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Patterns of Cooperative Interaction


Patterns of cooperative interaction, ethnography, techniques


Patterns of Cooperative Interaction are descriptions of arrangements of people, computers and other artifacts, and the various cooperative activities they are engaged in, which have been observed to occur in different field site settings. ‘Patterns’ captures the idea that similar arrangements of people and technologies give rise to similar cooperative activities in different settings, and that we can learn from patterns how workplace arrangements may facilitate or constrain certain types of cooperative work. The patterns are organised around a framework which is inspired by how work descriptions are presented in ethnomethodologically-informed ethnographic studies of work and technology. Patterns provide a method for presenting fieldwork results according to a uniform structure.

The patterns comprise a high level description and two or more comparable examples of each pattern drawn from specific ethnographic studies, which are presented on web pages. The web pages describing all patterns can be accessed from here. Our contention is that these patterns serve as an informational resource for re-using findings from previous field studies, which then enables analysis of social aspects of technology usage and a consideration of design options in new settings.

Previous work on the relationship between ethnomethodology, ethnography and design has been concerned primarily in providing presentation frameworks and mechanisms, practical advice, schematisations of the ethnomethodologist's role, different possibilities of input at different stages in development, and various conceptualisations of the relationship between study and design. In contrast, this work tackles the issue of generalization and re-use of ethnographic material by creating a resource of findings that demonstrates differences and similarities between the results of different field studies.


More information about patterns of interaction

Descriptions of all patterns of interaction

Structure theme


Hughes, J., O'Brien, J., Rodden, T., Rouncefield, M. and Viller, S. (2000), Patterns of home life: informing design for domestic environments, Personal Technologies, 4 (1): 25-38.

Martin, D., Rodden, T., Rouncefield, M., Sommerville, I. & Viller, S. (2001). Finding Patterns In The Fieldwork. Proceedings of ECSCW 2001. Dordecht: Kluwer.

Martin, D., Rouncefield, M. & Sommerville, I. (2002). Applying Patterns of Cooperative Interaction to Work and Technology (Re) Design: E-Government and Planning. In Proceedings of CHI 2002.

Sommerville, I., Martin, D. and Rouncefield, M. (2003). Informing the RE Process with Patterns of Cooperative Interaction. Invited paper, Int. Arab Journal of Information Technology 1 (0) pp. 1-10.

Martin, D. & Sommerville, I. (2004). Patterns Of Cooperative Interaction: Linking Ethnomethodology and Design. ACM Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction. Vol. 11 Issue 1, pp. 59-89. © Association of Computing Machinery. Vol. 11, No.1, pp 59-89.

Martin, D., Rouncefield, M. & Sommerville (forthcoming). Patterns for Dependable Design. Chapter 7, in Trust In Technology: A socio-technical systems perspective. Springer, September 2005 (TrustBook.html)


David Martin (d dot b dot martin at lancaster dot ac dot uk)



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