Life On The Job

Professor Genevieve Bell, AO, [1968 - ], Australian Corporate Anthropologist, Technologist and Futurist (Contributed to by Ella Barry ACU Education Student)

Genevieve Bell
(Source: Womadelaide)



Daughter of renowned Australian anthropologist, Diane Bell, Genevieve Bell was born in Sydney and raised in a range of Australian communities, including Melbourne, Canberra, and in several indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. While living in the Northern Territory Genevieve spent a lot of her time in Indigenous communities; the time she spent here inspired her to learn more about the human condition. Genevieve’s father worked as an engineer.  

Genevieve grew up living in aboriginal communities in central Australia where her mother was doing field studies. At times the family lived in areas without running water and electricity. Genevieve wanted to be a fireman, “mostly because I liked trucks and the trucks were red!” she recalls. “I vividly remember my grandmother explaining to me that girls weren’t firemen, and I thought that was most unfortunate.

The grinding poverty of Australia’s aboriginal communities inspired Genevieve to dream of occupations where she could make a difference. “When I was fifteen, I wanted to be prime minister,” she says. “I thought I’d go into politics for most of my twenties.” But she discovered a passion for academic research, and pursued a PhD at Stanford in Native American Studies instead. She didn’t step off the academic path until she joined Intel, in 1998.


Education & Training

Genevieve travelled to the United States to complete her undergraduate studies in Anthropology where she graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1990 with a bachelor's degree in anthropology. Bell went on to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, for graduate studies where she gained a Master’s Degree and Doctorate in cultural anthropology. “At Stanford, they didn’t like it when you told the faculty they were dead wrong, whereas here, that was a cultural value. Here I would say, ‘You are dead wrong and here are 17 reasons why and six data sources,’ and they would say, ‘That’s very interesting; tell me more.” This passion has made Genevieve a cultural pioneer in her field of work.

In 1993, she earned her master's degree from Stanford, followed by a Doctorate [PhD] in 1998, both in Anthropology. Her doctoral research focused on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School which operated in rural Pennsylvania in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Genevieve is an advocate for a balance approach to education (as opposed to a heavy focus on simply English, Mathematics and Science). "You need the arts and the humanities as much as the sciences because that's how you build a nation...We sometimes get so focused on the tyranny of STEM we forget there are all these other ways of making sense of the world that are valuable and useful, and not just because they feed STEM, but because they feed a world we all want to make happen."


From 1996-1998, Bell taught anthropology and Native American Studies at Stanford University, in both the Department of Anthropology and Department of Anthropological Sciences, as well as in the Continuing Studies program.

Genevieve became a vice president at Intel in 1998 and held this position for two decades. Her role at Intel was to help establish the companies understanding of social sciences and how these practices inform the actions and choices of people. “My mandate at Intel has always been to bring the stories of everyone outside the building inside the building — and make them count.” Initially she was tasked with understanding how people living outside the USA used their mobile phones. Later becoming their resident Anthropologist. From there Genevieve helped build research and development labs for the company.

She started Intel’s first User Experience Group in 2005, as part of Intel’s Digital Home Group. The company named her an Intel Fellow, their highest technical rank, in November 2008 for her work in the Digital Home Group. She rejoined the advanced research and development labs in 2010, when Intel made her the director of their newly forming User Experience Research group. This group was Intel’s first fully integrated user experience research and development group; they worked on questions of big data, smart transportation, next generation image technology and ideas about fear and wonder. After steering that group to a range of successes inside and outside the company, she was made a Vice President in 2014 and Senior Fellow in 2016.

Fascinated by the human condition, Genevieve has spent her life studying what it is that makes humans tick, and how technology may influence this. Her passion is creating and employing technology to be used to better the lives of all, not just the companies who create it. “I've spent the last 20 years in Silicon Valley building and working on teams that were making the future, and one of the biggest challenges there was always about how do you find a diversity of experience.


Did You Know?

