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An Experiment in Engineering Ethnography in the Developing World

[+] Author Affiliations
Amy E. Wood, Christopher A. Mattson

Brigham Young University, Provo, UT

Paper No. DETC2016-60177, pp. V02AT03A054; 10 pages
  • ASME 2016 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 2A: 42nd Design Automation Conference
  • Charlotte, North Carolina, USA, August 21–24, 2016
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division, Computers and Information in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5010-7
  • Copyright © 2016 by ASME


Designers have recently borrowed a tool called ethnography from social scientists to develop empathy and understanding for a user group before designing a product. This tool is particularly important for designers from the developed world working on products for customers in developing communities as differences in culture, language, and life experience make the designer’s intuition less reliable in the context of product use. This paper reports the use of engineering ethnography under a variety of conditions in the developing world. The authors worked in three different communities with varying degrees of language familiarity, cultural familiarity, and partners within the community in an effort to understand how each of those factors affects the process of conducting an ethnographic study. The results will help other engineers choose the most appropriate ethnographic activities for their particular project and situation.

Copyright © 2016 by ASME



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