Ethnographically Informed Design


Content, progress and pedagogy of the module


In this course, we consider the larger picture and the situated nature of where and how people act and interact with media technologies. We work with theories, methods and material developed in successful design companies such as IDEO and Frog Design, which continue to evolve. The students will work with multiple evaluation methods that they apply in a hands-on approach that they consider as part of their ongoing critical reflection to the design process. The course will give students a better understanding of how chosen approaches, conceptual frameworks and methods produce different kinds of possible analyses for both the development, use and improvement of media technologies.

The students will understand and apply selected  user-centered, contextual and situational theories which can include ethnographic, psychological and sociological approaches and methods when analysing the use of media technology. The course will cover some of the large ranges of responses (e.g., interaction, reaction, deliberation, active and passive engagement) users can make when consuming media technologies, and provide students with methodological and analytic tools to analyse these responses in a given context and to implement these tools in their future design work.

Learning objectives


Students who complete the module will obtain the following qualifications:

  • Must have knowledge and understanding of empirical and critical research, including systematic quantitative and qualitative research data gathering, analysis and interpretation methods
  • Must understand and apply interpretative paradigms to media development. This includes evaluation of those approaches that promote qualitative methodologies, such as ethnography, grounded theory, case studies, discourse analysis, narrative research, diary studies, cultural probes and video interaction analysis, as well as application of quantitative methods including, for example, logging of use, physiological capture, or statistical analysis
  • Must understand that the theories and methodology adopted impact on the nature of evidence gathered in media related research (evaluation)
  • Must have knowledge of psychological, statistical, ethnographic, or sociological approaches to the study of contextual behaviour and their relevance and implications to media development and design (understand)
  • Must have knowledge and understanding how a variery of ethnographic methods including contextual data capture are useful for guidelines for testing and evaluation and iterative design (application) which can be implemented for user-oriented problems


Students who complete the module will obtain the following qualifications:

  • Must have ability to apply a range of qualitative methods (e.g., interviewing, contextual inquiry, etc.) to elicit user needs, preferences and capabilities and be able to analyse and explain the findings (understanding)
  • Must have ability to apply a range of quantitative methods, which may include logging and analysis, statistical tests, correlation and cluster analysis to assess perception and user behavior (understanding).
  • Apply observational methods to situations as they happen in real time and evaluate data in relation to end-user groups
  • Apply, analyse and evaluate social, situated and digital micro and macro acts in interactions
  • Design (apply) guidelines and apply adequate theories and study designs, using advanced qualitative and quantitative methods for collection and analysis of data (analysis)
  • Design (apply) guidelines and apply different observational methods, including video observations and exploration of user states (e.g., immersed, engaged, emotional, pleasant).
  • Design (apply) solutions to design and situated context related problems (synthesis)


Students who complete the module will obtain the following qualifications:

  • Plan, organize and implement a full cycle of design, evaluation and re-design for a real world problem (evaluation)
  • Synthesise and apply knowledge and understanding gained in the course regarding the consequence of choosing a specific approach, method, conceptual framework and theory in relation to media technology and a specific research question or problem
  • Understand advantages, disadvantages, possibilities and limitations regarding the use of specific methods, for example, video card game, video Interaction analysis, discourse analysis, interviewing, questionnaires, storyboards, scenarios, and know statistical methods (e.g., tests, clustering, correlation analysis) or various psychological experimental paradigms (e.g., free categorization) (analysis)
  • Synthesise, understand and apply in situ observational strategies, for example, shadowing, participation, video-observation for user evaluation and analysis in a context of media technologies (application)

Type of instruction

Refer to the overview of instruction types listed in § 17. The types of instruction for this course are decided in accordance with the current Joint Programme Regulations and directions are decided and given by the Study Board for Media Technology.


Prerequisite for enrollment for the exam

  • Handing in of written assignments or the like
  • Completion of certain – or all – study activities


Name of examEthnographically Informed Design
Type of exam
Written or oral exam
Note that if admittance to the exam or parts of the assessment is to be based on written work or exercises, a deadline is stipulated for when the work must be handed in.
Permitted aids
With certain aids:
See semester description
Assessment7-point grading scale
Type of gradingInternal examination
Criteria of assessmentThe criteria of assessment are stated in the Examination Policies and Procedures

Facts about the module

Danish titleEtnografisk inspireret design
Module codeMSNMEDB6173
Module typeCourse
Duration1 semester
Language of instructionEnglish
Location of the lectureCampus Aalborg, Campus Copenhagen
Responsible for the module


Study BoardStudy Board of Media Technology
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture, Design and Media Technology
FacultyThe Technical Faculty of IT and Design