Bell’s impact has been recognized repeatedly outside Intel. In 2010, she was named one of the top 25 women in technology to watch by AlwaysOn and as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business by Fast Company. In 2012, Bell was inducted to the Women In Technology International Hall of Fame. and in 2013, she was named Anita Borg’s Women of Vision in Leadership. In 2014, she was included in Elle Magazine’s first list of influential women in technology and also included in a new exhibit at London’s Design Museum profiling 25 women from around the world.

Ted Talks
Genevieve Bell at Tedx Talks Sydney

Bell was also a Thinker in Residence for South Australia from 2008-2010. She had a visiting appointment to help guide government policy surrounding new national broadband initiative. Bell conducted ethnographic research and developed new innovative research methods to identify barriers to adoption and drivers around broadband uptake. Her final report, “Getting Connected, staying connected: exploring the role of new technology in Australian society” is available online.
(Source: Peoplepill)


Named one of the top 50 most creative people in Business (Fast Company), Genevieve Bell was an Intel Fellow and director of the Interaction and Experience Research Group within the Intel Labs. Bell joined Intel in 1998 and lead an R&D team of social scientists, interaction designers and human factors engineers to drive human-centric product innovation in Intel's consumer electronics business. Prior to joining Intel, Bell was a lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. She has written more than 30 journal articles and book chapters on a range of subjects focused on the intersection of technology and society. Her book, Divining a Digital Future, co-authored with Professor Paul Dourish, was released by MIT Press in 2011.

Genevieve Bell has since gone on to become a Professor at the Australian National University. She is an anthropologist and researcher. “I am a cultural anthropologist by training and pre-disposition, and now I live in a world of engineers and computer scientists, splitting my time between the ANU & Intel. My job is to make sense of what makes people tick, what delights and frustrates them, and to use those insights to help shape next generation technology innovations. It doesn't get much better than that."


Genevieve challenges traditional ideals of the use of technology. Her passion for bettering the lives of others through technology has inspired many people around the globe. Her drive, quick wit and curiosity has made her a champion in her field.

A chance meeting in a bar one night led a young Australian academic Genevieve Bell into a job she'd never expected. She was hired by software maker, Intel, as their resident anthropologist.

The transition from academic anthropology to corporate technologist wasn’t easy for Genevieve. “I packed up and moved to Oregon and started at a company I knew little about in an industry I knew nothing about in a field nobody knew anything about. My boss told me they needed my help understanding women – all women! I said, there are 3.2 billion women on the planet. And she said, yes, if you could tell us what they want, that would be great.”

She approached that first year on the job as fieldwork. “I was always in meetings where I had no idea what was going on. I wrote down all my questions. That first year was traumatic, but fascinating. It was so much more genuinely interdisciplinary than any academic program.” “The company didn’t know enough about what anthropology was to know what it could and couldn’t be, so they’d ask me to do fantastic things–go to Italy and do field work, for example, even though all of my work had been in American communities. It was liberating!”

Her boss asked her to find out how people outside America were using their cell phones. This began fourteen years of helping translate how humans use technology back to the software engineers who make the machines in the first place.

Genevieve Bell, as a cultural anthropologist at Intel Labs, ran a team of about 100 researchers. The team studied how consumers interact with electronics and developed new technology experiences for them.

While at the chip-maker she founded its user experience group. In 2008 she was announced as an Intel Fellow for her work in the company’s digital home group. In 2016 she was appointed Senior Fellow by Intel.

Australian National University, Canberra, in 2017 announced that Bell would lead its new 3A Institute (‘Autonomy, Agency and Assurance’), which takes a cross-disciplinary approach to examining artificial intelligence.

“It isn’t just about engineering and computer science, it’s also about anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, philosophy, public policy and many other disciplines – you have got to put it all together to get to the best answers possible,” ANU vice-chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said at the time.

“Professor Bell’s extraordinary experience and depth of knowledge in this area will ensure Australia remains prepared to meet the big social, cultural and political questions around our technological future.”

Professor Bell is the Director of the 3A Institute, Florence Violet McKenzie Chair, and a Distinguished Professor at the Australian National University (ANU) as well as a Vice President and Senior Fellow at Intel Corporation. Prof Bell is a cultural anthropologist, technologist and futurist best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technology development.

