I am a cultural anthropologist with Luminosity Research in Austin, Texas. As practitioner, I conduct anthropology for business. As a scholar, I conduct anthropology of business. What distinguishes both my applied and academic research is that I use an anthropological lens to study advertising, consumers, brands and media.
I was smitten with the discipline of anthropology when I met my first applied consumer anthropologist. I was a new account planner/brand strategist in San Francisco at Publicis & Hal Riney Advertising. The advertising agency had just hired two applied anthropologists (Patricia Sunderland and Rita Denny) to conduct foundational research for creative development. Up until this point, I had approached consumption using a psychological frame. My PhD in Advertising from the University of Texas taught me to think in terms of consumer relationships, emotions, information processing, needs, cognition and attitude to the brand. In contrast, the applied anthropologists introduced me to a cultural frame that illuminated the interwoven meaning of consumption practices. I was hooked.
Since this introduction to applied anthropology, I learned ethnographic methods through hands-on learning, a version of intellectual osmosis. I first worked as a freelance researcher for Practica, an anthropology research consultancy. Then I joined the firm as a partner.
Working closely with anthropologists made me somewhat of a purist. Many researchers conduct ethnographic style research, but it is the academically trained anthropologist who has the theoretical prowess for a more in-depth analysis. In search of theory and community, I completed a Master’s in applied anthropology from the University of North Texas.