Developing Digital Records: Early Experiences of Record and Replay


In this paper we consider the development of ‘digital records’ to support ethnographic study of interaction and collaboration in ubiquitous computing environments and articulate the core concept of ‘record and replay’ through two case studies. One focuses on the utility of digital records, or records of interaction generated by a computer system, to ethnographic inquiry and highlights the mutually supportive nature of digital records and ethnographic methods. The other focuses on the work it takes to make digital records support ethnography, particularly the work of description and representation that is required to reconcile the fragmented character of interaction in ubiquitous computing environments. The work involved in ‘making digital records work’ highlights requirements for the design of tools to support the endeavour and informs the development of a Replay Tool. This tool enables ethnographers to visualize the data content of digital records; to extract sequences of relevance to analysis and remove non-relevant features; to marry recorded content with external resources, such as video; to add content from internal and external resources through annotation; and to reorder digital records to reflect the interactional order of events rather than the recorded order of events.

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The research on which this article is based was funded by the UK ESRC e-Social Science Research Node DReSS (; the UK EPSRC Equator Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration Equator (; the Department of Information Systems at the University of Melbourne (; and the Smart Internet Technology Cooperative Research Centre, Australia (

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Correspondence to Andy Crabtree.

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Crabtree, A., French, A., Greenhalgh, C. et al. Developing Digital Records: Early Experiences of Record and Replay. Comput Supported Coop Work 15, 281–319 (2006).

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  • CSCW
  • digital records
  • ethnography
  • e-Social Science
  • record and replay