/* ---------------------------- HTML STARTS HERE----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- */

Mobile Community Design
Research and design information for mobile community developers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Mobile Culture

This is a draft of a paper on mobile culture. In particular it draws attention to the fact that humans are on the move more than ever before. "There are over 600 million international passenger arrivals each year (compared with 25m in 1950); at any one time 300,000 passengers are in flight above the US, equivalent to a substantial city."

The author also brings up the concept of being 'geographically independent'. It brings to mind the question of how physical communities will manage with their members less frequently found within their physical space. If physical communities want to retain their powers of collective decision making they will need to broaden their community scope to people who aren't physically present but are nonetheless concerned with the affairs of that region. So in other words, even physical, situated communities may start being mobile communities to some degree. Another way of looking at it is that some mobile communities may choose to have their purpose be management of a physical region.

I also particularly enjoyed the feminist quote regarding the labels of nomad or tourist. "If rather [these labels] ... are re-coded as paparazzi, homeless drunk, sex-tourist and womaniser, then they lose the positive valuation that they have typically enjoyed within male-stream nomadic theory."

John Urry
Mobile Cultures (draft)
[Full-text pdf] (url corrected)

Friday, January 23, 2004

Influential Technologies

I read a book a while back called Persuasive Technology by BJ Fogg at Stanford.

The concept of technology persuading people to act differently fascinated me from when I first read about it on his web site. The book itself had some good ideas but is largely an introductory, high-level book covering the basics of persuasion and current products using the technique.

Fogg chose to focus on persuasion as opposed to coercion or simply control in his book. How technology affects people is an ethically sticky topic - particularly when you design to cause a change in behavior. Persuasion is the politically correct side of 'influential technology'. I personally think the ethically dark side of the technology is more fascinating from a philosophical point of view and extremely relevant for current public discussion. Many of our technologies already control our behavior on a daily basis, without our conscious knowledge or consideration.

Mobile devices for group usage will affect the behaviors of large numbers of people and enable or disable potential community activities. Maybe I just haven't been reading in the right places, but I haven't seen much discussion of persuasive or influential technology or how control of user behavior should be considered during development. These decisions are already made in the design process, but they are not made explicit.

One reason the effects of technology on behavior may not get more attention by designers is that its really hard to predict. It is hard enough for designers to simply make a complex product work. Making it work in a usable fashion is still harder. Harder than that is predicting some of the major ways it will be used. The step beyond that is predicting how that usage will change behavior. These are stages of difficulty, but not impossibility. It is ethically negligent for the design community to continue to ignore the impact their technology has on users and to rebuff attempts to integrate expectations of behavior change into the design process.

I recently happened upon a reference to Adaptive Structuration Theory [Full-text pdf] which is a method for describing how the design of software influences how it is used. I wrote an article a while back called How to manipulate social behavior (and why you'd want to) which explores some of the ideas around creating technologies intended to change behavior.

I'll continue to look for articles related to predicting or planning behavior change and post them here. If you know of any research related to this please let me know. If you have opinions about this issue, please join our discussion group on Tribe!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Necessities For Building Community

This paper provides a good overview of existing online and offline community research and discusses the need for a design methodology for community development. It includes some interesting thoughts about how participatory design might be useful in helping users feel ownership of community tools to increase their success rates. It also introduces a concept that was new to me, sociocultural animation.

Connectivity does not ensure community: on social capital, networks and communities of place, 2003
Marcus Foth
[Full-text pdf] Published with permission of author

MIS Conference 2004

Submissions are invited for a conference on

The Global and the Local in Mobile Communication: Places, Images, People,

to take place in Budapest, June 10-11, 2004.

Five sections of submitted papers are planned on the topics of


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Ethnography of a Coffee Shop

While not explicitly about mobile communities, this paper is an excellent demonstration of the complexity of social behavior within the common environment of a situated coffee shop community. The complexity probably increases when one looks at mobile communities.

Using ethnomethodology, the study effectively demonstrates how people view their environment and the emergent social norms which they respect (or not) while choosing their actions. It also shows why certain norms exist and the intricacy and subtlety of information used to guide behavior.

A current hot research topic is how and indeed if, ethnomethodological accounts of behavior and environments can be useful for informing the design process. Any new design when introduced into a social system, will impact the system - the question is whether it will sufficiently benefit the system and whether design changes can be made to improve/minimize the impact made.

