Contextual and cultural challenges for user mobility research

Blom, J., Chipchase, J., and Lehikoinen, J. (2005). Contextual and cultural challenges for user mobility research. Commun. ACM, 48(7):37–41. [PDF]


This article describes contextual and cultural challenges while conducting qualitative field studies. The author participated in several field study using a technique called “shadowing” which consists in following people with their permission and recodring salient fact of their interaction with people, objects, or the environment. These techniques are widely used to collect user data and to inform the design of mobile technology. However, this technique has several limitation that the author describe in details.

Additionally, as they conducted similar research in different geographical regions of the world, they draw conclusions on how conducting mobility research poses cultural challenges. They define three particular challenges: a) anticipating the technological climate; b) dealing with the social acceptance; and c) meta-reflection on the research process.

a) The risk here is that isufficient market insight can lead to the adoption of inappropriate methodological tools; b) Blending in is easier when a researcher is condidered “local,” but outsiders tend to have more leeway in what is socially acceptable; c) conducting cross-cultural reseach leads to vast amount of data and to development of new research methodologies that can be perfectioned through reflection and proper dissemination.


Leave a Reply