Auto-Ethnography: Problems, Pitfalls and Promise

Sobolewska, E., Smith, C., Turner, P. (2009, 22 -24 April). Auto-Ethnography: Problems, Pitfalls and Promise. Paper presented at HCI Educators 2009, University of Abertay, Dundee.



The teaching and perhaps more importantly the practice of ethnographic techniques has become increasing important within Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). But ethnography is also synonymous with in situ data collection over extended periods of time making it difficult to teach. This paper reports a study of the use of auto-ethnography by a group of undergraduate interaction design students. Auto-ethnography has the potential to expose these students to ethnographic concepts in a manageable fashion. The auto-ethnography required them to create a ‘video-diary’ of their use of an item of everyday interactive technology and then to write an analysis of their behaviour and their thoughts on how this might be used (while having fun). We identify problems and pitfalls, and offer advice for those who wish to repeat our endeavour.
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Colin F Smith
Senior Lecturer
+44 131 455 2774
Phil Turner
+44 131 455 2721
Emilia Sobolewska
+44 131 455 2330

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