Advancing the Value of Ethnography

The Pop-up Ethnographer: Roles of the Researcher in Temporary Spaces


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Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference Proceedings 2013, pp. 200–215.


As our lived reality becomes ever more mobile and networked, society and business has adopted cultures and practices to embrace the creation of temporary interstitial ‘pop-up’ environments. These spaces, which can take the form of work environments (e.g. the UK Innovation Charity Nesta’s ‘Productive Coffee Breaks’), training (e.g. workshops), knowledge exchange (e.g. sandpits, culture hacks), and social environments (e.g. festivals), require us to examine the role of the temporal ethnographer. Our paper explores the changing and challenging roles that researchers must adopt and move between (from organizer, facilitator, participant, observer, and analyst) by examining four empirical case studies in a range of research contexts. Furthermore, we consider how short-term studies in such temporary, ‘pop-up’ environments can contribute to and be enriched by ethnographic practices.


Ethnography has responded and reacted to the modern world, as evidenced by the rise of multi-sited studies, design ethnography, and virtual ethnography (e.g. Hannerz, 2003; Salvador et al., 1999; Barab 2004; Hine, 2000; Hine 2011); shifting away from traditional, long-term individual researcher engagement within a single, geographically-bounded community. As society becomes ever more networked and mobile, a new sociological paradigm is emerging around movement (Urry, 2007); similarly, Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and design research is developing new ways to engage, create, and evaluate mobile user experiences (e.g. Maxwell & Woods, 2012; Stals et al., 2013). Mobility also affords the creation of temporary interstitial ‘pop-up’ spaces, which are becoming more prevalent in the form of work environments (e.g. meetings), training spaces (e.g. workshops), knowledge exchange (e.g. sandpits, culture hacks), and social contexts (e.g. exhibitions or festivals) – all offering new places for qualitative research.

This paper examines the application and potential of ethnographic techniques (such as participant observation and semi-structured interviews) in temporary spaces by considering four discrete research-driven events that were conceptualized and led by the authors. Three key aspects are of particular importance in pop-up spaces, namely time, space, and design in relation to the challenges and opportunities for research. We investigate the role of researcher as catalyst rather than discreet observer, highlighting the tensions that arise when navigating the multi-faceted roles of active participant, observer and facilitator, and the corresponding expectations of each (for example, aligning research goals with impact factors, public engagement criteria, and industry partner expectations).

As trends across society embrace the pop-up, so too is this mirrored in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and ethnography as they move towards ever shorter time frames, rejecting wide lens approaches (e.g. Millen, 2000) in favor of multi-sited studies and ‘rapid’ context-sensitive ethnography (Kluwin, 2001; Handwerker, 2001), where the researcher is aware of and has knowledge of the cultural system. Pop-up environments are by definition limited in time, and therefore require close monitoring and responsive facilitation to ensure the most effective use of resources, however these intensive, condensed environments or specific events within larger pop-ups can by directly instigated by researchers, providing the opportunity to embed data gathering and a focus on thematic topics of interest into the space from the outset. This proactive approach resonates with Adler and Adler’s ‘complete-member researchers’ categorization of ethnographic roles, as described by Angrosoino and Pérez (2000). As ‘complete-member researchers’ with high levels of immersion and agency within the group, researchers are able to sidestep gatekeeper issues, as they are often not only active members but instigators of events. The danger of ‘going native’ or developing ‘over-rapport’ (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995) is, we argue, warranted by the level of access and environment and is characterized by the researcher’s understanding of the group’s shared history and the researcher’s ability to provide a constructive space to explore their issues.

The debate around what is and is not ‘ethnography’ remains unresolved (Dourish, 2006; Hannerz, 2003), however we posit that this is less important than the discussion of where ethnography exists in reality. We argue that a form of temporal ethnography is possible, and indeed necessary to take account of these fleeting environments, and that HCI and design methods are enriched by drawing on principles from social anthropology and ethnography.


