Assignment: Observation and Interviews

Version 1 December 2007

The point of this assignment is to look, ask, and listen, with the intention of understanding someone else's work, interactions with others, and uses of technology and information within a particular setting. This will also give each of you insight into a particular setting on campus, which, when shared collectively, should provide a number of examples of some of the particular places on campus and the things that occur there. These individually performed observations and interviews should be planned in conjunction with your project groupmates, and your writeups should be incorporated (in edited form) within your first project milestone.

Detailed requirements

Consider a particular place that the public has access to on another university campus where people carry out particular activities. This need not be the campus that you end up using for the balance of your milestone; you can use any campus for initial data gathering.

  1. Provide a brief description of the campus that you have chosen. Is the campus urban, rural, or suburban? New or old? Sprawling or compact?
  2. Provide a one sentence description of the specific "place" on the campus that you have chosen.
  3. Write down your presuppositions (i.e. before you look, ask, or listen) about the following in relation to this particular place:
  4. Only after you have done the above item: Go to this place and observe people there for at least 30 minutes. Take "field notes" that include a description of the physical setting, what "tools" people use, and what interactions people have with one another. After 30 minutes, based on your notes and recollections, answer the questions you already answered based on your presuppositions.
  5. Only after you have done the above two items: Interview people having two different roles in this setting for 15 minutes each. Ask their consent to do so before starting the interview. Explain the purpose of the interview. Do not continue without this person's permission. Explain that no one but the other students in the class and your instructor will see their responses. And explain that they need not answer any questions that the do not want to, and can stop at any time.

    Your interview should be guided by the following questions. Feel free to use a different order, to reword the questions, to elaborate, to ask for followups and clarification, and to have "off task" or tangential discussion. In other words, try to have a conversation with this person where you learn the answers to the following items by the end of this discussion.

    Make sure to write down their answers as faithfully as possible.

  6. Take a few photographs of this location. Prior to doing so, ask the people in that location for their permission to do so. Explain the purposes of the photographs. Do not include anyone in the photos who does not give you permission. Explain that no one but the other students in the class and your instructor will see these photos.
  7. Finally, in writing, reflect on differences between these different ways of working (introspection, observation, interviewing). What did each one reveal? Summarize the strengths and weaknesses of each of these three methods.

Your writeup: what to hand in

Hand in: your description of the setting, your answers based on your presuppositions, your field notes (typed up), your answers based on your observations, your interview notes, your photographs, and your reflective comments on the three methods of working.

Hand in your assignment softcopy and hardcopy. For the hardcopy handin, please try to minimize paper use. For the softcopy handin, use the "Observation and Interview" assignment of the "TCSS 452 Assignments" dropbox of the Collect It Catalyst tool.


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