Ethnography in a Computer Science Centered Project

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Ethnography in a Computer Science Centered Project. Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda GESIS Leibniz-Institute for the Social Sciences Data Archive for the Social Sciences Unter Sachsenhausen 6 - 8, 50667 Kln Germany katharina.kinder-kurlanda@gesis.org. Overview. - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Ethnography in a Computer Science Centered ProjectKatharina Kinder-Kurlanda

GESIS Leibniz-Institute for the Social SciencesData Archive for the Social SciencesUnter Sachsenhausen 6 -8, 50667 KlnGermany katharina.kinder-kurlanda@gesis.org

Title shows longing of social scientists for computer science skills OverviewExperiences and insights gained in an ethnography for design intervention within an interdisciplinary, computer science-led research project aiming to develop the internet of things

Ethnography means to observe people and cultures, to understand their meanings and everyday practices

Two challenges to interdisciplinary collaborationDifferent research interests and observational standpointsA lack of clarity within the methodological foundations for ethnography-based design informing which concerns the question of how to deal with an uncertain futureChallenge 1: Different observational standpointsDifferent research interestsA fundamental difference with regards to the authority of claims made in the workComputer scientists: able to accept assumptions about the state of the world and to start building a system based on this assumptionEthnographers: essential to understand the discourse, history, ideology and make-up of such assumptions, which entailed to question themVery different requirements regarding valid and publishable research output

Challenge 1: Different research interests - SolutionsMake continued efforts to find common ground and to identify particular, bounded points for collaborationIn the long run: Individual efforts are dependent on universities and funding bodies rewarding out-of-the box thinking & acknowledging differences in what counts as publishable resultsChallenge 2: Design is future-orientedTechnologies can only be understood in use contexts But how to observe future technologies in order to inform design?For an ethnographic account to become useful we needed to solve: How to build a new technology while still researching the target settingHow to describe changes which will only emerge with technology use

Challenge 2: Design is future-oriented - SolutionsFrame the technologies as already there in the form of actors' perceptions and expectations in the form of technology precursors within the settingView technology development as part of a continuous and ongoing process of change within the setting rather than as a sudden cut which dramatically alters everythingAllows to see development and research of the setting as connectedCan achieve iteration/co-development of findings/theory & practice / development

OutlookLook further into the role that institutionalizing interdisciplinary plays in enabling novel approachesCall for an agile ethnography that makes use of concepts of iteration both from ethnography and from agile development methods in order to improve interdisciplinary collaboration Thank you!

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