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

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Lo-Fi Matchmaking Tech Report

We have published a new tech report via ePrints on the topic of studying social pairing systems for backpackers that enable more effective exchange of travel tips about future destinations.

Lo-Fi Matchmaking: A Study of Social Pairing for Backpackers

Axup, Jeff and Viller, Stephen (2006) Lo-Fi Matchmaking: A Study of Social Pairing for Backpackers , School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland.

Full text available as:
PDF

Abstract

There is a new world emerging around mobile social networks and the technologies used to facilitate and mediate them. It is technically feasible for mobile social software such as pairing or matchmaking systems to introduce people to others and assist information exchange. However, little is known about the social structure of many mobile communities or why they would want pairing systems. When these systems are built, it is not clear what the social response by those communities will be or what the systems will be like to use in practice. While engaged in other work determining requirements for a mobile travel assistant we saw a potentially useful application for a pairing system to facilitate the exchange of travel information between backpackers. To explore this area, we designed two studies involving usage of a low-fidelity role prototype of a social pairing system for backpackers. Graphs of the resulting social pairings showed backpackers who were hubs in the network of travel information. It also demonstrated the effect of travel direction on information utility. Backpackers rated the utility of different pairing types, and provided feedback on the social implications of being paired based on travel histories. Practical usage of the social network pairing activity and the implications of broader societal usage are discussed.

Exploratory Research Methods Tech Report

We have published a new tech report via ePrints on the topic of research methods for understanding the behavior and determining design requirements for mobile communities.

Exploratory Research Methods for the Extremely Mobile: Supporting Community Interaction Amongst Backpackers

Axup, Jeff and Viller, Stephen (2006) Exploratory Research Methods for the Extremely Mobile: Supporting Community Interaction Amongst Backpackers , School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, The University of Queensland.

Full text available as:
PDF

Abstract

Mobile communities of backpackers represent a challenging population to study because of frequent and long-duration of movement, distributed group structure, and adventuresome activities. Five types of mobile group studies are presented here, which address challenges posed by this context to existing methods. Methods used include: contextual interviews, site surveys, participatory activities, field trips, team ethnography, contextual questionnaires, and electronic diary methods. The structure of each method is described, reflected upon and recommendations are made for its effective use. Many existing mobile and CSCW methods have difficulties when applied to mobile groups, and many are not designed for exploratory research dealing with product conceptualization or requirements analysis. We propose that improvising with a diverse set of available methods is appropriate for many mobile research situations. It may also be advantageous to use multiple methods which explore different aspects of target user groups' behaviour from a variety of perspectives. Furthermore, piloting studies to test methods with new user groups or situations, and using in-situ methods is advisable.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Portable Phone Booths

EngadgetMobile posted a cool article about an art project by Jenny Chowdhury featuring a mobile phone booth. Basically it is a zip-up covering which folds down into a backpack, and is intended (I think) to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on how phone usage affects public space and social norms. I particularly like the video of her trying it out on a busy street.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

New Vodaphone Article on Backpackers and Place

Vodaphone Receiver has put out a new issue which is: "all about that yearning factor that comes with using the mobile phone,
about the meta-message which is always present: 'wish you were here'.

My contribution to it is: Blog The World. It discusses some of our latest research, investigating how backpackers are using travel blogs to maintain social relationships with family and friends - both on the road and back at home.
The interesting theme running through these articles is that fact that mobile devices are mediating human relationships. The mobile is our new social sense - it changes how we perceive our relationships, and how we choose to maintain social ties with those around us.

"Jeff Axup is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. His research in Mobile Community Design focuses on the development and design of mobile devices used by groups and how device design might change group behavior. Axup has chosen to look at one highly mobile group in detail and examines what technologies could be used to support backpackers. Read his receiver contribution to find out about the usage patterns and demands he came across with a group of people who to a large extent depend on forming social networks while on the move.
"

Be sure to check out their discussion forum for the article if you have feedback for me.