Presentation: ECREA’16

Presentation: ECREA’16

Andrea Rosales presented a paper coauthored by Mireia Fernández-Ardèvol titled “Understanding smartphone’s logs in the era of big data” at the European Communication Conference, (ECREA’16). This edition of the conference was celebrated between November 9th and 12th in the city of Prague, Czech Republic.

The emergence of digital communication systems opens the door for tracking everyday activities, leading to the so called era of Big data [1]. Terabytes of data created by real life users in their everyday life activities that can be analyzed to understand human behavior. Big data is used in marketing, political, communication and technological studies among others. However, it is not exempt of privacy, ethical and political concerns. Big opportunities and big challenges come with. Tracked data are often seen as more objective data [2,3], as they report what people actually do in their everyday settings. They are often used together with qualitative studies, as each kind of data complement each other [4].

We aim at a better understanding of the complexity of analyzing tracked logs, and discuss some guidelines both to understand and face big data studies. We base our analysis on a) our failures in previous studies pretending to analyze smartphone logs, b) a literature review of papers reporting studies with smartphone logs, and c) the analysis of our own experience with tracked smartphones.

Our analysis highlight two issues related with the validity and reliability of the data. E.g. a valid interpretation of the duration of usage, as an app can remain open until reaching the screen time out. Thus, smartphone logs can not be considered human behaviour, as they might include a combination of human and machine activities.

Smartphone logs are easy to access but complex to use in human behavior studies. They can be used in comparative statistics but possible biases must be taken into account. Conversely, logs seem to be less problematic in technical studies because the focus is mainly on how the system works than on how individuals use digital devices.

[1] Boyd, D., Crawford, K.: Critical Questions for Big Data. Information, Commun. Soc. 15, 662–679 (2012).
[2] Karikoski, J., Soikkeli, T.: Contextual usage patterns in smartphone communication services. Pers. Ubiquitous Comput. 17, 491–502 (2013).
[3] Möller, A., Kranz, M., Schmid, B., Roalter, L., Diewald, S.: Investigating self-reporting behavior in long-term studies. Proc. CHI ’13. 2931–2940 (2013).
[4] Ormen, J., Thorhauge, a. M.: Smartphone log data in a qualitative perspective. Mob. Media Commun. (2015).



Image by Pedro Szekely under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.