Artefacts as designed, Artefacts as used: resources for uncovering activity dynamics

Devina Ramduny-Ellis, Alan Dix, Paul Rayson, Victor Onditi, Ian Sommerville, Jane Ransom
Lancaster University, UK

web: < Alan > < Devina > < Paul > < Victor > < Ian > < Jane >

In Cognition, Technology and Work - Special Issue on Collaboration in Context: Cognitive and Organizational Artefacts, P. Jones, C. Chisalita, and G. van der Veer (eds.).

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This paper addresses the use of artefacts as a powerful resource for analysis, focusing on the 'artefact as designed' as a means of eliciting the designers' explicit and implicit knowledge and 'artefacts as used' as a means of uncovering the trail left by currently inactive processes. Artefact analysis is particularly suitable in situations where direct observation is ineffective, especially in activities that occur infrequently. We demonstrate the usefulness of our technique through the analysis of artefacts within both the office and the meeting environment. This is part of a wider study aimed at understanding the nature of decisions in meetings with the view of producing a tool to aid decision management and hence reduce rework. We conclude by drawing out some general lessons from our analysis, which reaffirms the intricate role that artefacts play in maintaining activity dynamics.

Keywords: artefacts, archaeologically-inspired artefact analysis, transect analysis, activity dynamics, decision, meetings, field study methodology

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Full reference:
D. Ramduny-Ellis, A. Dix, P. Rayson, V. Onditi, I. Sommerville and J. Ransom (2005).
Artefacts as designed, Artefacts as used: resources for uncovering activity dynamics. Cognition, Technology and Work, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp: 76-87.
Tracker Project
Trigger Analysis - understanding broken tasks. Chapter 19 in The Handbook of Task Analysis for Human-Computer Interaction
Springer DOI



Attributes of artefacts


  • Physical and functional
  • Information and communication
  • Control and coordination
  • Social and political 

Encoded in:

  • Content
  • Appearance
  • Disposition

Alan Dix 23/5/2005