I214 UX Research

January 28, 2012


Filed under: — Nancy Van House @ 5:41 pm

Assignment: Observation

Field observation is an important method of watching and understanding what people do.  What people say they do and what they do are often different.

On the internet, we can observe people electronically, as well as in the physical world.

Often, interviews are combined with observation, but we also observe without interacting with the people we’re observing.  We’ll start by talking about non-interactive observation.

  • Blomberg, J., Burrell, M., Guest, G. An ethnographic approach to design. In Jacko J. A., Sears A. (eds.). The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook: Fundamentals, Evolving Technologies and Emerging Applications. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.: Mahwah, New Jersey, 2003.
  •  Long, but classic overview of much of what we’re talking about.   In Dropbox – Assignments and Readings — Readings as Blomberg2003.
  •  For an overview of unobtrusive methods, look at the table of contents and skim some chapters of: Lee, Raymond. Unobtrusive Methods in Social Science Research.
  • Participant observation: Participation Observation Field Guide. From Duke University, a thorough overview of participant observation.
  • Ethnography in UX , Nathanael Boehm, UX Matters, 2010 – very short piece on passive and active observation.

Optional, short, but useful, especially if you’re going to use observation in your project.  They don’t go into a lot of detail about their methods, but note what they report on and how they organize their observations:

Renato F. Bulcão-Neto, Ajith K. Sankarankutty, Alessandra A. Macedo, Paulo Azevedo-Marques, Lauro Wichert-Ana, and José Camacho-Guerrero. 2008. Supporting ethnographic studies of ubiquitous computing in the medical grand round experience. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM symposium on Applied computing (SAC ’08). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 1642-1646.


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