Prof Bell joined the ANU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science in February 2017, after having spent the past 18 years in Silicon Valley helping guide Intel’s product development by developing the company’s social science and design research capabilities.

Prof Bell now heads the newly established Autonomy, Agency and Assurance (3A) Institute, launched in September 2017 by the ANU in collaboration with CSIRO's Data61, in building a new applied science around the management of artificial intelligence, data, technology and their impact on humanity.

Prof Bell is the inaugural appointee to the Florence Violet McKenzie Chair at the ANU, named in honour Australia’s first female electrical engineer, which promotes the inclusive use of technology in society. Prof Bell also presented the highly acclaimed ABC Boyer Lectures for 2017, in which she interrogated what it means to be human, and Australian, in a digital world.

In 2018, Bell was appointed Non-Executive Director of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia Board, she became a member of the Prime Minister’s National Science and Technology Council, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE).


January 2020:
On January 22, 2020 Bell was named the first Engelbart Distinguished Fellow by SRI International, named after computer pioneer Doug Engelbart.

SRI International said that the two-year fellowship recognises “visionaries who are disrupting the traditional way we interact with and view technology”.

“Doug Engelbart is one of the founders of modern personal computing and had a profound impact on all our lives,” Bell said.

“Doug invented the tools that helped drive one of the greatest, if not the greatest, technological revolutions the world has ever seen. It is a privilege to win this fellowship. But working in this area also brings important responsibilities – and ones I don’t take lightly and which this fellowship will help meet.”

“Our world is becoming ever more intertwined and driven by the power of AI. It is permeating everything; not just computers, but cars, buildings, services and streetlights,” Bell said.

“So it is vital that we develop the skills and knowledge for this world. So it is vital that we develop the skills and knowledge for this world. But it’s not just about building new technology. We have to think carefully about its impact. We shouldn’t just ask can we do it; we need to ask should we do it nd how can we do it in a way that benefits everyone.”

26 January 2020

In the 2020 Australia Day Honours, Bell was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia, for distinguished service to education, particularly to the social sciences and cultural anthropology. She is the head of the 3A Institute (3Ai - Autonomy, Agency and Assurance) at the Australian National University (ANU) and holds 12 patents and has published over 30 journal articles.


Did You Know?

ABC World Today 5 September 2017

(Audio available)

ABC News

The woman put in charge of leading a 10-year revolution in artificial intelligence at one of the nation's top universities says the technology industry needs to embrace diversity.

Professor Genevieve Bell, who previously spent two decades as vice-president at Intel, says all Australians have a part to play in ensuring the robots of the future have "Australian values".

Trained as an anthropologist, she has now returned to work at the Australian National University and will lead research on the intersection of tech innovation and human experiences.

Given the lack of diversity in the global technology sector, part of Professor Bell's new role will involve steering innovation away from the hands of the increasingly few, or else risk alienating entire groups of consumers.

"It feels like it's a huge task. I've spent the last 20 years in Silicon Valley building and working on teams that were making the future, and one of the biggest challenges there was always about how do you find a diversity of experience," Professor Bell said.

"The biggest danger is that [companies] build technology for themselves and not for others."

She said innovation needed to be driven with a better understanding of how and by whom a technology will be used, recalling an example from her days at Intel.

"My colleagues had built this really remarkable piece of equipment, which was basically a desktop CPU stack and then put it into the living room and it had a fan and it whirred," she said.

"I remember looking at this particular set of colleagues and saying, 'Have you ever watched television?' They all just sort of looked at me and went, 'But we don't watch TV'.

In another instance, Professor Bell said, Apple released the Apple Watch, a smart technology that can measure the wearer's health and fitness.

"When Apple released their most recent smart watch they had a software developer kit for how you could build things for that watch," she said.

"And yet that kit did not have anything for tracking menstruation — [which] was described as a 'niche usage'."

Australia ready to take leading role in tech industry

Professor Bell said Australia was well positioned to regain its leading role in the technology industry as a whole.

"One of the really interesting things when you look at the history of technology, and particularly the history of computing, is how instrumental Australia was in the very early days," Professor Bell said.

