The Ethnobot: Gathering Ethnographies in the Age of IoT

Ella Tallyn, Hector Fried, Rory Gianni, Amy Isard, Christopher Speed

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


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.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems
Number of pages10
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-5620-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2018


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