Ethnography in interaction design research

Have just read a great paper by Paul Dourish, titled “Implications for Design”, thought you all might be interested as it relates well to the video-cued-recall workshop that Lizzie led at our Campbelltown workshop.

Really hits the nail on the head re what people (artists, audiences, curators) expect from ethnographic studies and the materials they produce, and getting me thinking about The Heart Library Project and where I should take it next.

Seems like he’s proposing ethnography as a way of understanding and reformulating relationships and understandings between community members and researchers (amongst other things). I think this is what good participatory/community art does already – but more work could be done in relation to the reflections and value these project’s offer their participant’s/communities/users/research subjects. This is a hard thing to measure, but you would hope this is precisely where ethnography and ethnomethodology could make a contribution. How do you evaluate ‘meaning’ and it’s evolution via reflection and dialogue – especially when the ‘meanings’ being evaluated are functioning at a deeply embodied, tacit level? Again – I’m reminded of Catherine’s interest in language and its relationship to bodily experience… I feel I’m on the edge of something big here, but need some help unpacking all of this! Any volunteers?

Those of you at universities will be able to download the paper from the ACM database.

Paul Dourish, “Implications for Design”,
Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems, Montréal, Québec, Canada, 2006. Pages: 541 – 550

“What has traditionally been more complicated has been to establish a deeper, more foundational connection between ethnography and design – to look for a connection at an analytic level rather than simply an empirical one [11]. The analytic contributions tend not to be seen as holding implications in the same way.

It is not that these do not have profound implications for design, because they do; indeed, often more profound than a laundry list of facts and features. Their impact, however, is frequently more diffuse. They provide us with new ways of imagining the relationship between people and technology. They provide us with ways of approaching design. However, they typically go beyond specific instances of design. More to the point, they draw, in general, on the fundamental repudiation of a traditional separation between designer and user, between technology and practice. To the extent that these implications are not formulated as “implications for design,” it is because the categories of design, user, and designer, are themselves in question.”

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