When Matt Artz ('18 M.S.) mentions he has a degree in anthropology, he says, "Everybody thinks I'm Indiana Jones."
But Artz studies the anthropology of business so companies can design more sustainable strategies and better user experiences. This form of anthropology is taking off, so much so that the SXSW conference has enlisted Artz and fellow alum Gigi Taylor ('19 M.S.) to speak at a March 16 panel, "Anthropology as a Crucial Frame for Change," about the field.
Artz had always worked in technology, but early on he realized the products his companies were building didn't produce the desired outcomes and wanted to learn why. He chose UNT because it is only one of two colleges in the nation with a business anthropology program. He was aware of the program because of Ann T. Jordan, Emeritus Professor of anthropology, who wrote the book, Business Anthropology.
A resident of New Jersey who studied online, Artz turned his dissertation on genetics into a Tedx Talk. Since then, he has gone on to host two anthropology podcasts -- "Anthropology in Business" for mid-level career anthropologists and "Anthro to UX" for early-career anthropologists trying to get into the user experience (UX) field.
For Austin-based Taylor, her interest in the field came at a research presentation where she heard several business anthropologists speak. She had a long career in advertising research and a doctorate in advertising, which she used to help companies understand customers through a psychological lens. But the anthropologists look at customers through a cultural frame. She found it so profound and intense she decided to study for a master's in business anthropology.
"It is at UNT where I learned anthropological theory and found a professional community," Taylor says. "It was truly transformational."
So, how does the theory of business anthropology go into practice?
As a qualitative user experience (UX) researcher at the job search website Indeed, Taylor asks anthropological questions to understand job seekers and employers. What is work? What is hiring? What is a good hiring process?
"Those answers will drive our products, our features, our messaging, our levels of strategy," she says.
Artz says his degree taught him how to deeply understand customers and design new possibilities to tackle wicked problems like inequities in the marketplace.
"How can technology contribute to addressing these issues?" he says.
He is using his knowledge to create an app called Artmatcher, which brings together artists, gallerists and buyers in a new form of engagement. He is trying to imagine spaces in the art world that incorporate diversity and inclusion.
Artz is even writing a patent for the app.
"Every company needs software today," he says. "There's such an opportunity to build systems that are useful and equitable."