Researching with your Smartphone

On a recent trip to St Gobnait’s Well in Ballyvourney, I used my phone to capture some of the sounds, sights and movements of the place. The capabilities of smartphones and the selection of Apps are making it increasingly possible for all researchers, especially qualitative minded ones, to have a wonderfully versatile device with them at all times. It is now standard for a phone to be a camera, video and audio recorder, and notebook, while all the time connecting you to the internet. While the compact and multipurpose nature means that a phone does not have a quality of each of these items individually, they are a functional everyday tool which offers new potential for research, encounter and dissemination.

There also has been emerging comment on the use of phones and apps in research. Katharine Welsh and Derek France state that the “multi-tasking and portable nature of a smartphone renders the device an ideal data collection tool” and that “e educational potential offered by smartphones will likely increase over time.” (Smart Phones and Fieldwork). While Jay Zaltzman and Betsy Leichliter point out a whole range of real-time communications and recordings now possible that “can be used to share participants’ experiences and perceptions in more ways than ever” (Mobile Qualitative Research).

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A photo taken during the fieldwork was then sent using Twitter. This serves to both record and disseminate.

Also, phones offer a means of instant dissemination as all recordings, along with micro commentary, can be immediately posted online. This also ties in with the recognition of the role of social media as a means of communicating research and engaging the public.

Here are some of the items collected and transmitted using my phone on the trip. I was able to use the phone and apps together to take photos, to make audio recordings and record video, and then transmit these using the apps.

The Soundcloud App is particularly handy as you can easily record (and pause and resume recording) edit and post the clip. This App actually captures nicely how easier apps than older tools, even using recording devices and computers together.

Instagram allows you to record, edit and upload video, while also instantly sharing the post via social media sites.

The massive leaps in technology and capabilities mean that we can only speculate on the tools that will be available for research an the potential they will over. In the meantime, get exploring and transmitting.

Sources:

Smart Phones and Fieldwork from Enhanced Fieldwork.org.uk

Mobile Qualitative Research from  New Qualitative.org

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