An Emerging Tool for Social Scientists
Google UK, London
Helsinki Institute for Information Technology HT, Finland
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge
Recent developments in mobile technologies have produced a newkind of device: a programmable mobile phone, the smartphone.In this article, the authors argue that the technological andsocial characteristics of this device make it a useful toolin social sciences, particularly sociology, social psychology,urban studies, technology assessment, and media studies. Thedevice is willingly carried by a large fraction of people indeveloped countries, integrates a number of technologies forautomatic observation, can be programmed to interact with theuser, and can communicate with remote researchers. This allowsunobtrusive and cost-effective access to previously inaccessiblesources of data on everyday social behavior, such as physicalproximity of people, phone calls, and patterns of movement.The authors describe three studies in human behavior that haveaugmented existing methods with the smartphone, two of whichthe authors conducted themselves. Based on their experience,the authors critically evaluate the improvements and threatsto validity and reliability of smartphone-augmented methods.These approaches are rapidly becoming feasible for the socialscientist, since research software for smartphones have beenpublished in open source, which lowers the technical and economicinvestment needed for their utilization in research.
Key Words: Smartphones • data collection methods • behavioral patterns • validity • reliability
Sociological Methods & Research, Vol. 37, No. 3, 426-454 (2009)
Imagem de Gerd Altmann no Pixabay