Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The neo-nomads made it to the BBC!

A great article on BBC news In search of the neo-nomad. So if you think you are becoming a laptop warrior or wirelress dependant, maybe you belong to this new class of persons, the Neo-Nomads. This term was invented by Dr Yasmine Abbas and illustrated by her PhD thesis.

Abbas is especially interested in how people who work on the move retain a sense of belonging to places and organisations, and at the way new technologies open up new ways of belonging to groups and even companies.

A lot can be designed for people on the move. Technology can really serve everyday needs of us, post-cyborgs ;) Yasmine and I started with the Touch Sensitive apparel conceived in the Tangible Media Group, MIT Media Laboratory and we are developping a new trend of haptic apparel to serve "digitally geared people on the move". Keep tuned!

Also I just found that the PhD thesis of Jeff Axup on Methods of Understanding and Designing For Mobile Communities was completed.
Abstract Society is increasingly on the move, mobile devices are commonly being used to coordinate group actions, and group communication features are rapidly being added to existing technologies. Despite this, little is known about how mobile groups act, or how communications technologies should be designed to augment existing behaviour. This is partially due to minimal research being done on the topic, but also to the lack of research methods available to study the topic with. Mobile groups are challenging to study because of frequent and long-duration movement, frequent distribution, and the rapidly changing environments they operate within. To address these issues, this research focuses on methodological issues surrounding the development of mobile devices for mobile groups and communities. More specifically it addresses backpackers, who are a relevant example of this type of community. The research primarily explores the convergence of computer supported cooperative work (CSCW) and the field of mobile device development. This enables the combination of emphasis on designing technologies for groups, social implications, mobile device design, and mobile settings.

Major research outcomes presented in this thesis lie in three areas: 1) methods, 2) technology designs, and 3) backpacker culture. Five studies of backpacker behaviour and requirements form the core of the research. The methods used are in-situ and exploratory, and apply both novel and existing techniques to the domain of backpackers and mobile groups.

Methods demonstrated in this research include: field trips for exploring mobile group behaviour and device usage, a social pairing exercise to explore social networks, contextual postcards to gain distributed feedback, and blog analysis which provides post-hoc diary data. Theoretical contributions include: observations on method triangulation, a taxonomy of mobility research, method templates to assist method usage, and identification of key categories leading to mobile group requirements. Design related outcomes include: 57 mobile tourism product ideas, a format for conveying product concepts, and a design for a wearable device to assist mobile researchers.

Our understanding of backpacker culture has also improved as a consequence of the research. It has also generated user requirements to aid mobile development, methods of visualising mobile groups and communities, and a listing of relevant design tensions. Additionally, the research has added to our understanding of how new technologies such as blogs, SMS and iPods are being used by backpackers and how mobile groups naturally communicate.

You can download the .pdf of the thesis.


Anonymous said...

The BBC article was actually pretty poor, but the concepts are important. It's interesting to compare neo-nomads with Bruce Sterling's recent warnings about "laptop gypsies". Where is the boundary, if indeed one exists, at least in the perception of those who do not have access to such a lifestyle?
Interesting stuff. I, for one, hope your 'haptic apparel' can do something for the RSI in my mouse-arm!

krahd said...

Methinks that kuiperfliff raises the most interesting aspect: the (digital-nomad) divide for those who do not have access to such a lifestyle.

Taking into account that not-having-access to it does not only reflects economical boundaries but cultural ones.

Anonymous said...

Hello Cati,

Thank you for the post! by studying neo-nomads one can understand when and how excess happen (you have to scrutinize the everyday to understand habits and mechanisms...), and how to reflect and act upon these. We have to fight the digital divide from both 'camps'!

I will gladly provide you with a copy of my thesis. I look forward to publish it.


Anonymous said...

Hi Cati,

That's a great article indeed.

I read and saw the pictures about your project Touch·Sensitive. Congratulations! That's a great idea!

My best regards.