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Ethnography: Understanding natural interaction with our communication technologies

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In today’s world of ubiquitous computing and the merging of the virtual and the physical worlds, developers and engineers conceive digital technologies where interactions with computers are closer to real-world practices. There is the growing awareness of the social nature of situations where ICTs are used. Bridging the technical and the social in systems and product design has necessitated methods that analyze how people live their lives and actually use digital technologies in real-world context. Ethnography, as a descriptive mode of social research, is of increasing interest to design. Positioned at the beginning of the design model, it provides an ensemble of perspectives and insights within which it is possible to start imagining different technological possibilities. My talk will focus on the interest of video ethnography to understand how sociality and human values are played out through interaction. I will give examples of different fieldworks made so far, and demonstrate how the analysis of video data can, in conjunction with other methods, generate insights for design.

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