Talking with the machines: An ethnographic study of office workers in an indian it company

An Ethnographic study was conducted during a five month internship at the Chief Technology Office of one of India's largest IT companies. The group chosen for this study was the Visits Team who's daily worked involved coordinating client visits to the office's futuristic technology exhibition centre. Research techniques involved Participant Observations, Long Interviews and Field Notes. The study documented the daily activities of the group including task coordination, pitfalls and workarounds, group cohesion, communication mechanisms, personal goals and ambitions. The study found that the social group functioned as a 'society of objects and people' . The result was a prototype of a new conversational interface that allowed the humans and machines in the group to talk to each other in a social chat group.


The social group can be viewed as a ‘Society of Objects and People’. This Society consists of objects and installations which communicate and cooperate with both the visits team as well as the technical team at the center. Together, this highly cooperative, scalable society works towards providing a smooth client experience, minimizing failure, optimizing resource use, while simultaneously encouraging collaboration and organization.

The transformation from scattered individuals to a cohesive ‘society’ is achieved by providing a common communication platform. This platform takes into consideration the on-the-go nature of the visits team, combining it with the need-to-know expertise of the technical team. Joining the conversation are the objects and installations which offer on-demand control and update of their own health and status through a chat-style conversational interface. The interface is presented as a working prototype that translates data from IoT sensors into natural language text. A series of scenarios are presented in the form of speculative chats between the social group.