The Fieldwork lab came about after some work I did with Ellen De Vries. We talked a lot about the persona of Fieldwork, especially what it wasn’t. I don’t want Fieldwork to be another business consultancy, and that can be communicated in many ways from the way we dress, the language we use and the tools we do our ethnography with. I’m also interested with the theatre of work, creating curiosity and interest by using new tools and ways of working.
The lab also has an important role in our research. I’ve worked in many different companies and in some of those cases, I’ve ended up working at those companies desks. This feels like a blurring of the boundaries in which you can suddenly find yourself being a part of the company and not as independent as you would have liked. The Fieldwork Lab enables us to be in the company but retain a certain amount of distance and detachment when observing. It enables us to have a base to work from when in the field and for that to be a focal point of the project for the participants.
The design process started with me sending some rough notes to Baines and Fricker along with some examples of field desks I’d found online. They sent sketches back which were pretty close to how I envisaged the lab to look. They built an early prototype for us to play with, which was great because I could actually sit and work at it and work out what features were really important. A few weeks later they had built the version you see in the photographs.
The lab comes in a custom built flightcase with rollers on one side. The flightcase doubles as a base when stood on one end. The lab’s front panel pulls forward to create a desk. There are drawers and sections to store the materials and tools we use when doing our fieldwork. We do a lot of collaborative ethnography, so we included a letterbox on one side for people to post us stuff when we are not around.
We'd like to cover the flightcase in stickers documenting it's own travels during our research. If you'd like to understand more about your company, it's people and their needs and you'd like to put one of your stickers on our flightcase, get in touch.