Cite as: Abraham, Hillary and Pei, Lucy2020. Redesigning PECE - Founder Interviews. University of California. December.


Lucy Pei is a PhD student in the Department of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine. Lucy holds a BA in Global Studies and Human Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University.

Hillary Abraham received her MS in Informatics from the University of California, Irvine and her BA in Anthropology from the University of Michigan. 


Web design has long followed traditional HCI and UX principles, making most platforms prioritize ease of use and efficiency. While design guidelines have resulted in platforms that feel intuitive to users, the focus on ease of use and efficiency has necessitated de-prioritizing other worthwhile endeavors. The Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography (PECE) is an innovative approach to online research and collaboration. Its creators wished to envision a new web interface. What would a platform look like that doesn’t rely on hierarchy? What if the platform prioritized noise, instead of clarity? How can we design a platform that encourages questions, rather than answers?

This essay is the first component of a multi-stage research project exploring these questions. In this essay, we report on our findings from several interviews with founders of PECE; those who  envisioned, funded, and manifested PECE from the very beginning. We detail what the founders hope(d) for PECE, and how these hopes speak to the user experience. We offer several areas for further interrogation, as well as some intial design ideas.


image fleshing out pece triptych and showing double binds related to each part of the triptych

The founders all referred to PECE originally being envisioned as a triptych, where the three foundations are Archive, Analysis, and Communication. Through these interviews, we identified several additional aims within PECE. We chose to demonstrate how these aims relate to the original triptych. It is our hope that calling attention to these "sub-components" of the triptych will enable future design researchers to closely examine the populations and user experience of PECE.

Additionally, the founders all described myriad double-binds within the original and expanded triptych. This image conveys how each part of the triptych is wrestling with competing needs; offering an opportunity to ask questions related to user research and design theory.

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Archive

This essay reflects on what it means to be an archive: how PECE is acting as an archive, and introducing the additional layers to “archive” that sit between analysis and communication.

The design logics PECE’s site contrast between traditional archives and PECE as a “living” archive....Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Analysis

Interviewees characterized the questions and analytic functions of PECE as the heart of the platform. PECE provides a kaleidoscopic view of one’s data— interviewees sought to see their own (and others’) data in different ways, allowing them to form different ideas from...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Communication

Interviewees were drawn to PECE for its potential to convey research in creative, media-rich ways. Following their belief in the power and importance of textual performance, people see PECE as providing avenues to share ideas and research results...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Scaffolding Scholars

All of our interviewees used PECE in their classes and emphasized the importance of PECE as a tool to help make the research and interpretation process visible for junior scholars. Most students do not have opportunities to see how ethnographic scholars move from data to an end...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Building Communities

Our interviewees note a key function of PECE as bringing together distinct research communities to collaborate on interdisciplinary research interests. Deeper engagements with research questions require collaboration across topic areas, across scales, across approaches, across locations,...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Sharing Research

Interviewees were excited that PECE provides flexibility both to speak to new audiences, and to speak to old audiences in new ways.

Broadly, our interviewees hoped to augment traditional academic publishing. Academic journals can be difficult to access and, unlike...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Public Repository

Interviewees hoped that PECE could serve as a public repository for research data and help to disrupt a property sense of knowledge and data. Ethnographers in particular collect a great deal of data, oftentimes more than they are able to individually process. Even data they have...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Accessing Desired Material

One use of PECE our interviewees thought was both central and difficult in PECE was the ability to access artifacts, data, analytic questions, and writings that had been uploaded to the platform either by themselves, a collaborator, or an unfamiliar user.

Visibility...Read more

Expanding the Triptych - PECE as Generating Novel Connections

Interviewees value PECE as a space where they can see their data in new ways and make new connections across their own data and with others’ data. Where the theme of building communities emphasizes the opportunities to connect with other scholars, this theme...Read more

Redesigning PECE - Design Ideas

  • Random question of the day - highlights question parts of PECE, encourages engagement, encourages randomness / researchers to think of a question as it pertains to their research

  • It’s unclear what type of engagement different creators are ready

  • ...Read more


We conducted interviews, ranging from 1-1.5 hours, with seven PECE founders over Zoom. These interviews were fairly unstructured and covered a broad range of topics related to PECE's design and use.