Structuring the Collaboration of Multiple Novice Design Ethnographers: Towards a New User Research Approach

Paul Gault, Catriona MacAulay, Judith Masthoff, Graham Johnson

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


    This paper proposes a new design research method to support businesses engaging in the innovation of products and services intended for use in public spaces. Increasing numbers of companies are turning to detailed user/consumer research often based on ideas from the design ethnography community. In an increasingly complex and fast moving business world, there is a need for faster user research that also provides a wider focus on the situation under investigation. A potential solution is using a larger number of fieldworkers on one study. As it would be difficult and costly to utilise many experienced design ethnographers, this may also involve the use of novices. This paper describes the development of a method for adapting existing practices to the emerging context outlined above (i.e. large numbers of fieldworkers, not all of whom necessarily have experience in ethnography). We discuss 3 field studies that show how the method can be applied and how it has been fine-tuned based on the outcomes. This method involves multiple groups of fieldworkers situated at a range of public spaces and each assigned with a specific theme of interest. The wealth of material that this fieldwork activity produces is then digested and insights are generated from it to help inform an understanding of existing behaviour within public space. This paper shows that fieldwork can be reduced to a set of simple tasks that can be successfully distributed over a group of novices facilitated by an experienced design ethnographer. This work will be extended further so that it can be applied as part of a toolkit for use in businesses where there is no established culture of utilising this type of user research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHuman-Computer Interaction – INTERACT 2011
    Subtitle of host publication13th IFIP TC 13 International Conference, Lisbon, Portugal, September 5-9, 2011, Proceedings, Part IV
    EditorsPedro Campos, Nicholas Graham, Joaquim Jorge , Nuno Nunes , Philippe Palanque, Marco Winckler
    Place of PublicationBerlin
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)9783642237683
    ISBN (Print)9783642237676
    Publication statusPublished - 2011
    Event13th IFIP TC13 Conference on Human-Computer Interaction - Lisbon, Portugal
    Duration: 5 Sept 20119 Sept 2011

    Publication series

    NameLecture notes in computer science


    Conference13th IFIP TC13 Conference on Human-Computer Interaction
    Abbreviated titleINTERACT 2011
    Internet address


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