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Über dieses Buch

Ethnography is now a fundamental feature of design practice, taught in universities worldwide and practiced widely in commerce. Despite its rise to prominence a great many competing perspectives exist and there are few practical texts to support the development of competence. Doing Design Ethnography elaborates the ethnomethodological perspective on ethnography, a distinctive approach that provides canonical 'studies of work' in and for design. It provides an extensive treatment of the approach, with a particular slant on providing a pedagogical text that will support the development of competence for students, career researchers and design practitioners. It is organised around a complementary series of self-contained chapters, each of which address key features of doing the job of ethnography for purposes of system design. The book will be of broad appeal to students and practitioners in HCI, CSCW and software engineering, providing valuable insights as to how to conduct ethnography and relate it to design.



Chapter 1. Précis

Ethnographic approaches associated with social and cultural anthropology are common currency in systems design. They are employed widely in academic and industrial reasearch labs, consultancy firms, IT companies and design houses.

Doing Design Ethnography

is about one particularly influential approach: ethnomethodologically informed or inspired ethnography. This chapter provides a brief overview of the ethnomethodological orientation and the ‘job of work’ using it entails. It outlines the purpose of this book, the authors' experience in doing ethnography for design, and core texts that the reader might also turn to further develop their understanding of the ethnomethodological approach.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 2. Ethnography and Systems Design

This chapter elaborates the relationship between ethnography and systems design. It addresses the turn to the social that occurred in the late 1980s as the computer moved out of the research lab and into our collective lives, and the corresponding need that designers had to find ways of factoring the social into design. It does so from the point of view of people who initially developed the ethnographic approach for systems designs, notably that cohort of sociologists and software engineers who came to be known as the Lancaster School. We provide a brief account of the impetus towards the turn to the social before moving on to consider how members of the Lancaster School set about addressing this problem of factoring the social into design through ethnography and what was involved in doing it. This is not a formal account but rather an informal one based on interviews with sociologists and software engineers who were there at the off so to speak. This retrospective brings to the fore the practical concerns that motivated both parties, the contexts in which they were working at the time, and the foundational need to develop a constructive relationship between ethnography and systems design. That is to say, the need to have ethnography help designers figure out what to build and to help them determine what works and what doesn’t. These are still extremely salient issues today. They underpin ethnography’s ongoing relevance to systems design and frame the following chapters in which we explicate the work involved in doing ethnography and relating it to systems development.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 3. Our Kind of Sociology

The previous chapter considered the emergence of systems designers’ concern with practical sociology, specifically the lack of fit their systems had with the real world character of work and its organisation and the need to develop a sociological sensitivity in order to address the problem. This chapter explicates the sociological foundations of the ethnographic approach adopted by the Lancaster School. It first and briefly considers the emergence of ethnography as a social science approach, then, in more detail, our use of it to study practical sociology. We articulate the first principles of an ethnomethodological approach to ethnography, including the key notions of work, natural accountability, and reflexivity. We present and elaborate a set of sensitising concepts supporting the study of work, including practical action and practical reasoning, interactional work, work practice, and the machinery of interaction before turning to consider the ethnographer’s task, including the practical consequences of the ethnographer as an adjunct to social life and the commensurate need to develop ‘vulgar competence’ in a setting’s work. In conclusion, we review the key issues discussed in this chapter and present a series of practical guidelines that may be derived from them for the conduct of ethnographic studies.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 4. Finding the Animal in the Foliage

In the previous chapter we suggested that practical sociology may be studied empirically through the use of ethnography, which entails fieldwork or going and looking at the naturally occurring work of a setting, and the application of an analytic perspective to uncover the organisation of a setting’s work. We suggested, too, that there are a great many analytic perspectives available but that we focus exclusively on ethnomethodology and the naturally accountable character of work and its organisation. Uniquely, this perspective concentrates on the


ways in which a setting’s members assemble, build up or put their work together, and make it accountable to others in doing so. Work practice is another term for the methodical assembly of work and finding it is ethnography’s task as it makes visible a social machinery of interaction that a setting’s members use to do and organise their work. This machinery is usually ‘seen but unnoticed’, which is to say that members know and make use of it but pay little heed to it; instead they get on with whatever it is they are doing through its use. Like the animal hiding in the foliage, we need to attend carefully to the machinery of interaction to make it out and make it available to design reasoning. The issue we want to elaborate here is how we can find the machinery of interaction. To put it another way, how


we uncover work practice and make members’ methods visible? By way of an answer we want to explore a range of examples which articulate different orders or modal expressions of the phenomenon at work. The examples should not be read as definitions, only as concrete cases that display the methodical character of work.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 5. Dispensing with Method

