Work Observer

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Work Observer Redirect

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Work Observer for iPad

Work Activity Observer 



The Work Activity Observer App

This site provides detailed instructions on how to use the Work Activity Observer App for the iPad. This App was developed by the Army Research Laboratory as a research and data collection tool. It is offered on the Apple App Store as “Work Observer” free of charge. If you have any questions or suggestions for improvement, please contact


The Work Activity Observer App helps an observer collect interaction data over time among people and/or the artifacts people use. It can be used to capture social interactions such as face-to-face discussions to support social network analysis as well as socio-technical system interactions such as how people use and interact with technology and other artifacts in their environment to complete an activity. The data collected records the duration and agents (people or artifact) involved, the type of link, and session notes. The output is a Comma Separated Value (CSV) format and can be exported from the iPad for statistical analysis or social network analysis.

App Instructions


Create Sessions

A data collection event begins by creating a session. One session window is created in portrait orientation by default when the App is started.

Additional sessions can be added by selecting the + button on top title bar
(additional sessions can be used for breakout discussions or for specialized interactions).

1-6 Sessions can be created and the default number of sessions can be changed in Settings

The session window orientation can be changed (landscape or portrait). To change the orientation, close all session windows and add new sessions in the desired orientation.

Each orientation provides a unique pattern of window sizes as sessions are added.

Each session window can be maximized to fill the entire screen with the + button on the bottom of each session window.

Custom Agent Icons

Agents can be any person, technology, or artifact in the environment you are interested in collecting interactions with.

Agents can be created in the Agent bar on top by selecting the Agent + icon.

Select agent icon, name it, and select “Done” on the keyboard or the “Save” button. Continue to create as many agents as needed, up to 50 agents can be created.

To delete agents from the agent bar, tap the agent 3 times.

Data Collection

Populate a session with the desired agents by tapping each agent to place in the highlighted session window. An agent can be present in multiple sessions.

When the first agent is added, the session timer begins.

To record an interaction between agents, tap and drag from one agent to another. A link will form between the two agents. Multiple links can be formed with any agent. The creation of the link will be time-stamped in the output file.

When the interaction is over, delete the link by tapping it once. The deletion of the link will be time-stamped in the output file and the duration of the interaction automatically computed.

Two types of links are available, a directed and a non-directed link. The link type is recorded in the output file.

The default link type is a directed link. The default can be changed in “Settings”

The direction of the link can be quickly changed by tap and dragging the link between the 2 agents in the desired direction. This is useful to capture turn-taking discussion between 2 or more individuals.

To delete an agent in a session, double tap the agent and select the “X”.

To access the agent options, double tap the agent.

The link type drawn from this agent can be changed by selecting the directed or non-directed link icon.

To connect all the agents in a session, select the connect all icon.

To break all links in the session, select the disconnect all icon.

The orate icon will draw directed links from the selected agent to all other agents in the session. This is typically used when one person is addressing an entire group of people or when a single display is being viewed by several people.

To move the agents within a session window, select the move icon on the bottom of each session window.

The comment field for each session provides the opportunity for the observer to take notes during data collection. All notes will be recorded and associated with the session number in the output file.

End Data Collection

Interactions can be stopped and recorded in three ways:

  1. delete the link - that interaction is ended and is recorded
  2. delete the agent - all interactions with the agent ends and is recorded
  3. close the session window - all session interactions end and is recorded

Export Data

Only stopped and recorded interactions will be recorded in the output file. Any existing links in the session windows will not be recorded if the data is exported. To stop and record all interactions to the output file, close all session windows. Data can be exported in two ways:

  1. iTunes - wired connection of the iPad with a computer. In the iTunes program, select the iPad device and scroll down to the “File Sharing” section. Select the “Work Observer” App and transfer desired files.
  2. email - wireless connection needed. Selection of this export method will attach the CSV output file to an email.

New Template

The “New Template” button on the top title bar will close all session windows and delete any recorded data. To close all session windows and delete all agents, shutdown the “Work Observer” App.

Custom Agent Icons

Custom agent icons can be selected and used. This is done via iTunes. With the iPad connected to a computer, open iTunes. Select the iPad device and scroll down to the “File Sharing” section. Select the “Work Observer” App and transfer the desired icon files from the computer to the “Work Observer” file area. Actual photographs of people or objects can be used to easily identify the agents during data collection by using custom agent icons.

Some information of the creation of the app is at

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