An ethnography of a neighbourhood café: informality, table arrangements and background noise, 2001
Eric Laurier, Angus Whyte, Kathy Buckner
[full-text html]


Design for Life, Leeds, UK

Full papers due: Jan 23rd
Workshop proposals due: Jan 23rd
Tutorial proposals due: Jan 23rd

All other submissions: May 7th

The 18th British Human-Computer Interaction Group Annual Conference is
taking place at Leeds Metropolitan University from 6th to 10th September

Full details of the theme and submission guidelines can be found at:

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

PDC 2004

the eighth biennial
Participatory Design Conference

Artful Integration, Interweaving Media, Materials and Practices


July 27-31, 2004
University of Toronto
Toronto, Canada

Sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)

In cooperation with the ACM and IFIP (pending)

Academic sponsors:
Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI), University of Toronto
Faculty of Information Studies (FIS), University of Toronto

Participatory Design (PD) is a diverse collection of principles and
practices aimed at making technologies and social institutions more
responsive to human needs. A central tenet of PD is the direct
involvement of people in the co-design of the systems they use.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Location-aware Event Planners

The following paper is on the design and evaluation of a mobile device used for planning and coordinating activities amongst a group of people. It is a good example of a user-centered design process, which one doesn't always find in mobile research papers.

In particular they:
- identified a target user group
- did surveys and interviews with them
- built a prototype
- tested it with the target user group, in realistic usage contexts, using scenarios
- iterated on the design and incorporated user feedback

The only thing I didn't see was use of low-fidelity prototypes (e.g. paper) which would have decreased development time and increased flexibility in early stages of design.

They identified two types of events
- formal (generally planned in advance)
- informal (social in nature and don't require firm commitments ahead of time)

This resulted in some interesting design guidelines:
- stateless interaction model
- visibility of the information needed to perform actions
- short interaction sequences
- appropriate timeout on unfinished operations
- carry data between applications to avoid re-entry
- functionality to resume where user left off a task
- integrate data where needed to avoid unnecessary switching

They make a good point about the importance of different kinds of metrics for mobile device design. "Timings are important, but other performance measures such as resiliency to interruptions and interaction suspensions may be much more useful for evaluating this class of applications."

The design and evaluation of a mobile location-aware handheld event planner, 2003
Rachel Fithian, Giovanni Iachello, Jehan Moghazy, Zachary Pousman, John Stasko

[full-text pdf | unformatted html]

Saturday, January 10, 2004



The 6th International Conference on
Human-Computer Interaction with
Mobile Devices and Services

13-16 September, 2004
Glasgow, UK

Mark Dunlop, University of Strathclyde
Stephen Brewster, University of Glasgow


The 6th conference in the MOBILE HCI series provides a forum for academics and practitioners to discuss the challenges and potential solutions for effective interaction with mobile systems and services. It covers the design, evaluation and application of techniques and approaches for all mobile computing devices and services.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Awareness While Hunting in Groups

This research comes out of Umeå University in Sweden and does a good job of showing an atypical example of needing better group awareness. While many CSCW studies investigate people in highly controlled environments where some movement happens, this paper investigates a mobile group traveling over an extensive area through largely unknown terrain. Understanding how groups can coordinate and achieve goals in extremely heterogeneous and unpredictable environments is a great research area.

This paper makes a differentiation between two different types of coordination mechanisms:
1) Feedback (Responses to your own actions you get from people or objects)
2) Feedthrough (Information you infer based on the actions of others)

Exploring the concept of group interaction through action in a mobile context
Rikard Harr
[Full-text pdf]
Published with permission of author

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Mobile Behavior and Prediction of Behavior

This is an interesting qualitative study comparing predictions of mobile phone usage prior to usage with actual behavior and perceptions after using it for a few months. Their research method included the use of 'voice mail diaries' which are related to other diary-based data gathering techniques. This method has some pros and cons, but is likely to see increased use when studying interaction using communication devices that support voice.

Going Wireless: Behavior & Practice of New Mobile Phone Users
Leysia Palen, Marilyn Salzman & Ed Youngs

[full-text pdf]

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Scenarios for Location-based SMS

Scenarios offer a lot of advantages in the design process. One often overlooked is that the marketing folks can re-use the same scenarios used for product conceptualization and usability testing for their advertising campaigns.

ATT has been offering a service based on location aware SMS called Find Friends. They have a great flash animation showing people in slightly contrived situations in which they might use the service. Go here and click 'view demo' on the right. The great thing about scenarios is that they show potential problem situations that may arise. See if you can spot them in the flash clips.

One of the problems with getting group communication applications to take off is making sure a critical mass of people have the capability to use it. SMS in the USA took forever to take off, in large part because most standard phones didn't support sending SMSs. Unfortunately it appears ATT is making people selectively sign up for the service - meaning all the people you want to coordinate with probably won't be contactable using it.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Wearable Communities

The good folks in wearables research at the University of Oregon have been experimenting with solutions for some of the challenges of developing mobile communities. In particular, reputation networks and supporting generalized reciprocity will be key issues.

When Cyborgs Meet: Building Communities of Cooperating Wearable Agents, 1999
Gerd Kortuem, Jay Schneider, Jim Suruda, Steve Fickas, Zary Segall
[full-text postscript]

Disseminating Trust Information in Wearable Communities, 2000
Jay Schneider, Gerd Kortuem, Joe Jager, Steve Fickas, Zary Segall
[full-text pdf]