Barry Brown, new co-director at Mobile Life Centre
Barry Brown, new co-director at Mobile Life Centre
 

Barry Brown is happy to join Mobile Life Centre and commended it for its exciting and collaborative research environment. He describes his position as co-director as an “understudy” of sorts with a special focus on strategies and new partners.

“I’ve been visiting Mobile Life in my summers for the last three years, so it’s great to come here permanently. I’m going to have some of the most excellent colleagues you can have. The Mobile Life Centre does some excellent research, as well as having great links with industry”.

GPS

His recent research has focused on the sociology and design of leisure technologies - computer systems for leisure and pleasure. Recent publications include studies of activities as diverse as games, tourism, museum visiting, the use of maps, television watching and sport spectating.

His recent research into how GPS is used has made the headlines of the prestigious New York Times. Barry is happy with the publicity, even though the article got the arguments somewhat wrong.

“GPS demands new skills and new forms of driving,” Barry says. “A map is incomplete – with technology extra magic can be added to make it work. There is some extra stuff we have to adjust to.”

Barry is convinced that we adjust to new technology – such as the GPS – and learn how to overcome the ‘ordinary’ problems of f their use. He stresses that GPS is a safer than ordinary map. GPS is less distracting, and has causes few accidents.

“GPS makes it easier but not easy,” Barry stresses.

Mobile phones

For now Barry is working on a study of the use of mobile phones used by pedestrians. Researchers can follow people with small wearable cameras and software that record their interactions with an iPhone. This lets them collect unobtrusive data about how mobile devices and iPhones are used ‘in the wild’ and over a long period of time.

“It is fascinating how much of activity on the device is dependent on what is going on around the device - conversations, buying things, where you are going, and so on. This makes us understand how pedestrians use the iPhone’s maps, and how that gets combined with information search more broadly," Barry explains.

Clouds & surfaces

The main theme for Barry Brown’s research at Mobile Life Centre is “Clouds & surfaces”. One study involves video recording of surface computing use to understand how surface computing is interweaved with interaction. A second study explores how cloud computing has changed attitudes and the use of ‘files’ and online document services.