References to books, projects and academic papers that inspire us


Portable Objects in Three Global Cities (Mizuko Ito et al.)

Full title: Portable Objects in Three Global Cities: The Personalization of Urban Places. (Chapter in Rich Ling and Scott Campbell Eds., The Mobile Communication Research Annual Volume 1: The Reconstruction of Space & Time through Mobile Communication Practices. Transaction Books, 2007).

Understand how portable devices construct and support individual’s identity and activities, mediating relationships with people, places and institutions. Focus on how portable devices mediate relationships to urban space and infrastructures, not on relational communication.

Main thesis:
Urbanites tend to carry an ensemble of portable informational objects with them as they negotiate their way through information-rich global cities (mobile phones as well as music players, credit cards, transit cards, keys, and ID cards). They use these objects for navigating, interfacing and transacting with urban locations and services. These portable devices reshape and personalize the affordances of urban space.
Results of the study point to three genres of presence in urban space that involve the combination of portable media devices, people, infrastructures, and locations: cocooning, camping, and footprinting. These place-making processes provide hints to how portable devices have reshaped the experience of space and time in global cities. The study across a range of urban locations reveals a resilient set of practices and trends that are gradually entering the information age. Emerging technosocial practices are molding public space to accommodate and trace personal identity and experience. the study identifies underlying social practices that drive practices of interfacing with urban locations, as well as the technological shifts that are reshaping these practices in subtle ways.

Tracking of 26 young professionals’ use of portable devices in 3 cities (Tokyo 6x, Los Angeles 8x and London 12x). Mostly leading edge users. Ages between 22 and 32. Recruited through snowballing. Selected on interests and trust.
– Document what people carry around with them in locations outside the home and the office.
– How these objects were used for transactions and communication
– How this differ between cities around the world.
Explore new methods for documenting practices that are low-key, ongoing, and difficult to observe.

Diary based methodology:
– Initial interviews, including a survey of what people carry.
– One or two day diary keeping on usage of portable devices
– Shadowing session
– Final interview, including diary review and photo-elicitation exercise

Theoretical framework:
The mobile phone has been established in various studies (e.g. Ling) as a trigger for technosocial changes (person-based networking rather than location-based networking). Focus of attention has been mostly on personal communication, not so much on place and time. Authors wanted to focus on implications to social logic of public places. This is their contribution to the field.
For the methodology they refer to literature on ethnomethodology (e.g. Dourish).

Academic paper.

PDF of paper –
Homepage Mizuko Ito –

Very relevant for B&B! The methodology is very similar, and their description of the underlying conceptual framework is very good. Their way of relating to existing studies in field of mobile phones and pervasive computing to new focus on space and time is encouraging, we are probably doing a similar but different thning: we are shifting the focus to style/appearance/identity expression.

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