Presented paper that I co-wrote with Barrry Brown at Mobile HCI 2011


I got to spend a wonderful few days in Stockholm, Sweden for Mobile HCI 2011. I presented a paper that Barry Brown and I co-wrote about our research in mobile use in Mexico, Ethnography of the telephone: Changing uses of communication technology in village life. Here is the pdf and the abstract of our paper:

While mobile HCI has encompassed a range of devices and systems, telephone calls on cellphones remain the most prevalent contemporary form of mobile technology use. In this paper we document ethnographic work studying a remote Mexican village’s use of cellphones alongside conventional phones, satellite phones and the Internet. While few homes in the village we studied have running water, many children have iPods and the Internet cafe in the closest town is heavily used to access YouTube, Wikipedia, and MSN messenger. Alongside cost, the Internet fits into the communication patterns and daily routines in a way that cellphones do not. We document the variety of communication strategies that balance cost, availability and complexity. Instead of finding that new technologies replace old, we find that different technologies co-exist, with fixed phones co-existing with instant message, cellphones and shared community phones. The paper concludes by discussing how we can study mobile technology and design for settings defined by cost and infrastructure availability.

This paper is a shorter version of a paper that we presented at the International Communication Association (ICA) [pdf] in Chicago. I learned a lot through re-writing this paper with Barry (who publishes papers in his sleep).

For me, the new version was difficult to write because we had to cut so many details out from our original ICA paper, but it gave us an opportunity to tell a different story about our data. While we had to leave out a lot of data, it allowed us to highlight our data in different ways. I personally don't like writing academic papers, but if there is anyone I would do it with again, it would be Barry.

This was my first time at Mobile HCI, so it was super fun to meet new faces and see old friends. But best of all, I got to spend time with Barry, who is now moving from UC San Diego to Mobile Life in Stockholm to start a new research group. Sadness for me, but wonderful news for his colleagues in Sweden.