Ethnography in Digital Libraries

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Ethnography in Digital Libraries. Lorna Burns. Digital Libraries. Also called electronic or virtual libraries Organised collections of digital material And/or digital representations of non-digital material Collection of services to assist users to access information - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Lorna BurnsAlso called electronic or virtual librariesOrganised collections of digital materialAnd/or digital representations of non-digital materialCollection of services to assist users to access informationUsually built around a specific communityInterconnected, interdependent networks of technology, information, documents, people, and practices.Connections between the human/technical aspects determine the performance of the system. Studies of technology require social contextDL technology is embedded in a social worldEthnography an umbrella termBrings social perspective to design of future technologiesDeveloper knows best to users know bestSystem usersInformation seekersUserIntermediaryExperimental methodIgnore social aspect of search behavioursUsers can try to please researchersBypass serendipitous discovery or aborted searches Intermediary to act the part of usersThe Library Without WallsAnywhere, anytime, (anybody?)Where is the field?HomeHospital wardCourtroomMobileIn depth, thick description of a fewAndy Crabtree 1997Observed helpdesk interactionsCollaborative search activityDatabase used as conversational resource:Vague information requirements to specific understanding of needsPeople in need, seek other person not instructionsDL design should understand social context of use where the systems are placedQuestionnaires vs. ObservationsSelf report unreliableForsythe 1998 listened in on medical staff over a decadeDecoded statements into information needs and categorisedMedical staff require more than just formal MedLine type knowledgeHow people use informationCunningham et al 2001Information architecture software vs actual information practicesObservation of 6 consultantsDL model and IA software != fitCunningham & Uni of Gloucester 2003Digital music libraryMusic information seeking behavioursMusic sections of shops and libraryEthnography in the fieldMarshall 2003Observations of DL implementationsTechnical boundaries: metadata, firewallsKhoo 20053 years observing ailing DWEL project communicationsConceptual boundaries: understanding of meaning of DLDigital libraries are organised collections of digital materialThey are socio-technical systems that rely on the connections between human and technicalEthnography reflects the anywhere, anytime principle of digital librariesEthnographies are useful for learning about user information needs, practices and behaviours. CrabtreeCunninghamDayKhooMarshallNardiRouncefieldBishop, A., Van House, N., & Buttenfield, B. (2003). Digital Library Use: Social Practice in Design and Evaluation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Crabtree, A. (2003). Designing Collaborative Systems: A Practical Guide to Ethnography. Berlin: Springer.Crabtree, A., Nichols, D., O'Brien, J., Rouncefield, M., & Twidale, M. (2000). Ethnomethodologically informed ethnography and information system design. Journal of the American Society for Information Science , 51 (7), 666-682.Crabtree, A., Twidale, M., O'Brien, J., & Nichols, D. (1997). Talking in the Library: Implications for the Design of Digital Libraries. Proceedings of DL (pp. 221-228). ACM.Cunningham, S., Knowles, C., & Reeves, N. (2001). An Ethnographic Study of Technical Support Workers: Why We Didn't Build a Tech Support Digital Library. Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (pp. 189-198). ACM.Cunningham, S., Reeves, N., & Britland, M. (2003). An Ethnographic Study of Music Information Seeking: Implications for the Design of a Music Digital Library. Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (pp. 5-16). ACM.Forsythe, D. (1998). Using Ethnography to Investigate Life Scientists' Information Needs. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association , 86 (3).Khoo, M. (2005). Tacit User and Developer Frames in User-led Collection Development: the Case of the Digital Water Education Library. JCDL. ACM.Marshall, C. (2003). Finding the Boundaries of the Library without Walls. In A. Bishop, N. Van House, & B. Buttenfield, Digital Library Use: Social Practice in Design and Evaluation . Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Sandstrom, A., & Sandstrom, P. (1995). The Use and Misuse of Anthorological Methods in Library and INformation Science Research. Library Quarterly , 65 (2), 1661-199.Twidale, M., Chaplin, D., Crabtree, A. N., O'Brien, J., & Rouncefield, M. (1997). Collaboration in Physical and Digital Libraries. British Library Research and Innovation Report No. 64.This brings us to the socio-technical nature of a DL. An interconnected network of technology.....Where the connections between human/technical is where the value lies. Socio technical sytems are known for being very unpredictable and this is why naturalistic methods study is suited to this area. *Ann approach rather than a method. Many different ways of collecting data, interviews, document analysis, observation. Not a method as such because no instructions how to do it. Naturalistic study in the field. It has become useful in HCI, bringing a social perspective. Can be used to elicit requirements and can be used to learn about user behaviour. Marks the change of perspective from developer knows best to user knows best. In DL, the users we are talking about are information seekers, either the end users of the information or the intermediaries (librarians). I use the term intermediary because librarian is a job title and here we are talking about roles in relation to the DL and information. Intermediary acts as conduit between user and DL. *Finding out about Information needs is very important to system design. Questionnaires can be used to gather data from a large number of respondents but self reported data is often inaccurate because: respondents may feel that to recite a long list of information needs reflects badly on their professional competence. Or they may simply be unaware of their needs or take certain things for granted. *Information practices is about what people do with information. Cunningham is a well known ethnographer in the field of DL research. She is in NZ. This work was intended to elicit requirements for a technical consultants digital library. So she shadowed 6 consultants and looked at their bookshelves, listend to how they share information in the group and eventually decided not to build a DL because the model and the information architecture did not fit the way their behaviour. For instance, as software consultants they need most up-to-date info on latest software, whereas DL is based on archival and preservation. Also the iA software they were going to use, Greenstone, is based on individual users and did not support collaborative behaviours. *Cunningham is a well known ethnographer in the field of digital library research and she teamed up with Gloucester to look into the music information seeking behaviours prior to building a digital music library. They observed music seeking behaviour in shops and in a library. This provided an opportunity to observe natural browsing behaviours in two different environments. Ethnography allowed them to go to the place that this action takes place, not try to replicate it in a lab. It demonstrates how ethnography can be refelxive in following the users where they may be. *Finally, I just wanted to touch on two more ethnographies in this field both of which made discoveries about boundary issues affecting the success of DL projects. Catherine Marshall studied 3 DL implementations and found that technological boundaries were affecting the success of the projects. These were things like firewalls, metadata scheme. Michael Khoo studied the organisational communications concerning a digital water education library and concluded that the project was stifled by fundamental differences between understanding about what a DL is. These differences had not come out in direct discussions, and he felt only an ethnography would have discovered this. **