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Conceptualizing New Mobile Devices By Observing Gossip and Social Network Formation Amongst the Extremely Mobile - Mobile Information Sharing 1 (MIS-1)

By Jeff Axup and Stephen Viller


Backpackers are a large number of young, budget travellers that move through Australia and the rest of the world each year. They tend to seek new experiences, travel cheaply, and many prefer to let chance occurrences guide their journey. Backpackers primarily flow in a bi-directional North-South current through the East Coast cities of Australia. They often form eddies to unknown locations, or pause to rest in pools of other backpackers. Backpackers often wish to organize group activities, but have few collaboration methods available. They regularly explore unfamiliar locations quickly, but have only basic resources to inform them about those places. Despite the desired collaboration, only a trickle of communication is possible between them as they move. Many opportunities exist for mobile devices to assist them with their difficulties. We used a combination of mobile group ethnography, contextual group interviews and participatory activities, to explore current communication behaviour between backpackers engaged in a typical tourist activity. Research methods were also evaluated to determine their utility for studying mobile groups. Results indicate a long list of inconveniences backpackers face, which have translate into a list of 48 user requirements and a table of 35 product ideas. Ethnographic observation worked well in person and with audio recorders, but not well with video. Participatory methods allowed rapid, inexpensive exploration of a social pairing system and provided redesign data. We also learned how different phases of mobility can effect communication and behaviour of groups of backpackers

Topics: mobile information sharing, social network formation, mobile ethnography, Mobile HCI, CSCW, 280104 Computer-Human Interaction
Year: 2005
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