Monday, April 30, 2007

Methods of Understanding and Designing For Mobile Communities

Results of a Ph.D. thesis gives insight into mobile device design ...

"Society is increasingly on the move, mobile devices are commonly being used to coordinate group actions, and group communication features are rapidly being added to existing technologies. Despite this, little is known about how mobile groups act, or how communications technologies should be designed to augment existing behaviour. This is partially due to minimal research being done on the topic, but also to the lack of research methods available to study the topic with. Mobile groups are challenging to study because of frequent and long-duration movement, frequent distribution, and the rapidly changing environments they operate within. To address these issues, this research focuses on methodological issues surrounding the development of mobile devices for mobile groups and communities. More specifically it addresses backpackers, who are a relevant example of this type of community. The research primarily explores the convergence of computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) and the field of mobile device development. This enables the combination of emphasis on designing technologies for groups, social implications, mobile device design, and mobile settings.

Major research outcomes presented in this thesis lie in three areas: 1) methods, 2) technology designs, and 3) backpacker culture. Five studies of backpacker behaviour and requirements form the core of the research. The methods used are in-situ and exploratory, and apply both novel and existing techniques to the domain of backpackers and mobile groups.

Methods demonstrated in this research include: field trips for exploring mobile group behaviour and device usage, a social pairing exercise to explore social networks, contextual postcards to gain distributed feedback, and blog analysis which provides post-hoc diary data. Theoretical contributions include: observations on method triangulation, a taxonomy of mobility research, method templates to assist method usage, and identification of key categories leading to mobile group requirements. Design related outcomes include: 57 mobile tourism product ideas, a format for conveying product concepts, and a design for a wearable device to assist mobile researchers.

Our understanding of backpacker culture has also improved as a consequence of the research. It has also generated user requirements to aid mobile development, methods of visualising mobile groups and communities, and a listing of relevant design tensions. Additionally, the research has added to our understanding of how new technologies such as blogs, SMS and iPods are being used by backpackers and how mobile groups naturally communicate."    (Continued via Mobile Community Design)    [Usability Resources]

Mobile Community Design - Usability, User Interface Design

Mobile Community Design

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