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Steps Towards a History of Ethnomethodology in HCI & CSCW:Talking about Technomethodology Joseph ‘Jofish’ Kaye Microsoft Research, Cambridge Cornell Information Science, Ithaca NY
Talk Outline Quick histories of HCI, CSCW, and EM Technomethodology: approaches to solving the problem of communicating across the disciplinary boundary Building and arguing a hybrid discipline
A (brief) history of computing IBM & Xerox – one machine for many users The founding of Xerox PARC (1972) Licklader: interactive access PCs: one user, one machine HCI: the user becomes the important component CSCW: can’t model users; social matters (ubiquitous computing: one user, many computers)
A (brief) look at EM (as it looks from HCI) Garfinkel (Backfilling history: Notes towards a sociological theory of information (1952)) Studies in Ethnomethodology (1967) Studies of work (1972-) Sacks Suchman Plans & Situated Actions (1987) Air traffic control
EM in HCI & CSCW Air traffic control, ground control Photocopiers Print shops Doctors’ offices Highways Offices (and, slightly more recently) the home and day-to-day use of ‘mundane’ technologies
Bentley, R., Hughes, J.A., Randall, D., Rodden, T., Sawyer, P., Shapiro, D., Sommerville, I. Ethnographically-informed systems design for air traffic control. Proc. CSCW’92 123-129.
Harper, R. and Hughes, J.A. (1992), “What a F-ing System! Send em all to the same place and then expect us to stop em hitting”: Making technology work in air traffic control, in Technology and Working Order: Studies of Work, Interaction and Technology, ed, G. Button, 127-144, London: Routledge.
Harper, R., Hughes, J.A. and Shapiro, D. (1991), Harmonious Working and CSCW: Computer Technology and Air Traffic Control, in Studies in Computer Supported Cooperative Work: Theory, Practice and Design, ed. J. Bowers and S. Benford, Amsterdam, North-Holland.
MacKay, Wendy E. Is paper safer? The role of paper flight strips in air traffic control. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 6(4) December 1999.
Heath, C. and Luff, P. (1992), Collaboration and control: Crisis management and multimedia technology in London Underground line control rooms, Computer Supported Cooperative Work, 1(1-2): 69-94.
Bowers, J., Button, G. and Sharrock, W., "Workflow from Within and Without", Proc. ECSCW'95, Stockholm, Sweden, September 1995.
GersonE, Star S L, 1986, "Analyzing Due Process in the Workplace" ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems 4 257-270
Suchman, Lucy. Office procedures as practical action: Models of work and system design. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems 1(4) October 1983 320-328.
But the biggest impact: Ethnomethodologically-informed ethnography
Ethnomethodologically informed ethnography (*) Observation of end users is clearly useful But why this way of doing ethnography? EM-informed ethnography is rooted in the experience and methods of members; EM-informed ethnography is ‘theory free’; EM-informed ethnography appears more scientific to those uncomfortable with such a soft-y, relativist and apparently arbitrary thing
‘Ethnography’ (in HCI) Observation of end users is clearly useful But why this way of doing ethnography? EM-informed ethnography is rooted in the experience and methods of members (*); EM-informed ethnography is ‘theory free’; EM-informed ethnography appears more scientific to those uncomfortable with such a soft-y, relativist and apparently arbitrary thing
‘Ethnography’ (in HCI) Observation of end users is clearly useful But why this way of doing ethnography? EM-informed ethnography is rooted in “the detailed and observable practices which make up the incarnate production of ordinary social facts” EM-informed ethnography is ‘theory free’; EM-informed ethnography appears more scientific to those uncomfortable with such a soft-y, relativist and apparently arbitrary thing Lynch, M., Livingstone, E. and Garfinkel, H., “Temporal Order in Laboratory Work”, in Knoll- Centina and Mulkay (eds), “Science Observed”, Sage, London, 1983.
The problem How do you generate technology design decisions from ethnographic observation? or the problem of doing technomethodology
The difficulties of doing TM How can ethnographers and ethnomethodologists apply the understandings they have developed in the course of their observations to the design of technical systems? and How can designers and engineers learn from ethnomethodological insights to inform the design of technical systems?
Two related problems ‘paradox of systems design’: introducing technology to support ‘large-scale’ activities while transforming the ‘small-scale’ detail of action can systematically undermine the very small-scale practices through which large-scale action is accomplished ‘paradox of technomethodology’: the difficulty of reconciling detail, action in the instant, with the need to build a technology. Button, G. and Dourish, P. 1996. Technomethodology: paradoxes and possibilities. In Proc. CHI '96. ACM Press, New York, NY, 19-26.
Some possible solutions ‘Technomethodology’ solutions Implications for Design (but…) Soup to Nuts: Build it Yourself Pattern Language Hybrid Discipline
1. Button & Dourish’s 1996 Solutions Learn from the ethnomethodologist Learn from the ethnomethodography Learning from ethnomethodology … or the development of a hybrid discipline Button, G. and Dourish, P. 1996. Technomethodology: paradoxes and possibilities. In Proc. CHI '96. ACM Press, New York, NY, 19-26.
