were coordinating, making decisions,
moderating, arranging, and handling
issues on the fly.
You can never plan enough.
The uniqueness of a field trip is its
dynamism. There are situations that
could not be foreseen and required
changes to a study’s methodology. In one
case, it was changed from interviews
to a focus group, as it became clear
that the users were not comfortable
when interviewed separately. In
another, a focus group changed to
interviews, as organizers felt that
they had enough moderators and
that the other structure would work
better. In the initial stage of designing
the field trips, the organizers had
curated the groups to conduct
experiments and interviews, but
on the final day a sudden inflow of
participants caused the organizers
to reallocate tasks. Elsewhere, a
participant joined on the last day and
had no task allocated, so she could
focus only on observing, note taking,
and maintaining a diary. While in a
controlled experiment, participants
sometimes did not have anything to
do. Also, balancing the interviewer-interviewee relation can become a
challenge, as in one study where a
group of three men were interviewing
Being one of the most populated
countries, India tends to be crowded.
Many of the organizers and
participants found it overwhelming
and needed some time to adjust.
Despite this challenge, it was
important to try to act as a researcher
and not a tourist—to withhold
a methodology to deliver takeaways
and learning. Proposals were reviewed
on three aspects:
• Relevance. Each proposal reflected
the academic and professional
experience of the organizers. Some
drew on assumptions that were not
relevant, and thus not suitable to the
context. There were exchanges of ideas
and discussions before consensus and
• Feasibility. Some proposals were
interesting but ambitious with respect
to the time and setting of the study.
These had to be narrowed down.
Some organizers wanted to try out
different methods like reflexive and
collaborative photography. In such
cases, the ethical dimension had to
be addressed more clearly in terms of
benefits for the participants.
• Methodology. There were some
quasi-experimental approaches in a
controlled environment that were not
in line with a field trip and thus had to
be reworked. In other cases, organizers
had planned to conduct controlled
experiments with the users in a field
setting, in which case the protocol had
to be clearly defined.
Finally, out of the 15 proposals, six
were accepted and two were merged,
resulting in two two-day field trips in
different locations, three single-day
field trips, one usability-testing study,
and one single-day field trip combined
with a one-day workshop.
Planning the field trips. The
first task was to identify the user
requirements , which depended on
the kind of study the organizers
were planning to conduct and the
time needed to complete those
studies. External sources like
NGOs and people working with
local communities helped with user
recruitment. In some instances, the
field trip had specific requirements
for users—for example, that they be
elderly people or healthcare workers.
In such cases, detailed coordination
was needed to plan the timing of
Arranging a place was very
important, as most of the field trips
were conducted in the slum area
Dharavi, where finding a place to
accommodate groups of eight to
10 people is always a challenge.
Scheduling had to avoid clashes
Planning travel was another key
factor. In one field trip, participants
had to travel for three hours to talk to a
specific group in a locality. For others,
city traffic complicated timing, as one
must cut through Mumbai traffic to
reach Dharavi, in the center of the city.
Language was the biggest barrier.
For each field trip, a moderator/
communicator would bridge the
communication gap and facilitate the
whole trip. Hence, groups were formed
so at least one or two members could
speak the local language.
As part of the protocol, the
organizers would not give gifts of
any kind to participants. That was
taken care of by the INTERACT
2017 committee, mainly to maintain
consistency across groups.
Plans needed to be well executed.
The student volunteers played a
critical role as field warriors who