Temporary research spaces or residencies are not a new concept as Steveni’s Artist Placement Group (APG), set up in 1966, indicates (Steveni, 2001). These spaces strove to ‘integrate artists into businesses and corporations’ to provide genuine understanding, appreciation, and collaboration. At the same time, there was an interest in studying how activities were done in the workplace, and in this context the word ‘practice’ was used (Kanter, 1977; Van Manen, 1977). During the 1980’s and 1990’s Hakim Bey coined and used the term ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’ or TAZ to describe an experience where the everyday control from social and regulatory constraints are put to one side in order to experiment in situ with new behaviors and rules. These experiences were not only supported through a flexible mind, but through physical space, with temporality being a central concept. Since that time the residency has also developed, representing a more esoteric concept that chimes with TAZ; residencies have extended and expanded, lasting anything from a few days, weeks or even months, moving beyond the concept of artist placements in industry to include technologists-in-residence, scientists-in-residence and writers-in-residence in diverse departments. At the same time, exchanges between business and disciplines have moved beyond art and science to become common practice, increasingly formalized as knowledge exchange (KE). Whilst early placements were considered a form of collaborative endeavor enabling exchange and understanding, later developments such as Happenstance (Coldicutt, 2010) were recognized as a way of activating a space such that the people who inhabited it worked towards a particular goal outside of their normal routine; similarly, Scott (2010) describes the residency as providing situated critical reflection in order to bring new values or perspectives. What sets these time-limited residencies apart from pop-up environments is their ability to longitudinally embed oneself in another culture and, most pertinent, with a focus on practice, process and reflection. Here in particular, ethnographic methods (including auto-ethnography) have a key role to play in reflective practice across disciplines.

Pop-up spaces have been conceptualized and are now firmly embedded in our communities, used for a variety of entrepreneurial and business opportunities (Thompson, 2012) from retail, art and design, to dining and social venues. By their very nature, here one day and gone the next, they demonstrate all the characteristics of being ‘thrown together’, but actually require a large amount of organization, co-ordination and mobility, frequently assisted by technology, resonating with the work of Urry (2007).


We present four examples of pop-up research environments that the authors have orchestrated and led, outlining the wider research context for each example and describing how they physically manifested with respect to time, space and design. Finally, we briefly reflect on the researcher roles adopted by the research team in each case study.

Example 1. Chattr

Chattr was a provocative artwork and design research experiment that was premiered as part of the FutureEverything Ideas and Innovation Summit (FE2013) in March 2013 in Manchester, UK. Chattr used ethnography to understand the user experience of a public artwork through physical Wizard of Oz prototyping and was presented in a temporary environment, namely a festival and conference focusing on technology and society. The project sought to understand attitudes to privacy in digital and physical spaces and asked a challenging question; how far would we accept the capture and sharing online of our private conversations? What are the implicit rules for exchanges in these new spaces, and how do visitors negotiate these?

Research context – The premise of the project was to sign up festival ‘visitors’ to Chattr, wherein by participating they agreed to a terms of a service and Data Use Policy, modelled on similar exchanges by internet companies. The Chattr project was experienced as a seamful interface, rather than the seamless interface sought by standard software development. The seamful approach is often adopted by Media Art and Critical Design to probe and expose some of the physical nature of the underlying technology (Chalmers and Galani 2004; Chalmers, Bell et al. 2005). These kinds of interfaces promote a lived experience; moments of reflection and potential behaviour change with a compelling user experience that is difficult to study, therefore ideal for qualitative ethnographic methods.


FIGURE 1. The members only Chattr lounge. Photo credit: TAPE.

Description: Time – The FE2013 event, which ran over five days, brought together a diverse audience from a range of backgrounds including creative industries, academia, business, local and national government and cultural organisations. Chattr operated within the event for a period of two days, however researchers engaged for an intensive period spanning four weeks to design the artwork, agree roles and ethics, research questions, evaluation and analysis along with practical issues such as pre-testing and take down after the event.

Description: Space – FE2013 represented a type of festival space in which audiences come to ‘expect the unexpected’, where innovation projects, artworks and live experiences showcase cutting edge and future thinking through exploration. Chattr provided a service in the form of a ‘members only’ lounge as a discreet physical space, which gave participants exclusive access to benefits such as a view over the city, comfortable chairs and equipment. In exchange, participants agreed to allow their personal data in the form of conversations to be recorded and transcribed for publishing during the conference itself and on the internet in perpetuity.

Description: Design – A Wizard of Oz technique (i.e. using human agents to simulate the system) implemented a complex socio-technical system that represented current and future computational capability. This in turn allowed the live artwork to function as a probe or critical intervention in order to expose the interactions and behaviour change for closer scrutiny. Thus Chattr, a hypothetical service and system, could be realized and explored. The research evaluated both a hypothesis of future scenarios alongside participants’ interactions with it. Four active researchers employed ethnographic techniques including observation, semi-structured interviews with participants and non-participants, data analysis of transcribed conversations, data gathering from social media interactions with and around published conversations, and reflection on the project overall.

