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Scavenger ethnographic harvester: machine supported processing of ethnographic data


Harvesting, Multi-media, Structuring ethnographies, Widening access, Techniques


Scavenger is a simple but powerful approach that supports the direct recovery or "reclamation" of data from ethnographic reports and original source materials. We do not utilise fully automated grammatical analysis techniques due to issues relating to accuracy, scalability and generalisability of such approaches. Rather we prefer to keep the human "in the loop" by providing tools to enhance and augment the activities of a human analyst. To support this process, the tool provides mechanisms for the selection of fragments of media from original source documents and the population of the structured models using a specialised "cut and paste" mechanism.

The aim of Scavenger is to ease the processes of ordering, structuring and tagging the content of digitised original source material. The overall process of modelling should be viewed as a human mediated "harvesting" from existing electronic documents. Support is provided for the importation of electronic texts, hand written notes, photographs, diagrams, scanned artifacts and audio files.

Figure 1: Selecting images (the selections are highlighted in orange)

Scavenger is based on the notion of atomic entities, each of which will have one or more of the following elements:

o Mixed media name - A human readable unique identifier consisting of a combination of text and images.
o Mixed media descriptions - A human readable description of the entity, consisting of a combination of text, images and audio fragments.
o Boolean flags - Flags which indicate and define the nature of an entity.
o Relationships - Potentially multiple sets of relationships linking a particular entity with other stored entities.

Thus any model which can be composed on entities and relationships may be represented by and operated upon using the Scavenger tool. Scavenger has been used successfully with the technique situation modelling and the tool Strider


More information about Scavenger harvesting

Strider configuration modelling and analysis approach

Situation modeling

Ethnography and Design



Lock, S., "The management of socio-technical systems using configuration modelling", Human Systems Management Vol 23(1), pp.29-47, 2004

Lock, S., "The Scavenger Approach for Supporting the Qualitative Analysis of Mixed Media Original Sources", under review for the International Journal of Qualitative Methods

Mackie, J., Lock, S., "Supporting the Development of Healthcare Systems Through Situation Modelling", 3rd International Conference on The Management of Healthcare & Medical Technology, Warwick, September 2003


Simon Lock (lock at comp dot lancs dot ac dot uk)


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