Paper Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Building collaborative real-time research tools for mobile devices (98)

Philip Marriott 1
  1. University of South Australia, Magill, SA, Australia

Researchers in the humanities (and most of the general population in the western world) are rarely without a mobile phone, tablet, or watch with an active connection to the internet. Researchers have access to a personal 24/7 real-time data collection tool, that can geo-tag, store, and share data. The tendency is often to adapt to existing apps, often designed for scientific purposes, rather than to develop and build apps specifically suited to the research task at hand. This paper reports on the experiences of undergraduate humanities students who developed collaborative real-time research tools in the form of web-apps (e.g. Serrano and Hernantes, 2013) for their mobile phones as the requirement of an undergraduate course. Students used markup languages (HTML/CSS), scripting languages (PHP, Javascript), database systems (SQL, MySql), tools (Google Maps API) to produce a range of mobile web-apps that could collect real time data, share that data in real time, store it in a database for later retrieval, index and geo-tag for more precision; all with the aim of aiding interpretation qualitative inquiry. For example students developed phone apps that collected written notes at locations recorded on Google Maps with accompanying photographs that were instantly shared among the cohort and stored for later analysis. 

Through the use of Systems Thinking (e.g. Checkland and Howell, 1998) and SenseMaking theory (e.g. Weick, 1995) with an Idea Networking approach (e.g. Hassanli et al, 2014), the purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the potential and mechanisms required to develop these tools. The aim is greater awareness among researchers, in the humanities, of the possibilities of collaborative mobile data collection, so that the right questions are asked, that lead to the design and development of better research tools.

  1. Checkland, P & Holwell, S 1998, Information, Systems and Information Systems: Making Sense of the Field, John Wiley, Chichester.
  2. Hassanli, N & Metcalfe, M 2014, 'Idea Networking: Constructing a Pragmatic Conceptual Frame for Action Research Interventions', Systemic Practice and Action Research, vol. 27, no. 6, December 01, pp. 537-549.
  3. Weick, KE 1995, Sensemaking in organizations, Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks.
  4. Serrano, N, Hernantes, J & Gallardo, G 2013, 'Mobile Web Apps', IEEE Software, vol. 30, no. 5, pp. 22-27.