[Research] Experimental psychology or ethnography in CSCW?

Though a bit old (1993), the paper "Mixing oil and water? Ethnography versus Experimental Psychology in the study of computer-mediated communication" (by Monk, A., Nardi, B., Gilbert, N., Mantei, M., McCarthy, J.) still adresses a very relevant topic. It was actually a panel discussion during Interchi'93. The position of the ethnographer is confronted to the one of the experimentalists and a case study is discussed.

The study of computer-mediated communication (CMC) has brought together investigators from very different research traditions. Investigators coming from Sociology and Anthropology have been trained in the tradition of ethnography, whereas investigators coming from Experimental Psychology and Human Factors think more in terms of the hypothetico-deductive tradition of experiment and quantitative measurement.

The position of this workshop is that these traditions can be seen as complementary rather than contradictory. Indeed it can be argued that there is already a merging of the two approaches when it comes to methods of data collection. The major differences are in the way data are interpreted.