M2
Fieldwork for Design

Organizers

Dave Randall, Manchester Metropolitan University
Mark Rouncefield, Lancaster University

Masterclass objective

The masterclass develops and expands themes concerning the use of fieldwork methods in the Social Sciences in general and CSCW and HCI in particular. It has the overall objective of developing an understanding and appreciation of the various theoretical perspectives utilised by researchers and the practical and analytic issues that arise during the conduct of such ‘naturalistic’ fieldwork enquiry.

Aims and contents

The masterclass aims to meet a number of aims associated with the above overall objectives.
1. – The Practicalities of Fieldwork - The practical problems, strategies and choices of the fieldworker in performing observational studies will be discussed in detail. Experiences gleaned from a range of studies will be offered for examination. There will be a particular emphasis on issues of access and ethical considerations – issues in the development and implementation of ethical protocols as well as critiques concerning generalisation, subjectivity and reflexivity etc.
2. – Theoretical Perspectives on Fieldwork data – Participants will learn the relevance of theoretical perspectives to the practice of fieldwork, and to the problem of capturing social complexity. The masterclass booklet will emphasise the issue of analysis both as it relates to theoretical positions and in examining data /developing appropriate concepts. A number of competing theoretical perspectives will be examined, compared and contrasted.
3. – Fieldwork Technologies – The technologies available for eliciting data and supporting analysis, will be dealt with in detail. In each instance, the possibility that the analytic stance adopted may have specific 'payoffs' for specific purposes will be examined, with particular reference to recent interdisciplinary developments such as the use of ‘cultural probes’, the use of video, and various forms of ‘digital data’ such as text logging. The masetrclass will briefly consider the use of such technologies, including the real-time analysis of social patterns and processes, and issues for their practical realisation, including data integration and management, and ethical issues relating to access, security, confidentiality and privacy.
4. – Fieldwork in Workplace, Private and Public Settings
5. – Fieldwork and Interdisciplinary Working – Problems of method, communication and comprehension in interdisciplinary collaborations such as that between ethnographer and system developer will be presented. It will be emphasised that many of these problems are matters of practical communication procedures.
6. – Fieldwork and Analysis –Conducting field studies involves gaining access to the place one wishes to observe, carrying out the study with the right sensitivities, then working an analysis through a diverse set of recorded materials (e.g. notes, documents, audio/video recordings). Specialist skills are required to do this research, skills that cannot be taught in abstract but must be learned as a craft.

This masterclass will include comprehensive notes. It will review and build on existing literature on ethnography, systems design, and change management but will endeavour to maintain a practical focus.

Web-based resources

A website has been developed to supplement the tutorial: http://www.comp.lancs.ac.uk/~rouncefi/Tutout.html

Intended learning outcomes

Students will leave with knowledge of ethnographic practice and analysis through an appreciation of a range of case studies. The class will deal with issues around collaboration, tools and analytic strategies.

Target audience

The masterclass will be of use to a range of Social/Computer Science researchers as well as commercial researchers and consultants working in interdisciplinary teams who are intending to embark on observational studies themselves; and to system developers who wish to become familiar with issues arising from the adoption of observational methods. There will be 10-15 attendees – at any level of experience. The class will be free to all undergraduate and postgraduate students registered at the conference.

About the presenters

Dave Randall, a Principal Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University, has been involved in a range of projects including; Air Traffic Control (ATC); retail finance; museums, scientific work and domestic environments.

Mark Rouncefield, a Senior Research Fellow at Lancaster University has conducted fieldwork investigations of financial services; managerial work; healthcare and domestic environments.

Their book (with Richard Harper) ‘Fieldwork for Design’ was published by Springer in 2007.



Back to workshop programme.

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