Living Inside Mobile Social Information

April 29-30, 2013 at Boston University

An Experts' Workshop & Public Panel Discussion


Social Media and Extreme Weather Emergencies: An Asian Case Study

Matthew Hibberd
University of Stirling


With the development of the 24-hour global news cycle and social media, effective communications are widely seen as one crucial feature of crisis management. And yet environmental crises pose additional challenges to communicating. As Gordon and Berry, 2006, argue “Environmental problems have characteristics that make them particularly hard to solve”. The unpredictable and severe nature of environmental crises bring additional challenges for leaders and their communication strategies. This paper will therefore examine the concept of environmental crisis management and the particular challenges such crises pose to leaders and communicators in the rapidly developing city of Danang, Central region, Vietnam, which has been struck by repeated extreme weather events in the past decade. I will examine especially whether social media have a role in helping to deal with extreme weather crises. How and in what ways have social media - ie like facebook or twitter or Vietnam versions - played a part in strategies to inform citizens of risks or imminent danger? The research will involve collecting primary and secondary data from local political and civic leaders in Danang, Vietnam. The paper will be linked to key themes of the workshop, especially in evaluating what opportunities there are for tapping user behavior for educational and societal endeavors. How can the benefits of such opportunities be distributed equitably to all citizens? How could social media allow users to help emergency organisations and civic leadersin times of natural disasters?

Occupying the Commons

Natalia Radywyl
Project for Public Spaces


From the outset, Occupy Wall Street has used online media as both strategy and tool, from meme creation to developing sophisticated open protocols and communications practices for outreach, community self-organisation and mobilization efforts. Indeed, the speed at which Occupy Wall Street’s (OWS) actions gained a contagious momentum is a timely reminder how rapidly contemporary radical change can be transmitted and scaled.

The Occupy ‘meme’, aided and engineered through social media, grew the movement spatially, ideologically and politically as Occupy affinity groups multiplied around the world, diversifying and self-organizing in concurrent, decentralized waves. Yet, the greatest potential of these practices has been expressed most fully following Hurricane Sandy, when this enhanced technological capacity placed the Occupy movement as a leading emergency relief service - to the extent of gaining an apparent legitimacy in the eyes of some city administrators and crises institutions. In this paper, I draw upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted throughout 2012 which charts how OWS’s use of media reflects the development of an integrated information and urban commons. I present my own experiences of working in association with some of its affinity groups, interviews, observation, and an archive of images, video footage and online material, concluding that ‘communities of practice’ have evolved through open source protocols and technological use which can mobilize positive systemic change in our cities.

Bits in the 'Hood: Location-based Storytelling Systems, New Forms of Tourism and their Impact on Spatial Ownership Patterns

Matteo Tarantino
Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan


The widespread adoption of GIS-enabled portable media has opened the mass market to location-based storytelling systems (LBSS) based on spatial annotation. These systems stream meaningful layers of information to clients in accordance to their geographical position, telling effectively one or more "stories" about place (including, but not limited to, what that space is). These layers can have varying degree of institutionalization, ranging from officially sanctioned information to freely usergenerated content: this paper will focus on the latter end of the spectrum, that is on systems that allow users to annotate space.

This paper analyzes one of such systems - MIT Mobile Labs' OpenLOCAST platform - to discuss implications of ubiquitous GIS data flows for (a) the redefinition of tourist experience and, because of this, of (b) processes of social production of urban space:(a) The overall goal LBSS is to provide narrative information (i.e. meanings) in accordance with spatial movement - that is, we argue, to enable forms of tourism. Touristic experience entails decoding meanings assigned (at the individual, collective, cultural etc. levels) to particular spaces (and possibly their insertion into personal or shared narratives). We argue that the less institutionalized are the data layers involved in a LBSS is, the broader the range of spaces potentially entailed in this encoding-decoding process become, as users are enabled to more freely attach meanings and narrations to spaces for other users to experience.Combined with flexible data retrieval capabilities of the databases on which LBSS operate, this fosters potential new forms of tourism centered upon (and not only enhanced by) the experience of these layers.

