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Revisiting Ethnographic Study in the era of ubiquitous computing Neo-Ethnography.

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Presentation on theme: "Revisiting Ethnographic Study in the era of ubiquitous computing Neo-Ethnography."— Presentation transcript:

1 Revisiting Ethnographic Study in the era of ubiquitous computing Neo-Ethnography

2 Outline Introduction to Ethnography Limitations of Traditional Ethnographic Model Ubiquitous Computing and Ethnographic Study Changing Socio-cultural Factors in Research Solution: Neo-ethnographic Research Methods Useful Tools Discussion

3 What is Ethnography? ethnos = folk/people and grapho = to write

4 Ethnographies are “‘seen but unnoticed’ feature of everyday life.”

5 “Ethnography is the most mundane of things we all do as ordinary members of society, situated as we are in the various settings in which we live in our daily lives.”

6 When we go to class and ask our peers “what’s happening today?”, We are doing an ethnography. When we go to the hardware store and seek out just the right materials for a senior design project, We are doing an ethnography. When we sit down for dinner and ask our family or friends about their day, We are doing an ethnography. Ethnographies permeate every aspect of our ordinary lives in the most passing and unremarkable of ways.

7 We are doing ethnography

8 Ethnography is….. - Significant in understanding situated action. - A gloss on heterogeneous practices and ways of thinking and that help to situate a work in its proper context. - A ubiquitous feature of everyday life. Ethnography is….. - Significant in understanding situated action. - A gloss on heterogeneous practices and ways of thinking and that help to situate a work in its proper context. - A ubiquitous feature of everyday life.

9 The continued diversification of computing in everyday life, and the emergence of ubiquitous computing in particular, raises new challenges for ethnography.

10 Limitations “ Ubiquitous computing distributes interaction across a burgeoning array of different applications and devices, some online, some mobile, each exploiting different mechanisms of interaction. If ethnographers are to develop coherent understandings of interaction in changing circumstances of design it is necessary that they reconcile the various ‘pieces in the game’ as it were.

11 This requires ethnographers to supplement traditional resources external to the digital setting of interaction, such as audio and video recordings of action and talk, with resources internal to the digital setting, such as the text messages and audio files generated by users in their interactions together Limitations

12 Research Questions

13 Why traditional ethnographic methods of research need to be updated? What kinds of ethnographic models are relevant for performing research in the domain of ubiquitous computing [Ubicomp]? How new/digitized ethnographic approach could help in understanding the diverse contexts of use of Smartphone users and enriching their experience of wireless communications? What role does changing cultural and social factors play in this regard?

14 Ubiquitous Computing

15 The label ubiquitous computing encompasses technological devices that embody behavior-changing attributes. Mark Weiser, who coined the term ubiquitous technology, categorized it in three segments: Tabs (Smartphone), Pads (laptop), and Boards (smart) Ubiquitous technologies are also called persuasive technology where a technology is designed to influence users' behavior/attitudes through social sway and persuasion.


17 Media Cup It is an ordinary coffee cup augmented with sensing, processing and communication capabilities (integrated in the cup's bottom). It collects and communicates general context information in a given environment. It is an example how to equip everyday objects with computing and communication capabilities.

18 When using a Media Cup your…… Smart Doorplate can detect the situation and show a "Meeting" warning when appropriate. Watch can beep, when the coffee was too hot. Coffee machine can automatically brew new coffee when empty.

19 Due to its behavior-changing attribute, ubiquitous computing technology is also called “Persuasive Technology.”

20 Persuasive technologies could take on many forms, for example, from “mobile phones to 'smart' toothbrushes” (Fogg 2009) and it could be a regular thing, and where, “technology may not even be visible to the user and will increasingly become more divergent, “invisible,” and will better integrate/plug into our everyday lives” (Fogg).



23 Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab

24 The Future of Mobile Devices as Persuasion Platforms with BJ Fogg

25 As ubiquitous computing is gaining prominence in the form of Smartphone, laptops, and surface computers, the traditional ethnographic model of research is losing its foothold.