Reflections: Researcher roles – Chattr could be conceived as the most traditional research project presented in this paper (if we put aside the complex and formal use of the Wizard of Oz method) however researchers moved between vastly different roles at different times. On one hand assuming the active and visible role of interviewers, documenters and data gatherers for a Chattr evaluation, and on the other acting as wizards for the system itself, which could be interpreted as facilitation. This facilitation, or agent activity, took the form of promoting the ‘service’ by negotiating access to the space at conference registration, where the project was described as a new start up and terms of service were verbally introduced; on this basis visitors were asked whether they would be willing to take part. Participants were not known to the researchers prior to the project, so there was no longitudinal information to draw on. However, conferences and festivals do include pre-existing connections between delegates, functioning as physically temporal communities of practice, rather than geographically bounded.

Example 2. Serendipitous maypole

SerenA: Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas is a project that seeks to understand serendipity and its widely acknowledged role in research and innovation with the goal of supporting the design of digital systems, services and devices, and to highlight processes that people can adopt in their research, business and everyday lives. As part of SerenA, a half-day workshop was run by two of the authors in June 2012 in Dundee, UK, for a group of artists, centred around ‘Serendipitous Connections’. The Serendipitous Maypole workshop formed part of the conclusion of a week-long arts festival created for and attended by an artists group in Dundee and was intended as a reflective exercise for participants for their own practice and to reflect back on the festival events and also to support research findings for the wider SerenA project as well as answering a public engagement remit.

Research Context – Our aims for the Serendipitous Maypole were twofold; a) to explore and reflect on the values of a festival space as a ‘pop up’ community and network and b) to feed into the requirements gathering of the design of a mobile self-documentation system for researchers, i.e. to discover how, in this instance, creative practitioners and artists currently document their thoughts and ideas. This might then inform new possibilities for digital note-taking and software development in SerenA. The workshop attempted to document, capture, and reflect on the ways that festival-goers had documented their activities – a form of meta documentation. This concept dovetailed well with the festival organisers’ approach of a ‘daily scroll’, an exquisite corpse-like scroll that was in constant circulation amongst the group to capture events as they happened, as a mix of visual hand drawn images, quotes and thoughts that were displayed in their entirety at the conclusion of the festival.


FIGURE 2. The serendipitous maypole. Photo credit: Deborah Maxwell.

Description: Time – Due to the late running of previous festival activities, the two-hour afternoon Serendipitous Maypole event did not start on time, and began in a slightly fragmented way, with late arrivals trickling in. In total, 11 participants took part in the workshop (7 female, 4 male), 9 of whom signed the informed consent ethics forms. Participants ranged from fine art students to practicing artists and lecturers.

Description: Space – Prior knowledge of the space and indicative numbers (approximately 20) in part suggested the Maypole concept; the traditionally styled high-ceilinged room (seating up to 200 people) was set up with several large round tables at one end. The ribbon strands of the Maypole were set up beforehand in the centre of the room, away from the tables and chairs, and were attached via a simple string hoist to a fixed projector housing. The Maypole was conceptualised as an annotated static form of a traditional maypole, drawing visually on prayer flags, with each coloured strand (five colours in total, two strands of each colour) intended to represent a specific thematic reflective element as drawn out by the participants.

Description: Design – The workshop began with a contextualising discussion led by the authors around serendipity and the notion of an open and prepared mind conducive to new connections, i.e. leading to serendipity. This was followed by a discussion on the role of documentation in artistic practice.

Participants were asked to reflect back on the festival activities so far and to complete a set of pre-prepared cards designed to encapsulate a range of documentation styles and media, and were encouraged to complete as many cards of each type as they liked. The pre-prepared cards were of five varieties, each a different colour, with printed prompts on one side and a blank ‘Ideas Park’ space on the back available for writing, drawing or any other response. All cards had the type specified (i.e. image, writing, sound, object, or memory) and a space for participant’s name (for post-event evaluation purposes). Each card type had a prompt (e.g. for ‘writing’ the prompts were ‘fragment, name, verse, diary, other’), a query for the documentation method (e.g. for ‘image’ the prompt was ‘How did you document the image? E.g. digital camera, sketchbook, mobile phone, back of napkin’), a question ‘Why was it important to capture that moment?’, and a final question around the future use of the documentation (e.g. for ‘sound’ the question was ‘Future for this sound? E.g. post it on the internet, weave it in a soundscape.’).

