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

Sunday, October 30, 2005

New mobile group method papers published

We are happy to announce the acceptance of a new conference short-paper on our ethnographic work with backpackers.

The reference is:
Axup, Jeff, and Stephen Viller (2005): Augmenting Travel Gossip: Design For Mobile Communities. To be presented at OzCHI 2005, Canberra, Australia

A pre-print of that one will be posted here after the conference.

We also had a workshop paper accepted to the 'Appropriate Methods for Design in Complex and Sensitive Settings' workshop. It's great to see that all of the workshop papers are being freely posted online, which no doubt will make them even more widely read than the "official" papers, which will be entombed on the back shelves of libraries or stuck in online digital libraries that only academics or businesses have the money to access.

So, enough ranting about academic publication processes! You can go read them all on the workshop web site.

Our paper is:
Axup, Jeff, and Stephen Viller (2005): Formative Research Methods For The Extremely Mobile: Supporting Community Interaction Amongst Backpackers. To be presented at workshop: "Appropriate Methods for Design in Complex and Sensitive Settings" at OzCHI 2005.

The difficulties of lab testing for mobile studies

It's slightly dated now, but there was an interesting workshop in Glasgow in 1998 that had some papers related to mobile context, and in particular the use of labs to understand mobile behavior.

All of the workshop papers are in html.

The one talking about labs is:
Johnson, Peter (1998): Usability and mobility: Interactions on the move. In proceedings of EPSRC/BCS Workshop, Glasgow

"...the conventional usability laboratory would not be able to adequately simulate such important aspects as the weather and could not easily provide for the wide range of competing activities and demands on users that might arise in a natural setting."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Cool Mobile Books

There's a whole bunch of interesting books in this series from T Mobile. Portions of them are available in PDF, but you'll have to buy them in paper it appears.

Kristóf Nyíri (ed.)
Mobile Communication
Essays on Cognition and Community
Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2003

Kristóf Nyíri (ed.)
Mobile Learning
Essays on Philosophy, Psychology and Education
Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2003

Kristóf Nyíri (ed.)
Mobile Democracy
Essays on Society, Self and Politics
Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2003

Kristóf Nyíri (ed.)
A Sense of Place
The Global and the Local in Mobile Communication
Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 2005

China's Mobility

JaredRESEARCH has sent out an announcement of some new work:

"Greetings from Beijing, a mega-city of high speed
change. I am writing to share with you a visual pilot
study from my Mobile China research project. The five
page PDF
can be downloaded from my website.

Mobile China examines mobile technology and youth
culture in the world's largest technology market. The
pilot study focuses on the role of generational
change, gender and nationalism in shaping Chinese
mobile usage. Mobile China is a multi-year endeavor."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Social response to knowing location of group members

This paper presents a study of how people socially respond to location-based information. They used a wizard-of-oz approach to simulate location awareness. Three test cases reviewed 1) no tech, 2) only location awareness, and 3) both mobile phone and location awareness. They discovered that location awareness without further contextual information can produce stress in participants because it doesn't explain why movement behavior is occurring. This is a very interesting study in that it occurs in-situ and looks at behavioral effects of technology introduction. It's also very nice to see researchers focusing on social use and using non-functional systems to explore technology usage instead of the usual tech-focused approaches. There's also some interesting things to probe further in this, regarding why mobile phones offer different contextual information and how other devices could take over some of these functions more efficiently.

Dearman, D., Hawkey, K., & Inkpen, K. M. (2005). Effect of location-awareness on rendezvous behaviour. In CHI '05 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1929-1932). Portland, OR, USA: ACM Press.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

New phone concepts

For those of you who like thinking outside the box, have a look at these new phone concepts from Nokia. A few of them would win design awards, but fail their usability exams. I do like that waterproof clip on model, although one wonders about interaction methods with nearly all of them... Phonemag has the scoop for you:

Nokia Concepts 1 :Nokia Acibo Concept

Nokia Concepts 2: Nokia Wrist Band Phone Aki

Nokia Concepts 3: Nokia SURV1 Concept

Nokia Concepts 4: Colores Concept

Nokia Concepts 5: Global Nomads Concept

Nokia Concepts 6: Nokia Concept Watchphone

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Ethnographic Action Research

This document is an overview of practical theory behind the Ethnographic Research framework and teaches how to use the method to some extent. It describes why ethnography is a practical method to use within the larger framework of action research (AR). They discuss cultivating a research culture in which aims for the research guide methods and interaction with surrounding community members. Many of the examples are not specifically focused on creating new technologies, but researching social problems and looking for ways to integrate existing technologies to solve observed problems.

They advocate a cyclical process of:
- Planning
- Doing
- Observation
- Reflection

They advocate the use of participatory methods that involve surrounding communities of stakeholders in the development process. Action research specifically aims to change social structures in specific ways (e.g. to reduce poverty). This is very unlike most software engineering projects which have very little understanding of the situation a design will enter into or how it will realistically affect behavior there. When applied to technology design, it means that people from many different groups who will be effected by a technology have a say in contributing to what is created. AR (or AT Action Theory) is similar in some ways to Participatory Design (PD) which comes out of Scandinavian software development traditions. Both integrate potential users into the design process, although AR is a broader framework and more explicitly tries to cause change in broader societies.

Some of you may be wondering what on earth this has to do with mobile device design. Firstly, mobiles are heavily used in developing countries, and may be the only way these people access the Internet regularly. Second, mobile phones are having a huge cultural impact (not always good) and it is clear that many stakeholders (e.g. people in libraries, people who have left work, people organizing group activities) haven't been properly consulted about their needs and existing social norms. Consequently, there is ample room to integrate more participatory methods into mobile device design.

Tacchi, J., Slater, D., Hearn, G. Ethnographic Action Research Handbook. UNESCO, New Delhi, India, 2003.