Mobile Diaries

Mobile Diary Reports

Natalie Rowland and I recently wrote an article for Johnny Holland outlining the Mobile Diary technique. I just wanted to briefly put this in context to my thesis research. In broad terms my thesis can be described as an investigation into social technologies, and the changing nature of participation and design in the context of social technologies. However the empirical research upon which my thesis is based, was the iterative design, evaluation and implementation into commercial practice of the Mobile Diary self-reporting method, that makes use of social technologies, such as mobile phones and blogs. Mobile Diaries leverage the mobile, social and personal nature of these technologies allowing participants to drive the research and participate in design from the context of their own lives (it also creates new opportunities for participation based on design through use, but that’s another post). Natalie and I have been experimenting with Mobile Diaries since 2006, trialing different tools and techniques and the structure, approach taken and toolkit used in Mobile Diaries is a hybrid of existing self-reporting studies documented in literature, and  adapted, evolved and customised for particular commercial contexts and projects.

The technique itself is really an ‘approach’ that privileges particular qualities and experiences for designers and participants. It can be enabled through different specific technologies, but the emphasis is on allowing participants to share the ongoing, mobile and personal aspects of their lives in tangible in rich ways, and supporting the dialogue between participants and design researchers during the period of the “study”. It also reflects the ongoing trend in design research to co-opt social technologies as design tools. The analysis of Mobile Diaries (and other similar methods) in my thesis focuses on the experiential qualities that social technologies enable, enhance or bring to self-reporting as an early design research method.

So, whilst the analysis of my thesis focuses on what this means for how we conceive and manage participation in the design process, the outcome of the research has also included an approach to self-reporting that is particularly useful for immersing in the world of stakeholders and initiating a dialogue with them early in the design process, and potentially seeding future design through use.


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