Methods are the

sine qua non

of scientific endeavour. They are commonly held to provide for rigor and reproducibility of both approach and results, yet we have none to offer. Indeed, we steadfastly refuse to impose methods on the study of practical sociology. Why? Because

a priori

methods, or methods devised outside the actual circumstances and situations being studied by people who are not party to the work under investigation, lose the phenomenon: lose

members’ mastery

of practical sociology. You don’t need methods to develop competence in a setting’s work or to uncover the naturally accountable ways in which members do it and reflexively organise it. So how is ethnography to proceed then? The absence of method – of formula, of prescription, of step-by-step approach – does not mean that advice cannot be offered, or that common tools and resources cannot be used. Our aim in this chapter is two-fold then. Firstly to elaborate the practical necessity to dispense with method. Secondly to elaborate how to approach fieldwork, including configurations of fieldwork for design, and common tools and resources you might employ to elaborate a setting’s work and its real world, real time organisation.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 6. Doing Fieldwork

Our aim in this chapter is to elaborate some of the key issues involved in actually doing fieldwork – i.e., in going and looking at what people do for yourself and developing competence in their work. We focus particularly on a range of practical matters involved in getting into a setting, getting on with a study, and gathering resources sufficient for you to be able to provide a rich account of its work. This includes securing access, gaining acceptance in the setting, the need for informed consent, figuring out where to start your studies, developing vulgar competence in the work and, quite crucially, assembling a corpus of data or an ‘ethnographic record’ with which to develop an analytic account of work that reveals its real world, real time organisation.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 7. Analysing the Ethnographic Record

In the previous chapter we elaborated a range of practical issues involved in doing fieldwork and the assembly of an ethnographic record that documents and elaborates the practical sociology at work within a setting. What we want to consider here is how you might then go about producing analytic accounts of the intersubjective or social organisation of a setting’s work. In short, how do you analyse the ‘data’ contained in the ethnographic record and make it visible to others how the work of a setting is assembled as a naturally accountable matter by and for the parties to it? Below we consider the nature and role of data in ethnographic analysis, the purpose of analysis, some analytic practices you should avoid, and others that are essential to elaborating the accountable organisation of a setting’s work and conveying it to designers.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 8. Informing Design

The point and purpose of doing ethnography here is to ‘inform’ design – i.e., to help designers figure out what to build and give concrete shape to computing systems. It is worth stating the obvious, as it all too often seems to get forgotten in ethnographic discourses surrounding design that doing ethnography is not about ethnography

per se

but about design. So how can ethnography give shape to design? What practical approaches can be used to leverage ethnographic findings for design purposes? How can it be used to figure out what to build? It has often been said that it is very difficult to relate ethnographic findings to design: that ethnography produces rich or ‘thick’ descriptions of work whereas design is necessarily about abstraction and therefore requires some means of parsing and reducing the complexity represented by thick descriptions of work to develop computational models that may subsequently be implemented in computing systems. Over two decades of practical involvement in design a range of approaches have emerged and/or been appropriated to help ethnographers make their studies relevant to design and translate them into design resources ‘telling’ designers what to build. Our purpose here is to outline these.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 9. Some Common Misunderstandings, Objections and Complaints

A great many people find ethnomethodologically-informed ethnography problematic. Not only does it have a peculiar language and talk about the world in terms that designers often find strange and hard to digest, when they do manage to swallow it then it often sits uncomfortably with their prior intellectual diet. It is not possible to do justice to the full range of misunderstandings, objections and complaints that are entertained about ethnography, but we can address some of the more common and salient ones. Accordingly, this chapter seeks to explore, elaborate and even correct some of the chief ways in which ethnography is continuously ‘misread’ by designers and others involved in the development of computing systems. You will find even more matters of contention in the social sciences but we wish to set those aside here and focus on the key issues that we have encountered within a design context over the years. These tend to revolve around issues of subject, method, role and scope of ethnography in design. A rounded appreciation of them relies on understanding what we have said in the previous chapters.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie

Chapter 10. Design Ethnography in a Nutshell

This chapter may be read as both an introduction to and summary of our account of design ethnography. By turns we outline the ‘turn to the social’, which occasioned ethnography’s initial involvement and its ongoing use in design, and the foundational nature of ‘studies of work’ that ethnography provides. We outline basic concepts that underpin ethnographic studies of work and practical tips for applying those concepts and ‘finding the animal in the foliage’ or the real world, real time organisation of human activities. We also consider a range of practices that have evolved over the last 20 years for incorporating ethnography into the design process, and a number of myths that have emerged along the way. In a nutshell, our purpose here is to outline what is involved in doing ethnography for systems design so that you might develop your awareness and learn important aspects of doing the job yourself.

Andrew Crabtree, Mark Rouncefield, Peter Tolmie
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