Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Unique Aspects of Mobile Usage

Still working on the paper on mobile devices, social media and information seeking and sharing. I hate writing papers this time of year. Whomever made academic terms end in late December is a real Grinch that has stolen my Christmas for way too many years!

Anyway, in my research I think I have found three ways that mobile usage is unique from other media technology. I'd love to get some feedback (hopefully in time to incorporate into my paper!) on these, so I thought I'd share them here.

1) Ubiquity of access
Mobiles allow and encourage always-on, anywhere and anytime access.

Repercussions: nomadic information access; attention deficit; information capture to read later; changing sense of personal, work, and social spaces

speed of access; atomized content; file syncing and version control

cloud computing; proactive search; automated metadata

2) Unique design
Mobile devices not only entail smaller screens than PCs but also have a variety of (smaller) input mechanisms (touch screen, trackball, keyboards, etc.) modalities (text, speech, photography, video) and platforms .

Repercussions: multi-platform support

Needs: small scale design; multimedia content; touch screen input; limited user input (based on difficulty in entering large amounts of text)

Innovations: QR Codes; automated linking and integration with native applications; actions based on various input methods, e.g. user shaking device (iPhone); clustered browsing

3) Contextual awareness

Mobile devices are aware of a user's time and location and as mobiles tend to be single-user devices can draw upon automated or supplied profile data. The aspect most unique to mobile devices is the ability to determine a user's geographic location.

Repercussions: participatory surveillance; privacy concerns; geographic relevance

geotagged resources, GPS; precise location determination; widespread network access (incl. basements, rural, etc.)

Innovations: location-based applications and advertising; location sensitive maps and wayfinding aids; augmented reality; personalized content

Favourite Webslinger Posts of 2010

As the year draws to the close, I find it interesting to go over my blog posts to find the subjects I found interesting or topical. Having reviewed the Webslinger blog for 2010, I have compiled my favourite blog posts.

Political Participation Online in Canada
I love this post as it was so gratifying to see the involvement Canadians had in reaction to Harper proroguing parliament. I joined the Facebook protest group early and it was exciting to see it grow and turn to nation wide in-the-street movement. This blog post also examined Canada lagging use of digital media in government.

Short month, no posts

Conference Presentation on Web Accessibility Challenges
I presented the main finding from my research on web accessibility diffusion and implementation challenges. Overall, I found that the onus to implement accessibility falls on web practitioners yet there is insufficient support and promotion.

Facebook and the Problem of Collapsed Identity
Privacy and Facebook seem to be much discussed, but the ability to segment different facets of one's life online (and one's online life) in Facebook are not adequately addressed.

Participate in Shaping Canada's Digital Economy
Last spring, the Canadian government opened up discussions on Canada's "digital economy". I was glad to see government recognizing the need to improve here and allowing various ways for citizens to send feedback. In addition to voting and commenting on ideas raised by others on the government's website, I participated in a group wiki for the UofT to submit their report

Canada's Cyber Celebs - 2010
It is great to see that so many Canadians (as loosely as that is defined by me) having achieved such significant results to the development and culture of the Internet. This was an update to a prior list, but I doubled it.

Delicious Numbers
I find it so sad to hear about Delicious probable demise. It is now bittersweet to reread this post where I itemize my great devotion to Delicious.

Foursquare User Types
My ethnographic research into Foursquare users resulted in a paper and some findings that I rolled up into this and another post. I thought Foursquare was the bees knees, but sadly over the last two months I haven't checked into Foursquare once. Their value proposition could not extend beyond novelty - although I think it's annotated space functionality will still come in handy if looking for restaurants. For specific information I now use the Yellow Pages app - which truly is the bees knees, if less sexy.

Canada's Role in a Mobile Media World and Canada and the Role of Location - Mobile Media World Conference
This was one of the best conferences I attended in 2010. It has interesting speakers raising some good points. It reaffirmed my decision to segue to mobile Internet - even if the caterer did give me food poisoning.

Another Thing to Blog Home About
On the fourth anniversary of this blog, I started my second ever blog. It reminded me of the invaluable role blogging can play individually and collectively.

Lessons From In-the-Trenches Webcasting
The trenches can be a bloody mess but a real eye-opener. I got an in-depth, crash course on the latest developments for webcasting and gained best practices (mostly from learning the hard way) which I share in this post.

Disney World - From Analog to Digital
I've started looking at my stats over the past few months and found out that this blog is read by more than just me and my wife. Someone else loved this post and sent me a decent amount of traffic. I think this posts captures the cultural shift from analog to digital media as epitomized by Disney.

My blog has been including more coverage of non-Internet topics that address my growing academic transitions. So an honourable mentions go to my posts on how to get Canadian graduate research grants, which is the most popular blog post of all time.

Here's to an interesting, eventful 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 the Year of Mobile

I'm writing a paper on trends on the use of mobile social media apps and sites for information seeking and sharing. I was trying to support the claim that 2010 was the year of mobile as definitely appeared to be judging from the rapid uptake and development of devices and applications. I saw this video from Mobile Future and it makes my complete case for me.

Although the stats presented are American, I'm sure they apply equally well in Canada (with the exception of carrier choice and prices - we suck in that area). I think I'm definitely studying the right area!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Klick! Holiday Video

Over the years I have received numerous corporate holiday e-cards and videos. Some were cool, most lame, and none memorable.