2. Implications for Design (the solution) Solution to the problem Provide suggestions for implementations i.e., at the end of a study that demonstrated the impact of fears on archiving practices: “backup systems ought to be less transparent , assuaging the user’s fears of loss.” But… Kaye, J. 'J.', Vertesi, J., Avery, S., Dafoe, A., David, S., Onaga, L., Rosero, I., and Pinch, T. To Have and to Hold: Exploring the Personal Archive. Proc. CHI 2006.
2. Implications for Design(Dourish: the problem) A poor metric for evaluating an ethnography Misses out on learning from a deeper, stronger, and ultimately more informative connection on the analytical level with the benefit of theoretical understandings Ethnographic observation for ‘shaping research (or corporate) strategy’ rather than uncovering constraints or opportunities in a particular exercise. (but how to build better systems?) Dourish, P. Implications for Design. Proc. CHI’06
3. Build it Yourself ‘Soup to nuts’ Observe Prototype Test Build Evaluate e.g. MySplitTime But… Esbjörnsson, M., Brown, B., Juhlin, O., Normark, D., Östergren, M., and Laurier, E. 2006. Watching the cars go round and round: designing for active spectating. In Proc CHI '06. ACM Press, New York, NY, 1221-1224.
3. Build it Yourself(problem) Watching cars, fine. But… ATC? Ground control? Local expertise Scale Esbjörnsson, M., Brown, B., Juhlin, O., Normark, D., Östergren, M., and Laurier, E. 2006. Watching the cars go round and round: designing for active spectating. In Proc CHI '06. ACM Press, New York, NY, 1221-1224.
4. Patterns a la Christopher Alexander “We have highlighted the aspects of Alexander’s patterns that fit well with ethnomethodological approach, but some of the more positivist, theoretical, solution-oriented aspects of his research1 we had to reject, as the collection of studies from which we were drawing our patterns stands philosophically in opposition to his.” [p84] ‘patterns of cooperative interaction’ Online library but… 1: As well as some of the more ‘cosmological’! Martin, D. and Sommerville, I. Patterns of Cooperative Interaction: Linking Ethnomethodology and Design. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 11(1) March 2004 59-89.
4. Patterns (either) Can be hard to apply… (or) the pattern misses out on the very ‘interactional what’ that authors are trying to express. Online library seems not highly used Martin, D. and Sommerville, I. Patterns of Cooperative Interaction: Linking Ethnomethodology and Design. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction 11(1) March 2004 59-89.
5. A hybrid discipline(Crabtree’s version) 1. Let designers build whatever they want with whomever they want, subject to their own constraints. 2. Deploy the objects of design in real world settings. 3. Treat deployment as a breaching experiment. 4. Explicate the accountable structures of practical action made visible in the breach. 5. Explore the topics identified in the breach through the study of perspicuoussettings. 6. Use the studies of perspicuous settings to flesh out abstract design concepts. 7. Deploy the new design solution in real world settings and study its use. 8. Repeat the process until the research agenda has been satisfied for all practical purposes.” Crabtree, A. 2004. Taking technomethodology seriously: hybrid change in the ethnomethodology-design relationship. Eur. J. Inf. Syst. 13, 3 (Sep. 2004), 195-209
5. A hybrid discipline (Crabtree) But… Hard to find cooperative designers Who’ll let you throw half their work away Much as Dourish (2006), there’s an unexamined question of power relationships It reproduces the problems of communicating between designers and ethnographers that we observed from the start. Crabtree, A. 2004. Taking technomethodology seriously: hybrid change in the ethnomethodology-design relationship. Eur. J. Inf. Syst. 13, 3 (Sep. 2004), 195-209
A true hybrid discipline? Garfinkel: EM world “In his later writings, Garfinkel made suggestions for hybridizing ethnomethodology with other disciplines (mathematics, natural sciences, legal studies, etc.), so that the “product” of the research would not take the form of reports about exotic practices; instead it would consist of efforts to develop hybrid disciplines in which ethnomethodological studies of, for example, lawyer’s work would contribute to legal research.” Lynch, M. (1994) Scientific Practice and Ordinary Action, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. p 274; Lynch references Garfinkel’s infamous & unpublished Blue Book.
A true hybrid discipline? Can technological design and ethnomethodology actually meet in the middle, hybridizing bothin a post-disciplinary approach that can engage with each on its own terms, while drawing from both for a common goal?
Currently: discussion. Clearly no obvious solution. Dourish 2006 very influential in encouraging discussion Even if there’s a lot of disagreement over what it means A community and field in flux Particularly with a current trend moving from task-focused to experience-focused HCI
Thank you Many thanks to Michael Lynch, Phoebe Sengers, Paul Dourish, Janet Vertesi, Barry Brown and particularly Darren Reed and Mark Blythe. firstname.lastname@example.org
(Connections) John Seeley Brown, Director of PARC was a professor at UC Irvine 1969-73, at the same time as Sacks JSB hires Eleanor Wynn who hires Suchman Suchman learns about EM (secondhand!) through Doug Macbeth (taking Garfinkel’s classes at UCLA)