26 Ethnography is often, “misconstrued as simply a method of field data collection, ethnography is rather a form of analytic reportage, with the ethnographer acting as a translator or cultural broker between the group or culture under study and the reader” [Paul Dourish].


28 With ubiquitous computing, it is important to understand that there is nothing called global design. The very idea of designing an interface should begin with first understanding users’ context of use, which is constantly changing. It is imperative to realize that the “social shaping of technology” that Paul Dourish refers to as Social Computing.

29 Cultural factors are always changing, triggered by trend-setting spaces of social media. Therefore, cultural factors are not just about users’ cultural backgrounds but also encompass trends that are affecting users’ interactive behaviors with the system. The Internet is creating new cultural spaces, which influence users’ expectations and requirements of a system. Therefore, socio-cultural variables need special consideration.

30 Interface design is rhetorical

31 Solution

32 In the domain of ubiquitous computing, a user is “ distributing interaction across a burgeoning array of small, mobile devices and online environments which exploit invisible sensing systems,” creating complex situations requiring ethnographers to consolidate and in some instances, reconcile conflicting interactions ”

33 Though there is no unified term for this new approach, it is usually referred to as Digital Ethnography that draws upon on the use of various digital artifacts to identify user requirements, distributed interactions, and the overall goal in a diverging social and cultural contexts. -- Supporting Ethnographic Studies of Ubiquitous Computing in the Wild, Andy Crabtree

34 Digital Ethnography

35 Digital ethnography, information about the user could be derived from different sources - cell phones, webcams, global positioning equipment, digital cameras, the Internet, and a growing number of other technologies where digital communication could be viewed as a “platform for rethinking ethnographic principles, methodologies, and analysis.” - Digital ethnography: The Next Wave in Understanding the Consumer Experience Davis L. Masten and Tim M.P. Plowman

36 “While traditional ethnographers physically immerse themselves in distinct places and their cultures, digital ethnographers capitalize on wired and wireless technologies to extend classic ethnographic methods, like participant observation beyond geographic, as well as temporal, boundaries. This method is ideally suited in documenting the fluidity and flexibility already distinguishing contemporary cultures and communities. Digital Ethnography (Digital Ethno)


38 Digital Ethnography could enable a “broader understanding of factors such as culture, geography, and life- stage differences” particularly in the context of ubiquitous technology where contexts of use are not always explicit rather embedded in changing social and cultural trends triggered by the social media, Web 2.0, and prosthetic Smartphone devices invisibly and ubiquitously blending into users’ daily lives.


40 Online Ethnography

41 Borrowed from online research approaches, it helps in studying communities and cultures created through computer-mediated social interaction. Highlights the importance of engaging in transforming social and cultural contexts for qualitative social research, particularly in the domain of Web 2.0. Considers the Internet as an open context for social interactions where “practices, meanings and identities are intermingled ” where “Internet is conceptualized as both culture and context for social interaction.” Focuses on sociocultural contexts of the Internet or of cyberspace, however, it helps in dealing with questions, such as, how to “use heterogeneous data (text, audiovisual data, etc.) in user analysis, or how to combine research in front of the screen and in the virtual field.” Online Ethnography/ Virtual Ethnography Netnography

42 Case Study: The design of social application for Motorola Phones Research Focus: How to use context to aid mobile communication and enhance existing social interaction? How does context affect user activity and location information disclosure? Research Methods: Phone calls and video chats with participants for a week in different times of the day. Findings: Where able to record variants of real life contexts of different mobile applications depending on the time of the day. “Environmental Cues create social presence”

43 Tools MacroMedia, NVivo, Shockwave, PhotoShop, Media Maker, iMovie, and CoolEdit, could lend to the process of digital data gathering. Screen cast Online Survey Twitter posts Blog sites Video Blogs Skype

44 Traditional Vs Digital/Neo-ethnographic Study ?

45 References 1. 2. content/uploads/2010/06/ple2010_submission_42.pdf content/uploads/2010/06/ple2010_submission_42.pdf 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.Dourish, Paul. Where the action is: the foundation of embodied interacti on. MIT. 2004. 10. 11. 13.Fogg, B.J. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. MIT. 2003. 14. 15.

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