Ethnography: Analyzing How Context Affects Technology Use

A course affiliated with the Quality of Life Technology Engineering Research Center

Spring 2014

Carnegie Mellon: Robotics 16-764, 12 credits 1
Pitt: REHSCI 3711

When: Fridays 12:30-3:20 2
Where: Newell-Simon Hall 3002 (Carnegie Mellon, across from the Roboceptionist)

This immersive course teaches and demonstrates ethnographic methods for understanding the context in which new technology will be deployed. These include fieldwork, passive and active observation, secondary analyses, and novel computer-assisted approaches. This class will help students characterize and understand the practices, preferences, and needs of end users, the surrounding environment, and the associated societal factors that will affect technology success. The class will emphasize Quality of Life Technologies for people with disabilities and older adults but the methods learned are applicable to any domain where humans and systems interact. Students will work in teams to document and analyze actual contexts in the local area, and will complete a term project to characterize specific opportunities for technological intervention.

Note: This class will provide many universal skills with respect to technology insertion and selection. It happens to be within the QoLT domain but the benefits of this class will have a much broader impact.

Class topics and activities include:

Other details:

If you have any questions, please contact Aaron Steinfeld,


Aaron Steinfeld
Robotics Institute
Carnegie Mellon University
Ashli Molinero
Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology
University of Pittsburgh
  1. This class was formerly numbered 16-899Q and called "QoLT Ethnography". (back)
  2. Feel free to stick around for the Robotics Institute Seminar Series following the class. (back)

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