After the card completing exercise, participants were asked to write one or two words on blank coloured cards relating to the values they felt about the festival, with the instruction that they would be collectively grouping and organising the values afterwards. There were a substantial number (59) of values and emotions captured that were then clustered as a whole group activity into organically generated themes of thinking, play, memory, and public. These themes were assigned to lengths of different coloured ribbon, and the corresponding cards were pinned onto them, along with the completed documentation cards from the previous activity. Once the cards were all attached, the lengths of ribbon were hoisted into the air to form a maypole effect (fig. 2), which facilitated easy reading and visual display of the thematic cards across the axes.

All material was retained by the researchers post-event. Participants showed no reluctance to hand over the cards.

Reflections: Researcher Roles – The festival consisted of a series of discrete events (e.g. participative talks, workshops, exhibitions and performances) that, whilst they could be attended independently, in practice were largely attended by a core group of creative practitioners who attended all the events. Some participants knew each other prior to the festival but others grew to know each other during the week. The Serendipitous Maypole took place on the final afternoon, on a particularly wet and windy day in Dundee, and it was immediately apparent that there was an inherent informality and lack of punctuality by this final festival day. In this example, the degree of researcher control was limited due to encroaching on existing group dynamics and essentially being a guest performance or activity. The tensions of research versus festival and art practice were profoundly noticed when attempting ‘correct’ protocol regarding obtaining informed consent, which was treated by suspicion by some younger group members.

Example 3. Designing for delight

Designing for Delight was a one day co-design workshop associated with the SerenA: Chance Encounters in the Space of Ideas research project, as with the previous example of the Serendipitous Maypole workshop.

Research context – With respect to serendipity, the authors ran an ideation and prototyping workshop in May 2013 in Dundee, UK, about the role of emotion and particularly designing for delight. The workshop brief was contextualized from findings of a previous delight workshop held at British Computer Society’s Human Computer Interaction conference (BCS HCI2012). The goal was to move beyond conventional models of user driven, user generated and participatory design solutions, towards engaging design experts to develop future creative technical solutions for delightful digital product and service design.


FIGURE 3. Example of a designer’s digital note taking system. Photo credit: Deborah Maxwell.

Description: Time – This one-day event (11am – 4pm) issued a project challenge to three expert designers and three research team members, all from a range of relevant disciplines, namely service design, HCI, interaction and product design, art, and creative business development. Designers were invited from previously known contacts, although the research team and designers had not actively worked with each other before. The three research team members (including two authors) were part of the Design team in the SerenA project and had been working together between 3 months and 15 months. Prior to the event, all participants (i.e. both designers and researchers) were asked to bring an example of their personal notebook or sketchbook to provide insights into their creative practice.

Description: Space – The workshop was held in a small meeting room with break out spaces within the Visual Research Centre at Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA), Dundee, UK. Lunch took place in the DCA café, which provided an informal space to continue both semi-structured and unstructured discussions. Walls were utilised to post supporting material and for note-taking, as well as the central table to provide a focus for card-based materials.

Description: Design – The workshop allowed both expert and research participants to develop the brief through a range of different sessions led by each member of the research team, ranging from individual, paired (with a designer and researcher in each pair) and group sessions, with a closing plenary. Lo-fi workshop materials encouraged visual drawing and written modes and included proforma guides and blanks and paper. The rationale was to create an open record that could be quickly and easily articulated and shared for critique. The research context around Serendipity and Delight was presented initially, including findings from previous research activities and literature reviews. This was followed by a sharing of personal experiences of ‘delight’, before a show and tell discussion around documentation and note taking. Over lunch, the researchers led a light-hearted discussion around the persona of each participant’s notebook, anthropomorphising them into historical or fictional characters that led to telling insights about the value placed upon the notebooks themselves (which were a range of physical and digital notebooks). The afternoon session was around ideation and prototyping, using a design-led ‘rip and mix’ approach, where affordances of mobile internet devices (e.g. GPS, colours, sound, light sensor) were mixed with associations of notebooks (e.g. memory, ritual, adaptability, security) and attributes of delight (e.g. magical, unexpected, nature). These attributes and affordances emerged both from research in the area and discussions that took place during the day, serving as a catalyst for idea generation. Finally, these ideas were presented back to the whole group.

