University of California at Irvine
Irvine Research Unit in Software (IRUS)
is proud to sponsor the

Bay Area Roundtable (BART)

Ethnography to Inform Tool Design

Friday, June 11, 1999

9:00 am - 9:30 am: Coffee/Network
9:30 am - 12:00 pm: BART Meeting

Crown Plaza-Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto

4290 El Camino Real
Tel (650) 857-0787

There is a $15.00 charge for non-sponsors.
Checks should be made payable to UC Regents.

No reservations required.

Patricia Collins, Research Scientist, Distributed Systems Architecture Research,
                        Hewlett-Packard Laboratories,

Shilpa Shukla, Information and Computer Science, University of California, Irvine

Activity Theory offers a framework in which to analyze systems to identify requirements for technologies, as well as for organization design and processes. This presentation focuses on the application of activity theory in industrial software engineering (design, development and maintenance).

Various data collection methodologies can be applied for gathering data from situated work. Ethnography is one particular qualitative methodology for data collection in a natural setting. Activity Theory is a socio-cultural theory that lends useful models to analyze the data collected from ethnography. The models we have adopted from Activity Theory serve as a lens to interpret data we have collected from software maintenance and customer support settings.

Activity Theory helps us understand the multi-dimensional nature of customer support "systems". We provide specific examples of the application of Activity Theory and ethnographic methods to identifying improvements in workflow processes and tools.


Patricia Collins is a researcher at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories where she has focused most recently on technology strategies for the knowledge engineering-management lifecycle. Her previous research was in the area of software reuse, especially domain analysis and the use of capability-readiness models for developing organizational development roadmaps in software reuse. Patricia holds a MSEE from Stanford University and a B.A. in mathematics and philosophy from Dickinson College.

Shilpa Shukla is a Doctoral student in the Information and Computer Science Department at the University of California Irvine. Her research focuses on studying the bug management workflow processes using a data collection methodology known as ethnography. Shilpa combines software engineering theories with a socio-cultural theory to analyze ethnographic data. Previously she studied Apple's bug tracking and HP's customer support processes. The results of her analysis are intended to help software researchers better understand and design bug management processes. Shilpa holds a Masters from University of California Irvine in Human Computer Interaction and a B.S. in Information and Computer Science with a focus on sofware engineering.

Meeting Coordinator:
David F. Redmiles, Information and Computer Science, University of California, Irvine

Directions to the meeting are available.

Next Meeting:

Friday, July 9, 1999
Topic: An Assessment of UML
Coordinator: David S. Rosenblum, Information and Computer Science, University of California, Irvine
NOTE LOCATION: Crown Plaza-Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto
The Irvine Research Unit in Software wishes to thank its corporate sponsors:


The Boeing Company * IBM * Microsoft Corporation * Northrop Grumman Corporation
Raytheon Company * Sun Microsystems Laboratories * TRW


Beckman Coulter * FileNet Corporation * Printronix, Inc.
Continuus Software Corporation * Hewlett Packard

For further information on BART or IRUS, contact
        Debra Brodbeck at (949) 824-2260;

Irvine Research Unit in Software
Information and Computer Science
University of California, Irvine CA 92697-3425