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Doing Mobility

Doctoral thesis
Authors Alexandra Weilenmann
Place of publication Göteborg
Publication year 2003
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Links hdl.handle.net/2077/910
Keywords mobility, mobile technology, ethnomethodology, conversationanalysis, ethnography, CSCW
Subject categories

Abstract

Despite the widespread adoption of mobile information and communication technology, there are still relatively few studies of their use. Previous studies often fail to capture the situated practicalities of mobility. Further, many previous studies are work-oriented, viewing the office or the control room as a base, and see mobility as a means of transportation. This thesis contributes to our understanding of mobility by presenting five empirical studies, showing how people involved in various sorts of activities go about doing mobility. This thesis presents the argument that mobility is something which is ongoingly produced and maintained by the participants. The thesis presents a collection of studies in very different settings, ranging from practically stationary work to truly mobile leisure activities: the mobility of information inside and outside a traffic information central, mobile vehicle workers cleaning the runways from snow at a large airport, skiers testing a new mobile device, mobile phone use among young people in public places, and the mobility of a teenager seen through her mobile phone conversations. Methodologically and analytically the thesis draws upon the fields of computer supported cooperative work, ethnography, ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. The aim is to capture naturally occurring instances of mobility. Four approaches are identified to capture mobility: follow the actors, follow the technology, study a place, and study the virtual communication space. The findings from the empirical studies show how the advent of mobile technology has not made people independent of place. "Place" and "the local" is important in the mobile world. When communicating with remote others, a lot of work is done in order to negotiate a mutual understanding of the situation at hand. Context is interactionally and continually negotiated. Further, this thesis provides examples of the highly collaborative nature of mobility, and thereby questions some earlier assumptions about mobile technology being private and personal. Results are presented which point to the various ways in which mobile technology is shared, and also how those using the technology get a sense of shared ownership of the technology.

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