Fieldwork and Ethnography: A Perspective from CSCW
DAVE RANDALL, RICHARD HARPER and MARK ROUNCEFIELD PREAMBLE What value does ‘ethnography’ have in the design of organizational and technological change? We ask this question in light of the fact that ethnography, whatever it might mean or entail, has been a key component of systems and organization design research for some time and has become—seemingly unproblematically—almost the sine qua non of contemporary practice in Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW), the area in which we have plied our trade. Indeed, one can plausibly claim that CSCW was the first (and conceivably remains the only) interdisciplinary perspective in which some version of fieldwork, namely of an ethnographic kind, has become the default mechanism for intervening in design. On the face of it, however, the dominance of ‘ethnography’ as this default fieldwork approach in CSCW sits rather uneasily beside the contested nature of ethnography, and particularly the examination of the reflexive relationship between fieldworker, subject and field,...
Listening with Indifference
ALEX S. TAYLOR, LAUREL SWAN and DAVE RANDALL In the following, we suggest that the product of ethnographies undertaken for commercial and industrial purposes is under threat of losing its integrity. The sorts of results furnished through ‘applied ethnography’ and those resulting from methods like focus groups, interviews, questionnaires, etc. appear largely of the same kind; they describe and codify the members of a setting and their behaviours, and differ, if at all, in terms of depth and detail. In short, it is not easy to distinguish between the product of applied ethnography and that produced from the many other methods available. This apparent dissolution begs the question ‘what’s left’ for applied ethnography and, indeed, for its practitioners? We report on our efforts to take this question seriously and reflect on how ‘the ethnomethodological policy of indifference’ has offered a useful starting point. Having situated this policy in a disciplinary context, we offer brief examples of how its insistence on a distinct...