Research in the LARGE! Using App Stores & wide distribution in research

We’re organising a workshop on Research in the Large: using app stores, markets and other wide distribution channels in research at UbiComp2010, Sept 26th in Copenhagen, large.mobilelifecentre.org (associated special issue for IJMobHCI)!

When we test mobile or ubiquitous computing apps as researchers, by reasons of ‘necessity’ we usually test on a small group of test users. However, we now have huge opportunities to actually reach large groups of test users – people, out there, in the real world…People’s mobile phones are more and more likely to run very advanced applications and be equipped with interesting sensors. They also have access to app stores and markets; both lone developers and large research and development teams can now relatively easily reach wide audiences.

It seems like we no longer have any excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity for both iterative development and research. BUT: simply ‘throwing an app out there’ is too easy. Wide distribution requires marketing and getting your app noticed, so how do you make sure your PR doesn’t affect your results? (can you?). How do you deal with the comments you’ll get from ‘the real world’ who just want a cool app and not deal with your pesky research questions? How can you make sure that your research data is valid? Who are actually using your app? Which ethical concerns arise when you decide to put your app to the market?

Yes, we need to take this opportunity, but we also need to make sure we get a better sense of successful strategies and ways to overcome the challenges inherent to wide deployment in a research context. Together with Mobile Lifers Mattias Rost and Nicolas Belloni and Frank Bentley (Motorola) and Didier Chincholle (Ericsson) I’m organising the workshop at UbiComp2010 to do exactly that. Go check out the workshop call, send us your position paper and/or contribute to the associated special issue of the Int. Journal of Mobile HCI.

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