An Investigation into the Use of Ethnography and Participatory Design in Identifying and Meeting Collaborative Needs
: A Case Study of Software Development Teams at Airbus

  • Victoria Shipp

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Engineering (EngD)


This thesis presents an ethnographic process for identifying the needs for collaborative tools within an organisation and a participatory design method for matching these to existing off the shelf technologies. This process is developed through, and illustrated with, a case study looking at tools to support collaborative software development teams at Airbus. The thesis begins by exploring the background to systems development processes as well as methods for identifying needs and understanding the context of use. It then presents an in depth description of ethnographic studies carried out at Airbus in which the needs of software development teams are identified, along with high-level requirements for supporting these. These focus on ways to aid traceability of design decisions in a lightweight and flexible manner. A description of the process used to develop a participatory design workshop that sought to bridge the gap between the output of the ethnographic work and the selection of potential solutions is provided. This includes three pilot studies used to refine the method and a final workshop held with stakeholders at Airbus. The thesis then describes the evaluation of two potential solutions, the Livescribe Echo Smartpen and a Motorola Xoom tablet computer with a number of apps installed. Through evaluations it was possible to identify the Smartpen as being the most feasible technology, although some barriers to use still existed. Finally the thesis concludes with a summary of the process developed, reflections on the methods used, and an outline of the case study. Limitations and recommendations for the future are also outlined.
Date of Award30 Apr 2014
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPeter Johnson (Supervisor)

Cite this