The Ethnobot

Gathering Ethnographies in the Age of IoT


Computational systems and objects are becoming increasingly closely integrated with our daily activities.
Ubiquitous and pervasive computing first identified the emerging challenges of studying technology used on-the move
and in widely varied contexts. With IoT, previously sporadic experiences are interconnected across time and space in numerous and complex ways. This increasing complexity has multiplied the challenges facing those who study human experience to inform design. This paper describes the results of a study that used a chatbot or ‘Ethnobot’ to gather ethnographic data, and considers the opportunities and challenges in collecting this data in the absence of a human ethnographer. This study involved 13
participants gathering information about their experiences at the Royal Highland Show. We demonstrate the effectiveness of the Ethnobot in this setting, discuss the benefits and drawbacks of chatbots as a tool for ethnographic data collection, and conclude with recommendations for the design of chatbots for this purpose.


Link to the paper