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INFO 272. Qualitative Research Methods. Design Ethnography. Outline. Ethnography applied to design User-Centered Methods for Design Innovation and Evaluation Stories/Examples The Legend of the ‘Green Button’ The Vineyard Project An Ecological View of Implications.

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  • Ethnography applied to design

    • User-Centered Methods for Design Innovation and Evaluation

  • Stories/Examples

    • The Legend of the ‘Green Button’

    • The Vineyard Project

  • An Ecological View of Implications

What an ethnographic approach offers to product technology design
What an Ethnographic Approach Offers to Product/Technology Design

  • Getting a handle on ever more diverse user populations (emic approach)

  • Design Innovation (discovery process through inductive analysis)

  • Grounding feature prioritization exercises (situated in the real-world context of use…beyond the focus group)

    Blomberg et al 2003

Ethnography characterized by
Ethnography – characterized by… Design

  • subject: the holistic study of people, culture, societies, social relations, social processes, behaviour in situ

  • method: some component of participant-observation

  • analysis and writing style: inductive analysis, use of ‘thick description’ and narrative, emic accounts

Contextual inquiry e g
Contextual Inquiry (e.g.) Design

[Contextual Design, Beyer and Holtzblatt]

Examples Design

Research questions
Research Questions Design

  • What data should we gather and how often?

  • What level of computational interpretation should we apply to the data?

  • How should we present the data to users?

The vineyard project1
The Vineyard Project Design

  • Participant-observation and interviews

  • Implementation work (collecting data with sensor network motes in the vineyard)

Findings Design

Priorities and work practice:

  • Vineyard managers prefer to be in the vineyard not doing desk work or data analysis work

  • Suggested some sensor network configurations driven by work practice, not technical optimizations

  • Distribute automatic and human-initiated decisions about data appropriately

Ethnography applied
Ethnography Applied Design

Beyond Observations = New Features


Innovative New Product

The World Out There

Users and Potential Users


The Ethnographer


Ethnography applied1
Ethnography Applied Design

  • Product Innovation and Requirements Gathering

    …But also…

  • Business Processes, Strategic Planning

  • Internal Organization of the Development Team (Work culture)

  • Marketing Strategies

Design ethnography

An Ecological View Design

of Implications

Business strategy


New form factors



Summary Design

  • Decisions about ‘products’ happen at many levels

  • Potential contribution of ethnographic approaches

    • Improving how teams work to design things (studying designers/managers, not just the users)

    • What ‘market’ to build something for

    • What thing to build (high-level)

    • What specific features to include or capabilities to facilitate – i.e. requirements gathering (low-level)