PARC Researchers Publish Significant Works in Ethnography and Ubiquitous Computing

Press Release

Palo Alto, California – PARC (Palo Alto Research Center, a Xerox Company), a premier center for commercial innovation, today announced that Dr. James (“Bo”) Begole, Principal Scientist and manager of PARC’s Ubiquitous Computing/ Context-aware Services team, and Dr. Margaret (“Peggy”) Szymanski, Senior Researcher and interaction analyst on PARC’s Ethnography Services team, have published two significant works within the same month. Both books represent fields – ubiquitous computing and work practice ethnography – that PARC pioneered and continues to work in with clients today.

Based on the deep research and collective experience of PARC and other practitioners, both books draw on extensive case studies or field experience to make the areas they cover more accessible for broader audiences. The books highlight how innovations and business applications in these areas have and can give companies a real competitive edge, especially in today’s environment, where products are always at risk of being commoditized, the services sector increasingly dominates economic activity, and global competition is intensifying.

In Ubiquitous Computing for Business: Find New Markets, Create Better Businesses, and Reach Customers Around the World 24-7-365 (Financial Times Press, March 10, 2011), Bo Begole shares how companies can incorporate this game-changing technology into their products, services, processes, and strategies while mitigating their risks, making better decisions about “build vs. buy,” and sorting hype from real value. Conceived at PARC in the 1990s, the paradigm of ubiquitous computing – pervasive, mobile devices; embedded sensors and data; and seamless integration across physical and digital worlds – has recently exploded in the form of pervasive personalized devices and services. From the Web to the iPod, smart phones to social networks, “Ubicomp” technologies continue to interweave computing more deeply into human life than ever before, enabling massive new industries and destroying companies that can’t adapt. The book describes the general capabilities that Ubicomp technologies create, the limitations they face, and their impact across industry categories. Begole shares proven strategies for leveraging Ubicomp technologies to drive business value, illustrated with a number of real-world innovation case studies. Bo will also be delivering a talk on this topic as part of PARC’s invited expert speaker series, PARC Forum, which is free and open to the public:

In Making Work Visible: Ethnographically Grounded Case Studies of Work Practice (Cambridge University Press, April 2011), Peggy Szymanski and co-editor Jack Whalen share how “ethnography” engagements are conducted, and how findings from these studies can lead to business impact. By applying naturalistic observation in different contexts to understand what people actually do – as opposed to only what they say they do – ethnography makes the unknown known, makes the tacit explicit, and reveals insights that would not otherwise be revealed. The embedding of social scientists in technology companies (often referred to as corporate ethnography) was pioneered at PARC in the 1970s, and has evolved here and elsewhere since. Drawing on contributions from PARC, Xerox, and other researchers throughout the world, this book demonstrates how ethnography can improve technology design and help develop better ways of working. The book focuses on case studies in production, office, home, and retail settings – including the critical “customer front.”

In addition to over 2500 patents, PARC authors have published over 4000 papers and almost 100 books, many of which can be seen at Other recent industry-defining books have covered topics such as flexible electronics materials and applications, the seminal information foraging theory that underpins people’s online behaviors, and inventors’ stories and strategies for innovation.

“Simply put, people are our greatest asset,” observed Steve Hoover, CEO of PARC. “I’m thrilled that our researchers have taken the time to publish their findings beyond technical circles, and are sharing our collective experience with businesses and other audiences. The domains these books cover show how innovation impacts daily life, which is what PARC has always been about.”

For information about PARC culture, people, and working at PARC, please visit To find out how to work with us, please visit

About PARC

A premier center for commercial innovation, PARC, a Xerox company, is in the business of breakthroughs. We work closely with global enterprises, entrepreneurs, government agencies and partners, and other clients to invent, co-develop, and bring to market game-changing innovations by combining imagination, investigation, and return on investment for our clients. For 40 years, we have lived at the leading edge of innovation, merging inquiry and strategy to pioneer technological change. PARC was incorporated in 2002 as a wholly owned independent subsidiary of Xerox Corporation – enabling us to continue pioneering technological change but across a broader set of industries and clients today.

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