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

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Social norms and how we use mobiles

I've been looking more at how social networks affect mobile phone usage recently. Phones make new behaviors possible and perturb existing social norms when used. People actively form opinions about use and regulate it amongst themselves and others. It is an extremely complex relationship which is hard to track or articulate. It often results in people not being able to predict their own usage or determine what opinions they will have about others' use in advance. Several papers that show examples of norm development surrounding use of mobile technologies are below.

One of my favorites which explicitly shows the contrast in opinions before and after extended use is:
Palen, L., Salzman, M., & Youngs, E. (2000). Going Wireless: Behavior & Practice of New Mobile Phone Users. Paper presented at the CSCW, Philadelphia, PA.

And through that paper I came upon an older paper that examines inappropriate use and has an amusing title.

Ling 1997. “‘One can talk about common manners!’: the use of mobile telephones in inappropriate situations.”
In Themes in mobile telephony Final Report of the COST 248 Home and Work group. Haddon,
L (ed). 1997.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Group dynamics and ephemeral experience

A very good paper addressing the fact that we are physically built to operate in groups in certain ways and that technology needs to be designed to support those existing behavior tendencies. An analysis of ways in which groupware changes interaction is given. The point is made that technologies allow experiences to be recorded and replayed in very different contexts, which may make interpretation of the original intent very difficult. It ends with the question of how we will find opportunities for ephemeral experience in the future.

Group Dynamics and Ubiquitous Computing: From “Here and Now” to “Everywhere and Forever”, 2002
Jonathan Grudin
Full-text pdf

Friday, January 14, 2005

Using Mobile Devices in Adverse Environments

I often find it surprising the manufacturers of devices which store large quantities of personal information don't do more to safeguard their data. Both the lack of wireless backup systems and ability to withstand the weather conditions such as heat, cold, water, sand, etc. add up to products that are not trustworthy. There's a fascinating company in the process of solving this problem with third-party additions to many standard electronics. Hopefully they might convince larger companies that there's a market for waterproof electronics. It will be difficult to expect people to wear computers in the future that can't withstand an unexpected rain shower.

H2O Audio

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Bluetooth for snowboarders

Burton and Motorola are doing interesting things with keeping snowboarders connected while moving and in extreme physical conditions. This is some of the first mainstream wearable technologies to come out.

"The products introduced at CES include:
Jacket - the Bluetooth-enabled jacket links a rider's cell phone and/or iPod with an embedded system operated via an easily removed control module on the jacket sleeve. Stereo speakers are built into the hood of the jacket and a microphone is embedded in the upper section near the collar, allowing seamless, unobtrusive wearability and playability. ... Motorola believes the greatest technological advances are made to make everyday tasks easier."

full story at phonecontent.com

I do wonder how usable the interfaces are and how easy the bluetooth setup is, but it's certainly admirable that they are doing it.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Networks for supporting Ad-Hoc Users

This is a technical paper about ad-hoc network implementations. I don't normally focus much on technical papers, because I think the most interesting challenges revolve around humans and how they use technology. But the technical issues do need to be solved. This paper discusses gossip-based multicasting, mesh networks, geocasting, and anycasting.

Group Communications in Mobile Ad Hoc Networks
Prasant Mohapatra, Chao Gui, Jian Li

It's possible that I'm not technical enough to critique this properly, but I get the impression that network design isn't user-centered. When engineers think up new protocols they think about reliability, bandwidth, efficiency and perhaps if we're lucky, highly theoretical and detached usage situations and devices.

The paper mentions: "In addition to performance, some common issues that researchers have considered while designing most group communication protocols include energy conservation, reliability, security, and QoS support."

It has been said that bluetooth was doomed to be difficult to use from day one because of it's lack of concern for usability when developing the initial protocol. I think it is perhaps time for networks designed around observed usage behavior. While network designers do need to think ahead and allow new behaviors to develop, a lot could be learned from modeling how different groups communicate now, using existing technology.

For instance: Will the users be mobile? If so, how frequently or for what duration? What geographical areas do they roam in? How do they want to exchange data? How close will they be to each other? How much are they willing to pay and are there ways to make data transfer cheaper? How much information do they want to share? How do various network characteristics affect sociability, and which are most suited to the group? What level of security is needed for different types of users or information? How long will they need to send information without recharging? What kind of infrastructure can be relied on to relay information in the users' environment?

Currently we seem to do a lot of "hacking" of protocols to get them do what we want. BitTorrent had to hack the technology to allow people to share efficiently by doing simultaneous upload and download. Wouldn't it be great if we had networks built to support how we naturally interact instead of just the requirements of information theory and physics?

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Mobile Audience

I just happened upon a blog about the mobile experience. It explores the artistic side of mobile design and got me thinking outside the box on a few issues.

A forum for contributors and readers of the forthcoming book "The Mobile Audience" by Martin Rieser. It covers a history of wirefree art from gallery to public spaces. Mobile works based on locative technologies, wearables, wifi and 3G are examined from the viewpoint of audience.

Mobile Audience Blog

Monday, January 03, 2005

New Conference & Journal Listing

I got a bit bored over the holidays and I was getting annoyed with trying to track conferences and journals via a wiki when it should obviously be a database.

So I've made a new listing for conferences and journals pertaining to mobile, group, and collaborative topics.

It is easily sortable by both conference date or paper submission deadlines. It shows which conferences are peer reviewed and it automatically removes conferences that have happened.

I've designed it to be easy for anyone to add an entry to this. So if you know of conferences / journals I haven't found, please add them. This site is completely public, so I'm hoping others will use it. Please pass the word to anyone you know who might be interested.

You can check it out here:

I've been pondering a few other features, such as giving credit to those who add items, or sending e-mail notifications to those who submit items, after they've been added. If you want any new features, or find bugs, please mail me.

A link to this will be permanently in the right side-bar.

Cheers and Happy Holidays