Mobile Research and the Socially Awkward

Speaking as someone who has often fiddled with my phone while waiting at bus stops in order to avoid talking to the very nice survey canvasser eyeing me, I was particularly interested in reading this report from Pew Internet Research. The survey reports (among other things) that more than half of all American mobile users are accessing their phone to get information that they need that very moment, but they are also using their phones to avoid contact with their fellow humans. The report summarizes:

“13% of cell owners pretended to be using their phone in order to avoid interacting with the people around them.”

It’s true that due to my extreme in-person social awkwardness, I have definitely taken advantage of this quality of cell use. A sad, but honest admission. But in thinking about what I’m doing when I’m avoiding the kindly market researcher, I realized that a lot of the time, I’m still delivering feedback on my phone or iPad. This report made me realize that not only does mobile research offer a number of advantages including site-specific feedback, instant receipt of pictures and videos for qualitative information, and (according to another report) survey data that is “statistically comparable to online survey data,” it is also another way to get rich information from the sometimes painfully shy. While I’m avoiding eye contact in the field, I am clicking away on my phone to tell you exactly how much my last online purchase rocked my world.

That’s why it’s so important to be able to collect real-time mobile feedback. Ideascale offers the iPhone feedback widget which has been used by businesses like OpenMaps and OneBusAway. More and more people are used to delivering feedback in this interface, so it’s nice to see that mobile research is reaching its tipping point. And according to Gongos Research, “smartphone-based surveys also offer the potential for researchers to reach segments of the population not as inclined to complete online surveys, such as non-acculturated Hispanics and ‘digital natives.’”

Who else can you reach with the mobile phone? What other advantages does mobile research provide? What other uses do you expect people will regularly put their phone to?

One response to “Mobile Research and the Socially Awkward

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