June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Design in Engineering Education
24.1126.1 - 24.1126.9
Applying design ethnography in the fieldDesigning innovative and effective products requires developing a thorough understanding ofend-users and other stakeholders during the design process. However, understanding the wantsand needs of stakeholders is a complex process. Design ethnography has been established as aneffective method of capturing the underlying thoughts of stakeholders, often leading toinnovative design solutions suited for the context in which the design will be use. Adapted fromthe field of anthropology, design ethnography involves observing and interviewing stakeholdersin their natural environments, sometimes while they interact with products of interest, allowingdesigners to gain tacit knowledge that is often overlooked by other market research methods.Studies have shown that students face tremendous difficulties in effectively applying thetechniques of design ethnography and often produce only superficial results. While the benefitsof design ethnography have been well documented in the literature, the process by whichstudents learn to apply this set of tools has not been extensively researched.The primary goal of this study was to gain a more complete understanding of which aspects ofdesign ethnography pose the most difficulties for students. This preliminary study consisted ofsemi-structured interviews with five engineering students who had recently completed a designethnography immersion experience. Students spent two months in a clinical setting (in Ghana)observing and interacting with clinicians and other stakeholders in order to identify needs, selecta promising design project topic, and subsequently develop user requirements and engineeringspecifications for use in their capstone design course. The interviews focused on students’expectations for conducting design ethnography, challenges they faced, and strategies theydeveloped during their experience. An iterative inductive coding methodology was used toidentify overarching themes in the interview data. The study revealed specific challenges thatstudents faced, including the realization that applying design ethnography was more difficultthan expected, uncertainty about how to organize unstructured ethnography data, andcomplications in understanding how to interpret design ethnography in light of culturaldifferences. Also discussed in our findings are strategies students developed to overcome thesechallenges. The study results can be applied to the development of more effective pedagogy forteaching design ethnography in the classroom and supporting students as they learn this complexskill.
Mohedas, I., & Daly, S. R., & Sienko, K. H. (2014, June), Student Use of Design Ethnography Techniques during Front-end Phases of Design Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/23059
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