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Ethnographic Practice and the Problem of Context in Interaction Design Education

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 12181)

Abstract

This paper investigates the concept of context as it relates to interaction design education. Based on the results of research in which interaction design students suggest that the need to learn business contexts are as important as understanding user contexts, I argue for the application of ethnographic methods to the problem of teaching the contexts of business. This is a novel approach that shifts the historical focus of ethnographic practices in interaction design from analyzing users to analyzing the business field. To do this, I first explain some terms—context, interaction design, and ethnography. Second, I analyze the results of the survey and interview session to get a full sense of the importance of context to interaction design students. Finally, I explain the value of incorporating ethnographic practices.

Keywords

  • Ethnography
  • Context
  • Interaction design education
  • Method

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Human-centered design and design thinking grew in fits and starts since the 1960s, from the work of such designers and theorists as Nigel Cross, Don Norman, Victor Papinek, and Horst Rittel.

  2. 2.

    This problematization of the concept of context is not limited to anthropology. For instance, Paul Dourish notes the co-constitutive nature of text and context, where context is an emergent feature of the interaction between things. Put another way, the activity makes the context as much as the context makes the activity [11]. This view resonates with cultural studies scholars such as Jennifer Daryl Slack, who suggests that a cultural study of a phenomena maps a context by bringing together—or articulating—various parts [12]. In this way, the context is created in the active connection of parts and is not something that exists outside of those parts.

  3. 3.

    In this class, students take a deep dive into learning ethnography, the differences between ethnography and applied ethnography, and complete an ethnographic field report.

  4. 4.

    I do not wish to imply that the very fact of teaching ethnographic approaches means that it is being done well. See Räsänen and Nyce’s work on the role of anthropology is HCI research [32].

References

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Correspondence to Michael Lahey .

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Appendix A

Appendix A

Online Survey “Understanding Context in Interaction Design Education”.

Questions

  1. 1.

    What is your name?

  2. 2.

    Which of the Interactive Design degree classes have you taken (or are currently)?

  3. 3.

    How would you define the word “context”? (Just the first thoughts that come to your mind.)

  4. 4.

    What types of “context” do interaction designs need to know?

  5. 5.

    Which class in Interactive Design taught you the most about context? List the class and explain.

  6. 6.

    Did any classes outside of Interactive Design teach you about the importance of context? Is so, which ones and why?

  7. 7.

    Would you be willing to complete a face-to-face, group interview of no more than 1 h?

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Lahey, M. (2020). Ethnographic Practice and the Problem of Context in Interaction Design Education. In: Kurosu, M. (eds) Human-Computer Interaction. Design and User Experience. HCII 2020. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 12181. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49059-1_6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49059-1_6

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