Ethnography, CSCW and Ethnomethodology
This paper documents some details and some examples of the influence of ethnomethodological work in the fieldwork tradition associated with European CSCW; in particular what has been termed ‘ethnomethodologically informed ethnography’. In so doing, we do not wish to downplay other perspectival and methodological contributions but to simply suggest that much of the ethnomethodological work that was done in the UK during the early development of CSCW had a distinctive character and made significant contributions to the study of complex organizational environments for design-related purposes that arguably reinvigorated the European fieldwork tradition. The distinctiveness we speak of in ‘ethnomethodologically informed ethnography’ had to do with what it owed to Wittgenstein and Winch as much as Garfinkel and Sacks, was rooted in a contempt for methodological fetishism, and emphasized the centrality of reasoning or rationale in the conduct of working and, more generally, social life. This focus and approach drew heavily on the ethnographic work of the likes of John Hughes in Lancaster, Wes Sharrock in Manchester, Bob Anderson at Xerox in Cambridge, and Christian Heath in King’s, London, where attention was focused on the actual ‘doing’ of work as opposed to work in some idealised form – and it is this that we suggest has become important to design and designers of various kinds and in various domains.