Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ethnography at Thornton Hospital

On Monday night, I went to the gorgeous Thornton Hospital and did two hours of ethnographic observation with my classmate Laura. I know plenty of purists might say what we did doesn't qualify as true ethnography, but whatever.

The experience was fantastic. We showed up at around 7:30 PM and were feeling a bit unsure of what to expect but we left at around 9:15 PM and we were smiling all the way to the car. It was so much fun and there is so much data out there in the wide-open world! The nurses we observed in the Med Room were super nice and I'm very fortunate for that. I can only imagine how stressful and unpleasant the experience would have been if the nurses were unwelcoming.

I took a lot of photos (123 total) and it seemed to make people more nervous than if they were just being observed and notes are being written. Laura did a fantastic job of taking notes and that really helped to ground my photos to the storyline and give them deeper meaning.

On occasion, we'd feel like we wished there was a video camera rolling. Those moments included: fleeting activity too quick to take photos of, too much simultaneous activity to accurately record, significant sequence chunks of actions or interactions, and delayed or lengthy interesting activities. Possibly, the pronounced clicking noise of the mechanical shutter in my hunking mass of Nikon D70 was more disruptive than a quietly whirring camcorder would have been.

The overall goal of the study is to consider some improved designs. More specifically, the project is interested in examining information flow on this particular floor. Although I think we've got some exciting observations, I'm going to hold off on making them public at this point. Tomorrow (a.k.a. later today) I'll get to see the data collected by the other groups in this project - it should be interesting. I'm stoked!

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