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Encounters with technology, jargon and research methodology at Grad School

AEIOU template for observational research

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Different frameworks for observational research

I heard about the AEIOU framework for structuring and interpreting observations while auditing Susanne Stein’s Digital Research Methodologies course.  The reading was “Ethnography in the Field of Design” by Christina Wasson.  Intended as a framework or template for making field observations, the letters go as follows:

A: Activities are goal directed sets of actions – things which people want to accomplish

E: Environments include the entire arena where activities take place

I: Interactions are between a person and someone or something else, and are the bilding blocks of activities

O: Objects are building blocks of the environment, key elements sometimes put to complex or unintended uses, changing their function, meaning and context

U: Users are the consumers, the people providing the behaviours, preferences and needs  (Christina Wasson, quoting E-Lab, 1977)

I thought it made a pretty comprehensive  template and would help you cover the bases during research.  Could also look like this so that you can record effects of one on the other, i.e. environment on activity, environment on user, object on user etc.:

AEIOU grid

AEOUT (Activity, Environment, Object, User, Time) was also mentioned as more suitable for some studies.  And obviously, from image at the top of this post, there are others.

Consensus seems to be that AEIOU is a good tool for capturing micro level detail, but not for capturing macro level general conditions or changes over time in:

  • cultural patterns
  • history
  • politics
  • economy, etc

Palojono blog A good description of all the frameworks in the image at the top.

The POEMS framework

Written by Anne Stevens

November 12th, 2011 at 10:38 am