Group uses of mobile devices

There is a very relevant interview of Jeff Axup in newsletter and discussion group Mo:Life (he also put it on his weblog). Jeff works on mobile technologies for backpackers, using ethnographic and participatory methods. Some pertinent excertps hereafter; The group usage of mobile devices (like cell phones) is an amazingly new and by-product of their massive use.:

Several recent research studies have shown a variety of examples of communal phone usage, including turn-taking, borrowing, and sharing of communication content. In addition to usage of devices by groups in-person, remote users also affect our individual use.

Jeff goes on describing how he envision the phone of the future:

If designed properly they will complement existing group goals and behaviours. They will enable us to communicate with networks of people in ways that were impossible or insufficiently usable before. To give a tangible example: backpackers currently communicate face to face, via physical message boards in hostels and to some degree via SMS, IM and phone calls. In the future they could be informed of interesting people they could talk to, form instantaneous, short-term communication channels while on tours, or tap into community-authored travel advice. People are inherently social, but we still lack the ability to easily communicate to groups in many circumstances where we would like to.

And his take on communication problem is also interesting:

We recently ran a study looking at a group of three people using a mobile discussion list prototype to search and rendezvous at an unknown location. We discovered a number of usability problems related to SMS discussion list usage including: multitasking during message composition and reading; speed of keyboard entry; excessive demand on visual attention; and ambiguity of intended recipients. More generally speaking, mobile devices still suffer from expensive wireless data connectivity, poor input devices and lack of contextual awareness. Mobile users still have difficulty easily communicating with groups, transferring information between their phones, and finding software to support their daily activities. Groups face challenges of visualizing their own behaviour, coordinating actions and communicating physical location and plans efficiently

Concerning "Web-based travel diaries are increasingly used to communicate location and travel experience to family and friends and soon picture-phones will integrate seamlessly with this.", that reminds me what my friend Anne Bationo analyses for her PhD thesis. She is working for telco operator France Telecom on travellers' narratives. She applies a user-centred approach to envision new instruments, to support travellers when performing their activities. A description of her work might be found in this paper: Travelling narrative as a multi-sensorial experience: A user centred approach of smart objects.