Except this one.

This one is hilarious! From Toronto-based communications agency Klick, this holiday video looks like the results of an open bar hours after the office holiday party. It's also a contest to spot the various viral media references.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Disney World - From Analog to Digital

I got back last week from a week-long family vacation at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. My first trip there was when it first opened in 1971. We were the first family in the small town where I was born to go to Disney World, so that family trip made it into the local paper (complete with a picture of me in a highchair happily sporting the trademark mouse-ears). Since that visit I have been back to Disney at least once every decade.

Disney World has always made use of cutting-edge technology to deliver entertainment. It was just this past trip, however, that the dramatic technological shift with their attractions became apparent to me. Analog may still remain supreme there, but the future appears to be digital.

Analog experiences are still aplenty at Disney. My daughter's favourite experiences were the theatrical shows, costumed characters, decorations, and dark rides . She also loved the log flume ride and I loved the rollercoasters. But rollercoasters are still rollercoasters (albeit greatly enhanced at Disney by special effects and art direction). Although the motion simulator and immersive experience of Mission: Space is an experience completely unique (and the only ride ever to almost make me vomit).

But, I love how old school tech still holds up well at Disney. Haunted Mansion is a great example of the excellent use of projectors, smoke, and mirrors. Disney perfected the dark ride (a term I didn't know until recently either, according to Wikipedia it is a enclosed ride with animatronics, manequins in tableaux, and special lighting and sound effects) and they are still crowd-pleasers. Haunted Mansion was my daughter's second favourite ride as it was mine when I was a kid (her favourite was Splash Mountain, mine was, and still is, Space Mountain).

Our two favourite parts of Haunted Mansion were ghostly apparitions both achieved via mirrors (including a technique called "Pepper's Ghost" from the 1850s). Okay, I had no idea what Pepper's Ghost was before reading it on Wikipedia but my point is the analog techniques are still effective. (Less so with Country Bear Jamboree and Tiki Room as the animatronics seem like something from the old scifi flick Westworld).

It was my 1992 visit, that I noticed a big switch in entertainment styles at Disney World. A year earlier MuppetVision opened at Hollywood Studios. MuppetVision was my first effective 3D experience (the ones on TV in the 80s didn't really cut it) and it was my first experience with 4D (i.e. combining 3D film with physical events in the theatre). It was Disney's second 4D experience (Michael Jackson's Captain Eo in 1986 was the first). The technology worked incredibly for me. I had never seen such a vivid 3D film before and I hadn't even conceived of 4D (although putting buzzers in people's seats to shock them during pivotal scenes was done in the 60s). 4D was so new to me that when a bubble smacked me in the face, when explosions went off in the theatre, and when a costumed-actor burst into the crowd - it rocked my world!

4D still rocks but is now getting less thrilling with its ubiquity. There is one per Disney park, i.e. Mickey's PhilharMagic in Magic Kingdom, It's Tough to Be a Bug at Animal Kingdom, and Soarin' at Epcot) and we've encountered them at Ontario Place and Niagara Falls. (BTW, I'd like to start a campaign to use the Ontario 4D film at Ontario Place to replace the dreadful show at the Canada pavilion at Epcot.)

3D/4D may use computers in production and digital projection, but it still seems like an analog experience. The real fundamental switch to a completely different type of experience was Toy Story Midway Mania! - a completely digital experience.

There were digital predecessors at Disney. The dark ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin (opened in 1998) allowed riders to shoot lazers at targets with scores tabulated instantly on the rider's car. And the lame-o ride Spaceship Earth had a redo in 2008 that added interactive, digital components. The traditional dark ride components (the lame-o part) is augmented by an interactive component that uses a photograph of the rider and user-supplied choices to create a customized, futuristic vision video (which can then be emailed).

The epitome of digital at Disney World, however, is Toy Story Midway Mania. It opened 2008 at a cost of $80M. It is much-hyped and immensely popular - by noon at their slowest time of year they ran out of fast passes and the queue was well over an hour. Basically, the attraction is a series of 3D shooting games (modelled on old-style midway attractions such as darts and ring toss). Riders are transported from game to game in a vehicle and a running score is displayed in the car. There are 4D special effects such as wind blowing at you if you pop a balloon, but they are infrequent and minor.

According to some Disney travel writers, they believe this type of attraction is the future. I can see its appeal to the company as updating them is much simpler and cheaper. Instead of tearing down existing structures and scenes and building new ones, they can just install a new program. Despite the hype, however, it didn't seem that much better than at-home games. It seemed frenetic and lacked the charm or immersiveness of other Disney attractions.

A Disney attraction that I do think has tremendous potential and I believe will be more common among amusement parks and tourist destinations is the Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure. Guests pick up a mobile device from a mission kiosk and then go to one of the country pavillons to unravel a mystery. The mobile plays clue videos and allows individual input based on the players' real-world findings. It also makes use of the device's camera and positioning functionality. Based on successful gamer responses, it triggers real-world action, such as sound effects and the motion of sets or statues. Overall, I loved it! But it wasn't a tremendous hit with my daughter. The storyline was a little too complicated, long and hard to hear. Still I think the Kim Possible game combines analog and digital experiences in a really vivid, interactive and compelling way.

My family already wants to go back to Disney, but it may be awhile before we actually return. When I do return, I'll be eager to see whether digital has indeed taken over or whether analog holds strong.