"There's an opportunity here to put ourselves back in the middle of the conversation about what the future of technology looks like — frankly, I think artificial intelligence is just the first piece of that.

"There is a huge opportunity to think about how to do that in a way that manifests classic Australian values like fairness and equity and social justice."

As prominent scientists like Stephen Hawking warn AI could spell end of humanity, Professor Bell cautioned against alarmism on the matter.

"I think the most interesting thing about those fears is how long they've been around and where their historical roots are," she said.

"Human beings have feared things that were like us but not quite like us for a very long time, and the fear of AI has its roots in everything from the golem stories to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

YouTube: Keynote: Genevieve Bell February 28 2019 [1hour]

YouTube: Intel's Genevieve Bell on the 'Next 50' Years of Technology

YouTube: 2018 JG Crawford Oration: Vinton G. Cerf in conversation with Genevieve Bell [30mins]



ABC Conversations with Richard Fidler 27 November 2017
The morality of robots: Genevieve Bell's predictions for the future of AI
[Audio - 51mins]


NSW Education: Every Student Podcast
12 February 2020

[Audio - 30mins]

NSW Education
2009 Adelaide Thinker in Residence Report [PDF]
[76 pages]

SA Thinkers


Wired Videos: Wired25: Ethical Al: Intel's Genevieve Bell on Living with Artificial Intelligence




What's in your school bag?

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

1. You are going to explore your school bag! As an Anthropologist, you are going to catalogue ALL the contents of your school bag including rubbish.

2. Empty out your bag onto a clean and white [if possible] surface. Take a photograph of the total content. Then take a photograph of each item.

3. You are to catalogue all the contents of your bag into the following categories including a description of the item. For example: contents of one pencil case would be shown as:

 Contents of pencil case
(Source: Quora)

Textbooks Technology Pencils, Erasers, Pens Folders & Writing paper Sports gear Lunchbox Rubbish
    8 colouring in pencils
5 textas - small
2 highlighters
1 pair of scissors in grey case
1 ruler (description needed)
1 glue stick
1 permanent marker - black
8 pens
3 lead pencils
2 Japanese doll sharpener
1 pencil with Japanese doll ornament
1 Pencil case with Carlyn on the outside (zippered and bright green)


4. Compare your photographic contents with a partner. Are they similar? Why? Why not?

5. Viewing your partner's contents - what information have you gleaned about him/her? Check with your partner about your assumptions. Are they correct? What explanations were given.

6. Did your partner reflect back to you something about yourself that you need to reflect about?


Your helpful idea (created by Ella Barry ACU Education Student)

PrimaryPrimary MiddleMiddle  High SchoolSecondary

ICT Capability Australian Curriculum General Capability: ICT Capability

Critical & Creative ThinkingAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Critical & Creative Thinking

Personal and social capabilityAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Personal and social capability

LiteracyAustralian Curriculum General Capability: Literacy


1. Think about one person or pet in your life  (a friend, parent, grandparent, teacher, neighbour or even you). Can you conceptualise an idea which could possibly improve their life? Think about what this person may need and why.

For example, my pet dog is terribly afraid of thunderstorms. He can get so worked up and worried at times he may injury himself or even run away from home. I need a way for him to protect himself from the storm, particularly if I am not home to help him. He has a kennel, but the door on the kennel is quite wide, and he can still hear the thunder, for this reason he refuses to go in his kennel. What if I could create a technology where the door on his kennel sealed shut after he enters during a storm so he can no longer hear the outside noises? Or a technology where his collar could send a message to my phone to tell me when he is distressed? [You will need to refine this idea if you want to use it!]

2. Create a list:

Who: who is in need?
When: when are they in need?
What: what do they need?
Why: why do they need some help?

You may need to do some research, and find some statistics.
Share with a partner.

3. Write down your ideas in a mind map format. Try or one of the other websites to do this.

4. Create and label a diagram of your new technology
5. Write a pitch or advertisement for Genevieve Bell to read, explaining why your technology is needed in today’s world.






Materials sourced from
ANU Researchers
ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science

Financial Review
Forte Connect



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