Reflections: Researcher Roles – The researchers in this event switched between facilitating, observing, and actively participating – challenging designer statements and sharing their own views and research knowledge. The equal balance of researchers and designers worked well for this intense environment and small group numbers.

There was a reliance on many data gathering modes (i.e. sound recording, images workshop, materials written observation and notes on the fly, and memory). A key challenge is in codifying this knowledge exchange session into usable research data for analysis and development post event.

Example 4. eChiasma workshop: A design in action ideation workshop

Design in Action is a research project investigating the potential for design as a strategy for innovation in Scotland. The 27-strong research teams spans six academic institutions across Scotland, identifying and facilitating innovation around complex problems in key industry sectors. A subgroup of the research team are actively exploring how digital tools and activities can support and enable intensive 2-3 day residential workshops, called Chiasma. The key challenge facing the research team is to help participants become engaged with the process prior to Chiasma and stay engaged and in touch with fellow participants post event. An eChiasma workshop was led by the authors to generate ideas to address this challenge, drawing on some of the ideation principles of the Chiasma but focusing on how supportive digital tools and prototypes for knowledge exchange might be developed.

Research context – The eChiasma research group, composed of PhD students and early career researchers, was at an early stage in the research process having begun to articulate research aims and individual research interests in the digital tools sphere. Following initial meetings, there was a need to shift from wider abstractions to more concrete ideas and prototypes that could be tested with end users in an adaptable and iterative fashion, informed by HCI and service design principles. Several of the outputs from the eChiasma workshop are currently being developed into working prototypes ready for evaluation.


FIGURE 4. Discussing the ‘washing line’ of ideas. Photo credit: Deborah Maxwell.

Description: Time – The eChiasma workshop was a full day event that took place in April 2013 in University of Abertay, Dundee, UK, with an hour set up time to transform the room from a traditional classroom layout towards a studio space. All seven participants were members of the eChiasma research team, namely, four doctoral students, one research assistant and two postdoctoral researchers.

Description: Space – The eChiasma event was held in a classroom within the University of Abertay. The theatre style layout was reconfigured into small group working stations around desks. To help generate an atmosphere of excitement and interest in the work, as well as providing a digital documentation and component to the day, a live Twitter feed using the hashtag “#echiasma” was on rolling display at the front of the room.

Magic whiteboard paper and graffiti paper were placed on walls around the room to allow participants to sketch out and share ideas, and a full length glass wall was populated with empirical data findings from previous research activities and individual team members’ eChiasma research aspirations (a prerequisite task), A make-shift ‘washing line’ of household string was also hung across one side of the room. The rationale behind this was that participants would be able to write possible solutions on cards and vote on these ideas to identify which of them they would be most interested in working up in the near future.

Description: Design – The day began with participants taking part in an ice breaker task. Although participants knew one another already, this was an opportunity to get into the spirit of a Chiasma event, suspend realities and, for the facilitators (in this case two of the paper authors who were also part of the eChiasma research team), to set the tone of the event as an informal, interactive, non-hierarchical research space.

Participants had previously shared wide scoping research questions on the areas they would like to explore and these were unpacked through structured short rounds of brainstorming. Participants then worked through several iterations of ideas generation activities to produce several potential solutions which could be implemented to support knowledge exchange, and specifically help those attending a chiasma to form relationships and become engaged in the process.

Reflections: Researcher roles – The workshop was conducted as an internal event, so all participants had background knowledge of the project and had met each other on several occasions previously. All participants had previously attended eChiasma meetings and were aware of the aims of the project and the goal for the day, and all had provided information to be used on the day ahead of time, as directed by facilitators. The researchers (and paper authors) leading the workshop were actively participating, to the extent of presenting final co-created ideas as a pitch to the rest of the group at a ‘Dragon’s Den’-style panel at the end of the day. This role included documenting the activities (e.g. through Twitter and photographs) as well as critiquing, brainstorming, and self-reflecting on the process as a learning experience.


The four examples described in the preceding section demonstrate a range of researcher-participant relationships, all taking place in temporary pop-up environments. In each of these examples, the researcher (or research team) acted as a catalyst, orchestrating events rather than as a passive, unobtrusive observer.