(b) Furthermore, the paper explores how LBSS may impact socio-spatial concrete production processes (Lefebvre 1991). In particular it might pose a challenge to established patterns ofspatial ownership. While a somewhat fluid concept, "owning" a space implies mastering its material and symbolic geography with a certain degree of exclusivity. When we "own" a space we can afford the privilege of turning it into a "place" (Tuan 2001). Yet as LBSS broaden the potential audiences of these meanings and narrations and loosens their access requirements, the centrality and exclusivity of such knowledge for spatial ownership (and potentially for spatial belonging) might become contested. This would in turn fostering highly interesting practices of resistance and/or subtraction similar to those observable in the dialectic between elite and mass tourism, or in graffiti.

Put a Face to a Name: Are Patients and Clinicians Comfortable Sharing their Photographs through the Hospital Information Systems in Order to Improve the Quality of Care?

Lora Appel
Department of Communication and Information Science at Rutgers University


Communication is critical within healthcare, and is a root cause of most errors in the clinical environment. With increased adoption and use of new information technologies and mediated communication systems that support visual content, hospitals can begin to look at the potential of photographic aids to improve patient satisfaction, clinician communication, and ultimately the quality of care. Research shows that photographic aids can improve communication by helping people retain information, diminish inaccurate appropriations of facts, and by increasing feelings of sympathy, compassion and understanding about a person or situation. Making photographs of clinicians and patients available through hospital information systems may increase knowledge of who is part of each patient’s care team, improve patient-clinician communication and may reduce errors in electronic ordering or documentation on the wrong patient.

The paper reports on interim findings from Put a Face to a Name, a randomized control trial ( id: NCT01658644) currently active at a large teaching hospital in Toronto, Canada. This study tests weather patients have better memory recall and improved communication with clinicians when provided with the photos, names, and roles of the clinicians responsible for their care, compared to being provided with just their names and roles, or no explicit information at all (which is the current state of affairs). In addition, qualitative feedback is being collected from both patients and clinicians regarding their comfort level and concerns to provide their photos, as well as their views on the availability of personal information (such as photographs and names) of other clinicians or patients. Preliminary findings point to a few themes: concern with privacy and safety issues, the intent to convey status as well as increased self-awareness (the desire “look good”) in the pictures distributed to others.

The relationship is the medium: Understanding media in a mobile age

Juan Miguel Aquado & Inmaculada J. Martinez
School of Communication and Information Studies, University of Murcia (Spain)


The consolidation of mobile communication technologies has given rise to an entire new ecosystem within digital media landscape. Mobile ecosystem involves a complex and changing set of players (including telecomm operators, handset suppliers, software developers, content aggregators, content producers, new advertising players and users) that are becoming increasingly influential in the sphere of media and cultural industries. The changes introduced by mobile technologies and industries and the subsequent pervasiveness of mobile social information, however, do not only affect social and inter-personal dynamics. They have also revolutionized digital media and legacy media industries as well as media consumption dynamics. After the advent of mobile media, cultural content (entertainment, advertising, information) has entered new processes of symbolic exchange, new consumption rituals and new value networks that radically change the concept of cultural content and the position of legacy media in relation to it.

From the point of view of users, mobile content shifts from a ‘seeing-oriented’ logic to a ‘doing-oriented logic’ (characteristically illustrated by mobile application formats), becoming a main driver for creating, consuming and accessing mobile social information about users’ environment. Users expect to be able to act upon mobile content, to do things with it, be it re-creating (transforming mainstream media content into forms of parody, irony, protest or support), co-creating (merging it into user generated content) or channelling (recommending, resending, commenting, etc.). In the mobile context, cultural consumption process does not end in content itself (reading, watching or listening): it includes (and it is addressed to) social relationships. Media content, thus, integrates social symbolic exchanges as a specific language through which users express ideas, preferences, feelings and aspects of the self. From the point of view of content formats, mobile applications raise as a prevailing form, where cultural content is naturally integrated into action oriented logics and where the product of mainstream media functionally meets user activity parameters (position, movement, time, social network contacts, buying behaviour, etc.).

