Mobile technologies and social coordination in urban environments

In the last issue of the Receiver, there is a paper by Lee Humphreys about mobile technologies and social coordination in urban environments which is of great interest to my research. Starting from Rich Ling & Birgitte Yttri's seminal work about that question (see the paper “Nobody sits at home and waits for the telephone to ring:” Micro and hyper-coordination through the use of the mobile telephone), she is investigating "how people use mobile phones within their social networks in the course of their everyday lives". What is interesting is that tit does not only described coordination patterns but "also the subtle communicative exchanges used in a complex mobile world (...) What do you communicate? How do you communicate? With whom do you communicate? ".

An efficient way to coordinate in her study was "mobile broacasting" (" Text messages can also be broadcast from one person to several or even many people.").

The mobile phone becomes a good tool for the exchange of duration information and coordinating the when of casual social interactions. (...) The where of coordination is also more complex than just a venue name or address. A venue name can suggest quite a bit of social information used by people in order to determine who will meet up. (...) Location is not just longitude and latitude or even a street address, but also includes important social information (...) the proximity of the venue is also an important determinant in who will show up (...) The who of coordination is also a complex negotiation of casual social interaction. One of the interesting elements of broadcasting is that users can see who is coordinating meeting up — to whom was the message sent. This visibility allows for the exchange of complex social information

She also discusses issues that needs to be negotiated such as freedom vs. constraint and social performance vs. social functionality, but this is less my focus. Why do I blog this? the research I am carrying out in my PhD is about how people use the location of others as a resources for coordination. Even though it's much more CSCW-oriented that Lee's work, there are some interesting lessons to draw from her work. I have to grab an academic paper about that.