Longitudinal analysis of smartphone usage

Period: 2014 – 2019

Source of funding: Wave 1: IN3-Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Wave 2: Social Science and Humanities Research Council del Canadà (SSHRC).

Project framework: ACT Project

Team: Principal investigator:  Andrea Rosales, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Collaborator: Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Research assistants: Lluís Teixidó, Aram García.

Abstract: The increasing use of mobile devices is changing the ecology of digital artifacts of daily use. In this multiphase project, we are exploring smartphone users’ behaviors among different age groups, with a special focus on older people.

The first wave was conducted in 2014 under the title “Intergenerational comparison of online activities”. In this wave, we gathered data on the online activities of 470 participants aged 20 to 80 during one month, from a market research panel. This representative sample of the online population in Spain had to voluntarily install an app on their mobile device and/or desktop to allow the panel to register their online activity. In addition to the internet logs, we gathered their basic demographic information. Some of the questions addressed in this study included whether there are age differences in regards to the type of apps used, the frequency of the mobile activity, the times of the day they use their device, the preferred method of social contact on the mobile devices, or the frequency of access to social networks or mass media.

The second wave was conducted in 2015 under the title “Longitudinal analysis of smartphone usage”, which has been defined since as the overall “umbrella” of this project. In this round, we performed a two-stage field work: (1) the first one via an online survey (which gathered 382 respondents); and (2) the second one via documented experiences of older people in a smartphone learning course. We were interested in determining if, and in which way, older individuals (60+) use smartphones and other digital devices in a way that is different than other age groups. One of our goals is to discuss how such information can be used in the design of future technologies. We argue that studies including older people help to compensate the prevalent weight younger generations currently have in technology design and the biases this creates.

We expect to conduct a third wave of this project in 2018.



Image by Kārlis Dambrāns under a CC BY 2.0 license.