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Title:Ethnographies of Large-Scale Systems: How to study distributed, emerging, and complex sociotechnical systems
Author(s):Ribes, David; Jackson, Steven
large-scale systems
Abstract:The rich and detailed "thick descriptions" produced by ethnographers have contributed to the understanding of human-computer interactions; meanings and cultures of the digital environment; and practices of technology use. Ethnography has traditionally focused on a site, geographically localized community or particular workplaces. However, in an increasingly computer mediated and networked world, ethnographers have had to adapt their methods, their sites of investigation and their objects of analysis. We have many ?shorthands? for these difficulties: distribution, scale, heterogeneous expertises, and multiple membership. Often these difficulties are precisely what our research attempts to address but only rarely do we give ourselves leeway to discuss how they affect our own practice. We have arranged this session to open and encourage discourse on the experiences, approaches and outcomes to ethnographic studies of large-scale systems. The four participants in this interactive panel will recount exemplary approaches in their study of large scale systems. Exemplars told as experiences, stories and narratives, are ideal devices for capturing and conveying the complexities of real world field experiences. These exemplars will serve as the material for an open discussion. Our participants were selected both for their diverse modes of interface with their objects of study and a shared commitment to ethnography and information systems. This includes a range of ?sites? stretching from funding and policy sphere, the activities of design and implementation, to studying actual use of production quality systems.
Issue Date:2010-02-03
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-02-24

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