13 June 2006

Ethnographic studies of ubiquitous computing

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Ubiquitous sensors
Ethnography has become a staple feature of IT research over the last twenty years, shaping our understanding of the social character of computing systems and informing their design in a wide variety of settings.

The emergence of ubiquitous computing raises new challenges for ethnography however, distributing interaction across a burgeoning array of small, mobile devices and online environments which exploit invisible sensing systems. Understanding interaction requires ethnographers to reconcile interactions that are, for example, distributed across devices on the street with online interactions in order to assemble coherent understandings of the social character and purchase of ubiquitous computing systems.

The scientific study “Supporting Ethnographic Studies of Ubiquitous Computing in the Wild” by Andy Crabtree, Steve Benford and Chris Greenhalgh of the University of Nottingham, and Paul Tennent, Matthew Chalmers and Barry Brown of the University of Glasgow (to be published in Proc. ACM Designing Interactive Systems 2006) draws upon four recent studies to show how ethnographers are replaying system recordings of interaction alongside existing resources such as video recordings to do this and identify key challenges that need to be met to support ethnographic study of ubiquitous computing in the wild.

Download study (pdf, 849 kb, 11 pages)

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