Designing for Diverse User Groups: Case Study of a Language Archive


  • Christina Wasson
  • Melanie Medina
  • Miyoung Chong
  • Brittany LeMay
  • Emma Nalin
  • Kenneth Saintonge



Language archives, design anthropology, multiple user groups, large-scale computing systems, indigenous groups


This article explores the challenges of designing large-scale computing systems for multiple, diverse user groups. Such computing systems house large, complex datasets, and often provide analytic tools to interpret the data. They are increasingly central to activities in industry, science, and government agencies, and are often associated with “big data,” data warehousing, and/or scientific “cyberinfrastructure”.  A key characteristic of these systems is the diversity and multiplicity of their intended user groups, which may range from various scientific disciplines, to assorted business functions, to government officials and citizen groups. These user groups occupy structurally different positions in local and global political economies, and bring different forms of expertise to the data housed in the computing system. We argue that design anthropologists can contribute to the usefulness of such systems by engaging in collaborative ethnographic research with the targeted user groups, and communicating findings to the designers and developers creating these systems. 


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