van der Graaf, Shenja & Vanobbergen, Wim
Professional mobility as a service
Edition: First Monday
Series (Title): Professional mobility as a service
An emerging generation of mobile applications ranging from PDAs to smart phones is viewing mobility as a way to create interactive experiences that rely on or exploit movement and space in the urban context. This contemporary generation of applications is establishing a body of research that begins to present a less instrumental account of urban living by looking for inspiration not only in the available technologies but also in the broader experiences of urban life (Sutko & de Souza e Silva, 2011). Following this line of thought, this paper seeks to address how mobile applications should be designed and implemented so that they actually can be integrated into a wide range of everyday urban contexts and assist people in their daily city life. In particular, it will pay attention to one kind of experience that is often ignored in present urban computing design, the transition from one place to another, from one country to another. In other words, this paper seeks to frame urban mobility as an everyday fact thereby highlighting an emerging opportunity to assist in professional mobility of expatriates, or expats. Theoretically and methodologically, this paper contributes the following: First, it argues that it necessary to adopt a social view on urban computing design so as to provide a more realistic view of the celebrants and sceptics of more common techno-centric approaches in which the city tends to be presented as a homogeneous and void space that is there to be ‘filled’ with mobile applications connecting citizens anywhere and anytime. Mobility is merely framed in functional ways and, hence, tends to be problematised from an angle such as disruption, dislocation, and disconnection in data-flows when moving from one place to the next (Bassoli, 2010). In our argument, inspired by social shaping of technology theories (Bijker et al, 1987; McKenzie & Wajcman, 1985) and particularly domestication research (Silverstone, 2005) a social view on technology use is required by designers. This means that designers take the analysis of how potential users (and non-users) actually understand the use of new technologies in an urban daily life context seriously. Consequently, mobility should be seen from a cultural perspective and thus how people actually interpret this in different ways (Dourish et al, 2007). And, on a methodological level, we will argue that this social view forces designers to envision users as co-creators (Oudshoorn & Pinch, 2004) in the design process of applications allowing for the integration of user participation in the development process (Von Hippel, 2005). Specifically, we seek to focus on the study of, and design for, the experience of inhabiting and traversing urban environments. Using an empirical perspective to approach such lived urban transition experiences in terms of their situated aspects and the ways in which they are understood by both designers and users, this paper investigates a mobile relocation service application (linked to a Web-based service) that was developed for professionals relocating to the city of Brussels. The user experience of this application is streamlined towards supporting users when actually on the move in Brussels to look for a property and surrounding points of interests, allowing easy filtering of properties and points of interest near to the user’s location as registered by the smartphone’s GPS capabilities; in particular, the augmented reality function allows for motion and spatial experiences of emerging house-hunting practices. By deploying a triangulation approach combining surveys, event logs and participatory observations with over 30 newcomers (and, 350 participants in conjunction with the Web service), we highlight the importance of the concept of ‘in-betweenness’ (Anderson & De Paula, 2006; Bassoli, 2010) in order to grasp the socio-cultural dynamics of mobility between and within cities and how this can be usefully employed in social urban computing design.
Shenja van der Graaf