Coherence: An approach to representing ethnographic analyses in systems design

S Viller, I Sommerville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


This article is concerned with how to represent in system design the kinds of features of work settings as reported by ethnographic studies of work. Various researchers and practitioners have found that ethnomethodological analyses of work settings can provide useful insights to the work processes and settings in which system design is interested. Previously at Lancaster University, we examined ways in which ethnography can be used in the design process and how the results of ethnographic analyses can be presented in such a way as to be useful components of the design process. This article reflects an effort to approach these methodological issues from a different perspective. It examines how the lessons learned from ethnographic studies can be reflected in the design process itself and in particular how standardized design artifacts (e.g., models, documents) can express the type of information that ethnographic studies produce.

The article focuses on how ethnographic analyses can influence the main representational artifact in systems design-the model of the system being developed. We examine how the Unified Modeling Language for object-oriented design can be used to express information about awareness in cooperative systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)941
Number of pages33
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1999




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