25 November 2007

Ethnography and design

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Paul Dourish
In “Responsibilities and Implications: Further Thoughts on Ethnography and Design“, presented a few weeks ago at DUX2007, UC Irvine professor Paul Dourish continues to elaborate on the use of ethnography in human-computer interaction and the “implications for design” issues he addressed at CHI2006.

In the CHI paper, he argued how the use of ethnographic investigation in HCI is often partial since it underestimated, misstated, or misconstrued the goals and mechanisms of ethnographic investigation. Which is problematic since researchers aims a deriving “implication for design” from these investigations.

The DUX paper continues on that topic to show how ethnography is relevant but not in the bullet-point “short term requirements” way some use to think about. As he says, “the valuable material lies elsewhere” or “beyond the laundry list“, which is described through two case studies about emotion and mobility.

Abstract

Many researchers and practitioners in user experience design have turned towards social sciences to find ways to understand the social contexts in which both users and technologies are embedded. Ethnographic approaches are increasingly prominent as means by which this might be accomplished. However, a very wide range of forms of social investigation travel under the “ethnography” banner in HCI, suggesting that there is still considerable debate over what ethnography is and how it can best be employed in design contexts.

Building on earlier discussions and debates around ethnography and its implications, this paper explores how ethnographic methods might be consequential for design. In particular, it illustrates the implications for design that might be derived from classical ethnographic material and shows that these may not be of the form that HCI research normally imagines or expects.

(via Pasta&Vinegar)

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