Both from the perspective of user’s integration of mainstream media content into social exchanges and from the perspective of mobile industry players’ exhaustive processing of user activity and profile related data mining, the activity around mobile content contributes to configure what we have called ‘egospheres’, i.e. coherent repositories of information about user’s identity, affective networks, networks of interest, communication behaviour, search behaviour and consumption behaviour. While in digital inter-personal interactions egospheres seem to play a similar role to Goffman’s façade, they also constitute a relevant source of value for economic players. Media content therefore plays the role of a main door for accessing valuable information about users and for providing a functionally relevant integration of cultural consumption into mobile social information.

In this paper we explore the implications of the above mentioned changes, focusing on two complementary sides of the process: the appropriation of cultural content into everyday social practices and the operationalization of user information as a valuable resource for digital media. The paper presents a summary of the results of a 4 year research project on the impact of mobile technologies and industries in the transformations of cultural content. The project involved a revision of existing industry reports, two series of focus groups and in-depth interviews with smartphone and tablet users and with application and software developers, a set of expert panels with telecomm operators, handset suppliers, operative system developers, content aggregators and media industry related content producers; and a structural analysis of content oriented mobile applications.

Maintaining Weak Tie Networks Using Mobile Technology

Jeffrey Boase
School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University in Toronto

Tetsuro Kobayashi
National Institute of Informatics, Japan

Takahisa Suzuki
Department of Informatics, School of Multidisciplinary Sciences at the Graduate University for Advanced Studies (SOKENDAI), Japan


In this paper we examine the social utility of smartphone applications designed to helpusers maintain their weak tie relationships. We use data collected from a panel of 83American adults who completed a general survey and installed a smart phone application. This application drew on their voice and texting log data to present them with a visual animation of their personal networks changing over time. Using a between-subject experimental design, the application further randomly selected and prompted half of the respondents to reconnect with relationships that were identified as weak.

Preliminary analysis shows that respondents who were prompted by the application were more likely to reconnect with their weak ties than those who received no such prompting. These results provide evidence that smartphone applications have the potential to help individuals maintain large networks of weak ties, which are important conduits of new information and ideas. Moreover, these results indicate that weak tienet works may naturally decay through unintentional neglect. We conclude by speculating about the implications of mobile technology and the rich personal network data that it houses for the development of social capital.

The new frontiers of mobile media: theoretical insights on their possible developments

Leopoldina Fortunati
University of Udine


In this paper I would like to analyse what is happening in the new frontiers of mobile media, which see the merging of social media and smartphones, including their locative affordances. If we were talking so far of mediated communication, today we are forced to talk of mediated perception of everyday life. Google glasses are a good example of this process. When we walk, in front of our eyes information often flows about the friends who maybe are walking near us or about the restaurants and the shops which are close to us. This possibility can transform the passer-bys from flanêurs to a kind of ³informed² passer-bys. This shift in the metaphors that can describe the dwellers is also a shift in the meaning and ritualization of their role. There is a strong rationalization of the communication system in which we are networked behind this operation. But is it anything that users really need or ask or are interested to? Not to mention the fact that this shift ends up to disturb perception. Our attention is readdressed towards communication instead than in perception. This is a further degree of the expansion of the filters system which in our society entails the reduction of firsthand living experience. But this process means at the same time that there is now an increasing competition between communication and perception in which the latter risks to have the worst. I will analyse and discuss what happens when perception begins to be substituted by communication and what are the social and personal consequences of it. To conclude, I will try to speculate if the top down project of the Google glasses can have a chance to become a mass product or not.

Mobile-based location sharing as the accomplishment of 'invitations'. The uses of Foursquare in Paris.

Christian Licoppe
Department of Social Science, Telecom Paristech, France


This communication reports on an interview - and observation-based study of the uses of Foursquare in Paris. It focuses on the way the users of Foursquare manage location sharing information. We show that how users orient towards the fact that providing their location is not just asserting where they are in a more or less public fashion, but may be heard as a social action in its own right, i.e. an invitation of sort. We discuss the conditions under which location sharing may actually be heard as an invitation with a particular emphasis on:

- Relational analysis. In many cases location sharing is meant or treated as an invitation for an intermediate range of sociality, Œweak bonds¹ who are neither to close nor too far.

