Patterns of cooperative interaction: Linking ethnomethodology and design

D. Martin, Ian Sommerville

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Citations (Scopus)


Patterns of Cooperative Interaction are regularities in the organisation of work, activity, and interaction amongst participants, and with, through and around artefacts. These patterns are organised around a framework and are inspired by how such regularities are highlighted in ethnomethodologically-informed ethnographic studies of work and technology. They comprise a high level description and two or more comparable examples drawn from specific studies. Our contention is that these patterns form a useful resource for re-using findings from previous field studies, for enabling analysis and considering design in new settings. Previous work on the relationship between ethnomethodology and design has been concerned primarily in providing presentation frameworks and mechanisms, practical advice, schematisations of the ethnomethodologist's role, different possibilities of input at different stages in development, and various conceptualisations of the relationship between study and design. In contrast, this paper seeks to firstly discuss the position of patterns relative to emergent major topics of interest of these studies. Subsequently it seeks to describe the case for the collection of patterns based on findings, their comparison across studies and their general implications for design problems, rather than the concerns of practical and methodological interest outlined in the other work. Special attention is paid to our evaluations and to how they inform how the patterns collection may be read, used and contributed to, as well as to reflections on the composition of the collection as it has emerged. The paper finishes, firstly, with a discussion of how our work relates to other work on patterns, before some closing comments are made on the role of our patterns and ethnomethodology in systems design.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-89
JournalACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004


  • patterns
  • ethnomethodology
  • ethnography
  • interaction design


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