IAT804 – Assignment 3b: Observational Approaches

Assignment 3b: Observational Approaches (5%)

You have been tasked with conducting an observational study that explores a particular phenomena in everyday society. This particular study uses a design ethnography approach. You will review the background of the study, including the context and the research problems, the specific data collection methods used, and the analysis procedures to follow. Then you’ll complete the study, albeit in a limited form.


  1. The introduction, related work, and study methods sections of a paper describing your observational study – (Word filePDF file)
  2. Example images / data of the areas being observed:
    1. Safeway public display
    2. Vancouver public library
    3. Commercial Drive
    4. Hockey arena
    5. Museum of Vancouver
    6. SFU Burnaby


1. Observe and collect data for two bulletin boards. This includes capturing high resolution images of the bulletin boards. Count the number of postings on each bulletin board and label each post in terms of what type of post it is. The original study generated post categories organically through an open coding process, however, you will use the following set of categories based on that analysis. For each bulletin board, count how many postings fit in each category. The categories are:

  • Personal ad
  • Cultural
  • Social/political/env.
  • Recreational
  • Health/well-being
  • Business
  • Fundraiser drive
  • Educational
  • Administrative
  • Maintenance
  • Government-related
  • Work/employment

Details of what comprises each category are in the above paper.

2. Observe the setting around the bulletin board including the location, the people around it, and people’s activities. Take observational notes of what you see. I suggest spending 30 to 60 minutes by the bulletin board observing.

3. Write a short results section for your findings (max one page) where you answer these questions. Each question should be answered in its own subsection and include a one paragraph answer, plus descriptions of data that provide evidence for your answer.

  • What types of postings are made on public bulletin boards? How many postings were found in each category?
  • What makes a posting inviting? (e.g., what draws your attention to postings?)
  • What makes a bulletin board inviting? (e.g., what draws your attention to it and makes it feel like a place where you can post items?)
  • What makes an environment inviting for posting on a bulletin board? (e.g., what type of environment makes you comfortable in making posts on a bulletin board?)

4. Write a short discussion section for your findings where you list out 3 to 5 implications that your results point to for the design of digital bulletin boards. That is, if a person was going to design a digital bulletin board, what lessons can be drawn from your study to suggest how the digital bulletin board should be designed? Your discussion section should be no more than 1 page. For each implication, you should give rationale for choosing it based on your analysis.

5. Write a short conclusion providing the main contribution of the work, and suggestions for future work.

6. Include images of the bulletin boards you observed as part of an appendix along with all of your observational notes. We want to see depth and rigour in your observations, which means a LOT of notes about what you see.


Create a paper that contains the write-ups from above. You should use the same format as the start of the paper, which is given above. Submit a paper copy in class.

Assignments over the word/page limit will receive a penalty of 10% or only be graded up to the word/page limit, at the discretion of the instructor.


  • 1% Data Collection: depth and detail of data collection (we expect to see lots of notes, either handwritten or typed, as well as lots of pictures of the boards and environment)
  • 2% Results: focus on providing details to the three points asked about
    • types of posting (0.5%)
    • what makes posts inviting (0.5%)
    • what makes boards inviting (0.5%)
    • what makes the the environment around the board inviting, what is that environment like (0.5%).
  • 1.5% Discussion
  • 0.5% Conclusion
Back to timeline page