As the table in figure 5 shows, the researcher adopted a range of roles in each case study, from observer to participant, facilitator to agent through to that of an expert or specialist academic. The spread and priorities of each of these roles was determined by the context; for example in Designing for Delight, the research need for a co-design approach necessitated the adoption of an active participant role by the researcher to place an equal emphasis between the researcher as an academic ‘expert’ and researcher as learner, to work with and appreciate the skillset of the participant designers. As with any qualitative study involving human subjects, successfully negotiating the researcher-participant relationship is critical, and as scholars increasingly acknowledge the need for study group rapport and conceptualising informants not as ‘subjects’ but as collaborators to open a dialogue (Angrosino and Pérez, 2000, p. 675), so too this resonates with design and HCI constructs around participatory and service design.

Figure 5 also indicates the variety of data capture media used for each case study, including participant self-documentation and collaborative research-participant completed materials. Employing a multi-methods approach not only has a practical rationale (i.e. to maximise limited resources and time) but also extends the notion of triangulation towards Richardson’s crystallisation theory (Richardson, 2000) shifting away from the naïve concept of a fixed, apparent, objective truth that research strives for towards the realisation of a multifaceted set of ‘truths’ viewed through cultural lens and biases. Similarly, the open acknowledgment of the researcher cast in a central director role in these pop-up spaces is intertwined with issues of trust, authenticity and perceptions of power or authority, which could be explored further in future studies.

Table 1. Summary of research roles for each example


In comparison to more traditional ethnography, in pop-up environments conscious design decisions must be made beforehand regarding the spatial requirements, configuration and tools, in order to estimate the number of participants, types of activities and data gathering techniques. However, this must be balanced with an in-built flexibility to adapt on the fly to participant responses and observed and emergent group dynamics. In our examples there is always an element of participant self-documentation, whether this be through a parallel social media channel like Twitter (e.g. Chattr), or by prompted activities (e.g. Serendipitous Maypole). Such an approach adheres to the overall use of multi-methods but also maximises the limited human and time resources in these often ‘one-shot’ environments (i.e. this configuration of participants may never occur again). Construction of these environments in terms of selection of informants or participants can be directly orchestrated by the research team too (e.g. by invitation in Designing for Delight), or more opportunistic (e.g. Chattr) and is again driven by the research agenda of the organising team. Awareness of the participant make up and any pre-existing group dynamics (such as those encountered in Serendipitous Maypole) is critical in the design of activities to facilitate group formation of participants and in the importance of the creation of a safe environment to encourage rich interactions.

Clearly there is much work to be done in assessing the research validity and identifying the key components in pop-up environments as well as the opportunities they may negate or obscure. Future work could include the development of a framework for determining the range and continuum of researchers’ roles, and a set of evaluation criteria for multi-disciplinary use, as well as the development of a set of guidelines for successful navigation of these varying roles, along with practical field guides or notes. This paper does not attempt to introduce such a framework, rather it seeks to present a range of examples of pop-up events and to ground the concept of a temporary research environment in an historical and academic context.

Short-term ethnography or ethnographic informed observation (e.g. Brockmann 2011) is not new, nor is adopting an active research role; what is more unusual in ‘pop-up ethnography’, we contend, is the extent of researcher direction in temporal groups coupled with temporal physical spaces, as informed by ethnographic practices and influenced by design and HCI methods.


The authors would like to extend their thanks to the colleagues and participants who took part in the case studies described in this paper. Chattr ( was developed and funded as part of The Creative Exchange, one of the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Knowledge Exchange Hubs (AH/J005150/1), and formed a pilot project and field trial as part of activities to facilitate knowledge exchange. The Serendipitous Maypole and Designing for Delight were both part of SerenA, a research project funded by Research Councils UK (RCUK) Digital Economy; Designing Effective Research Spaces project EP/H042741 ( The eChiasma workshop was part of the Design in Action Knowledge Exchange Hub, which is funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) AH/J005126/1 (

Deborah Maxwell is a post-doctoral research fellow on ‘Design in Action’ at Edinburgh College of Art, University of Edinburgh. She is interested in the ways people interact with and reshape technology and the roles storytelling can play across media, having worked closely with traditional storytellers and cultural heritage contexts.

Mel Woods is an artist and researcher based at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee. Her work explores the challenges and opportunities associated with communication and interaction between people using digital technology. She is currently investigating serendipity, through design prototypes to support creativity and innovation.

Suzanne Prior is a Postdoctoral Research Associate on the AHRC funded Design in Action KE Hub. Her previous research investigated how adaptations to traditional design methods could facilitate the participation of adults with profound disabilities in design. Suzanne’s research interest includes design and support of communities in diverse environments.


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