the point of original to create a cultural map of the society as a whole. (2) Mapping student attitudes on enrollment, but then on a continuous basis with the ability to identity early signs of excessive stress, bullying, etc. Lessons learned have supported early intervention at low cost as opposed to reactive approaches at high cost. (3) As a new research technique that radically reduces cultural and expert bias and allows the research to focus on interpretation and theory creation rather than tagging. This seminar will introduce the basics of complexity theory in human systems, looking at the implications for practice and ethics.  It will also provide an overview of distributed ethnographic tools.

Speaker Bio:

Dave Snowden is the founder and chief scientific officer of Cognitive Edge. His work is international in nature and covers government and industry looking at complex issues relating to strategy, organisational decision making and decision making. He has pioneered a science based approach to organisations drawing on anthropology, neuroscience and complex adaptive systems theory. Snowden worked for Data Sciences Ltd from 1984 until January 1997. The company was acquired by IBM in 1996 and the following year he joined IBM Global Services' Knowledge and Differentiation Programme. While at IBM Snowden researched the importance of storytelling within organizations, particularly in relation to expressing tacit knowledge. In 2000 he became European director of the company's Institute for Knowledge Management,an d in 2002 he founded the IBM Cynefin Centre for Organisational Complexity. Snowden left IBM in 2004 and a year later founded Cognitive Edge Pte Ltd, a management-consulting firm based in Singapore. As of 2016 he is an associate professor extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch Business School, and an honorary professor in the school of psychology at Bangor University.

Event Details


    Technology Square Research Building, 1st Floor Ballroom, Atlanta, Ga


  • Thursday, September 28, 2017
    11:30 am - 1:00 pm