- Membership Categorization Analysis. Location may be tied to activities and membership categories, so that the provision of a location can be heard as an invitation to join or conversely as a signal for unavailability. Understanding how such services reshape our sense of proximities and the opportunities for social encounters therefore requires to move beyond a cognitive psychology perspective in which the sharing of a location is just the provision of an information towards a pragmatic perspective in which it is often produced and treated as a meaningful social action.

Employers' Use of Online Reputation and Social Network Sites in Job Candidate Screening and Hiring

Nalini Kotamraju
IT University of Copenhagen

Somaya Ben Allouch
University of Twente, Netherlands


People's online reputation­the information about them available publicly or semi-publicly online­increasingly affects their professional lives. We examine how employers and recruiters use online reputation information in job selection or hiring. Using interview data of 11 human resource professionals and recruiters in the Netherlands, we present three main findings: 1) variability in the use of online reputation information in the hiring process; 2) the degree to which ³curiosity² drives this use, and 3) the unequivocal importance accorded to photographs of job candidates. We conclude by discussing implications of these findings for the study of online reputation, social network sites and social media.

Synergies between head-mounted displays and head-mounted eye tracking: The trajectory of development and its social consequences

Rich Ling & Diako Mardanbegi
IT University of Copenhagen


In this paper we ask: what is the technical and the institutional trajectory of mobile head-mounted displays when combined with the use of mobile eye tracking? We will discuss how, with time, these technologies will likely fuse into a single platform. Further, we suggest that this hybrid technology will be adopted first by institutions that need distributed but yet coordinated and detailed interaction. Later it will spread into smaller and less formal social groups. The technology will obviously have consequences in relation to privacy and power relationships. Display technology has moved from being large, and generally immovable, PCs to being lightweight laptop screens and then to being found in the screens of mobile smart phones. Now we are on the cusp of another transition, namely mobile head mounted displays that can cover the field of vision. The use of gaze-based interaction has followed a similar line of development.

Interaction with computers using gaze is one part of the broader area of eye tracking. Gaze-based interaction has, until now, mostly been applied to the situation of a single, stationary user is sitting in front of a screen using a fixed camera to track their gaze (a remote eye tracker). Developments in camera technology means that head-mounted eye trackers (HMET) have become much smaller, lighter and thus more mobile. Further, the integration of a variety of input possibilities (gaze, haptics, gestures, etc.) mean that HMET is becoming more flexible in use and thus it is more suitable for mobile gaze-based interactive applications. Compared to the previous generation of remote gaze trackers, HMET devices afford a large degree of mobility.

The hybrid technology has many obvious applications for individuals such as better specification of the interaction afforded by head mounted displays that, at this point, in many cases relies on voice input. However, combining head mounted displays and HMET, we also move beyond applications for single individuals. It is possible to imagine systems that allow for extremely detailed interaction between users. Indeed, when the gaze of one person is transmitted to another, the second person can specifically understand what the first person is looking at and, by inference, where their attention is directed. It is possible to imagine, for example, that a technician can call to a remote expert and be 'talked through' exceedingly detailed procedures.

It is also possible to conceive of these technologies being used to deploy and direct remotely located workers across a broader geographical area. As with many other technologies, we suggest that the first users will likely be larger institutions, particularly those where there is a need for central coordination and mutual understanding of one another's situation. However, we suggest that with time the technology will be further diffused for use by less formal social clusters such as families and groups of friends.

New Technologies Usage and Social Values Preferences: A Marketing Perspective

Emílio Arruda Filho
Graduate Course of Business, University of Amazon (UNAMA), Brazil


Current research shows that technology consumers perceive their preferences to be based on a mix of utilitarian and hedonic factors. Consumers’ values focus on fashion, social status, differentiation from other users, and innovation as a way of positioning themselves as unique consumers. Products with bundled uses, multiple functions, and innovative features are becoming more and more sought after by new technology and social users. The Technology Marketing Research Group have been projecting studies with analysis that considers preference factors such as hedonism, utilitarianism, bundle preference, social values, and technological environment, which influence consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. Most of researches provided in this presentation take into consideration that consumers feel guilt when purchasing non-utilitarian products, and justify their hedonic choice according to the bundle environment and the possible benefits of the integrated functionality proposed. It is presented in different studies using netnographic research, quantitative experiments and a mix of exploratory and experimental studies in this environment.