Milwaukee, WIASIS&T 2007 Annual Meeting
Joining Research and Practice:
Social Computing and Information Science

October 19-24, 2007  Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Research Into Practice: Studying Producers and Consumers in Social Computing Environments (SIG USE, SIG SI)

Half Day Seminar, Friday, Oct. 19, 2007, 8:30am-12:30pm (separate fee)

This workshop is a hands-on session designed to increase participants' ethnographic research skills and to examine ways that ethnographic methods may contribute to the design and evaluation of Web 2.0 (and beyond) environments. Ethnographic techniques provide a powerful way for researchers to engage in systematic observation of people in natural settings, developing rich descriptions of the situations observed and their sociocultural context. Building on the well-received format of the ethnography workshop delivered at ASIS&T 2006, the workshop will feature discussions of methodological issues by four invited speakers (discussants) with experience in a range of fieldwork methods. The workshop will include interactive question and answers between the participants and the discussants.

Web 2.0 infrastructures have the potential to shape our lives and habits in ways never before imagined. Understanding the design of and responses to these environments calls for holistic research approaches that can explore the impact of the technologies in use and also the ways that people (both as consumers and as producers of information) make use of them. Although Web2.0 environments are far from the ‘natural’ settings of traditional ethnography or usability research, there remains ample scope for observing the practices of information production and use in such environments. This workshop will explore ways that ethnographic principles and techniques can contribute to a richer understanding of the 'user' experience and also contribute to the design and evaluation of the very systems in use. 

The workshop will offer participants the opportunity to work with four discussants from academic and industry backgrounds, who will draw on their own research experiences in the field to serve as commentators on the themes raised in the problem statements of participants. These invited speakers will help frame the workshop around research techniques useful for exploring user and producer practices in contemporary web-based environments. Through a variety of activities, the workshop will offer opportunities for collective discussion of the workshop aims as well as offer participants some suggestions specific to their own research projects. 

The workshop will address the following methodological problems or goals:

  1. Increase understanding of how the ideals of an ethnographic approach can be translated into specific project goals.

  2. Increase understanding of how ethnographic methods can help answer questions about ways that social computing is shaping the processes and infrastructures of information production and use. 

  3. Bring together researchers in academic and industrial settings to discuss "best practice" for employing ethnographic approaches to inform the design and evaluation of Web 2.0 environments.

This ½ day workshop aims to help participants to devise and/or enhance (enrich) ethnographic techniques for investigating the design and use of evolving and emerging web-based environments. It offers an opportunity to researchers to share their experiences in the field and/or learn from the prior experiences of others. 

Workshop Program:
The first part of the session is given over to the invited speakers (discussants) who briefly introduce themselves, their experience, and their perceptions of common issues in bringing ethnography into practice. 

Participants will then be sorted into groups, with each group discussing one of the scenarios. A rapporteur will be appointed for each group to report outcomes back to the full session.

At the end of each report, the discussants will comment on the group’s observations, and all of the participants have a chance to ask questions and contribute to the debate.

In a final wrap-up session, the moderator will close the event by drawing on observations and comments collected throughout the workshop. The organisers will publish a workshop summary on the same website as the position statements. 

Elisabeth Davenport heads the Center for Social Informatics at Napier University and has a permanent visiting scholar appointment at the Rob Kling School of Informatics at Indiana University. She is a senior scholar of social aspects of computing and has received a number of grants from the European Commission under the Information Association Technologies Programme.

Brenda Dervin is full professor at the School of Communication and Joan N. Huber Fellow in Social and Behavioral Sciences, Ohio State University. She is well known for the development and implementation of the Sense-Making Methodology, a philosophically derived approach for studying communication as communication.

Theresa Anderson
is based in the Information and Knowledge Management Program at the University of Technology, Sydney. Her PhD thesis involved an ethnographic exploration of relevance assessment in networked environments and was awarded the 1st Annual Emerald/EFMD Outstanding Doctoral Research Award (Information Science category). She is currently using ethnographic research methods to explore the sociality of mobile telephones in the lives of children and pre-teens.

Industry Specialists
Andrew Grove is a Program Manager at Microsoft, where current responsibilities focus on intranet metrics, primarily gathering and reporting user demographics and behaviors. As a legacy responsibility, which continues, he develops, manages, and delivers terminology and taxonomy solutions to internal systems and tools for information access and retrieval. 

Sandra Hirsh is User Experience Research Lead for Windows Live Web Communications at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Campus in California. She leads the user research team focused on Windows Live consumer internet products related to web communication, including Hotmail, Calendar, Contacts, Web Instant Messaging, and Gallery. Before working at Microsoft, she directed HP Labs’ Information Research Program, conducting "research about research" through investigations of how R&D researchers use information and integrate it into their work. 


Members $40, non-members $50, before Sept. 14
Members $50, non-members $65, after Sept. 14