This paper is an excellent example of really thought provoking research that never makes it into journals and yet should be available to a wide audience.
A pre-existing friend group was given free unlimited use of push-to-talk cellular phones (similar to walkie-talkies) and allowed to develop their own social patterns and communication uses. The authors interpreted the findings using grounded-theory and have shown some of the weaknesses of the method. Despite the weaknesses of the study, the data is rich and the analysis of how affordances affect usage is illuminating. Particularly useful is the fact that different affordances can conflict and their examples of it. Here's a few of the conclusions:Poor usability dramatically influences what communication happens and how much of it occurs:
"Participants used private connections much more
frequently than group connections, partly because the group mechanism was
cumbersome and partly to avoid annoying other participants"
"People sometimes relayed or requested information over the cellular radios that would probably not have been worth sharing using more heavyweight
mechanisms (analogous to effects reported for SMS relative to telephony (Ito,
2001)). For example, Erica said she would call people to ask questions which she
felt would not be appropriate with the phone.
Erica: “It’s really convenient with roommates. Cause you can ask em just stupid little questions, like, you know, ‘Where’s the extra toilet paper?’ or something.”"It increased how available participants were:
"Overall, increased availability was tolerable largely because there was a
limited group of participants using the cellular radios, and therefore they were
available only to close friends. They contrasted this with mobile phones, which
they felt gave more people access to them."Technology-mediated meetings resulted in more in-person meetings:
"they clearly articulated that both more frequent talk and
increased awareness were key factors in the increased visitations. More frequent
talk provided more openings to coordinate co-present activities, as well as being a
resource for learning that initiating such activities would be appropriate."Lightweight devices require less attention:
"Kelly: “[T]here can be long pauses and nobody cares and so, phones are just so restrictive and
the fact that you have to pay attention so much.”Media affordances of a mobile push-to-talk communication service
Allison Woodruff and Paul M. Aoki