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The Mobile Mixed Methods And Qualitative Research App: A Look Ahead

9/23/2010

While we still have a way to go before releasing a mobile version of Dedoose, it is certainly on the horizon.  Since Dedoose is a Web 2.0 style mixed methods research application, we certainly have the ability to publish the existing version right to all almost all mobile handsets.  However, this raises quite a few questions as to exactly what will work well in the field and, even more important, what users who would take advantage of this capability will want.  Of course in an ideal world we would love to publish an exact copy of Dedoose onto every IPhone, IPad, Android, and Windows mobile phone out there and have it perform just as well as it does on your desktop, but this simply isn't practical.    Doing data entry and analysis on a 4" screen obviously is not going to be a particularly enjoyable experience and neither is trying to render hundreds of thousands of data points on even the most powerful of today's mobile devices.     For example, a modern computer these days is working with about 2-3 Gigabytes of RAM,  while even the best (in my opinion) mobile phone, the Samsung galaxy, still has only 512 MB RAM (0.512GB) and even then only about 2/3rds of that is available to a single application at a time.   So from a memory standpoint we are looking at mobile devices having about 1/5 the memory of a lower end desktop or laptop.   Unfortunately, looking at other metrics such as CPU speed, we see the same thing across the board.    Even the "magical" IPad has a paltry 256MB of app memory, and a meager 1 Ghz processor.

Together, these factors make the possibility of porting the existing Dedoose application over to mobile or tablets neigh impossible in the current era, but I think a question should be asked before even attempting to do that. What do you want out of a mobile qualitative and mixed methods research application?  A few possibilities jump right out.  The most obvious would be the opening of opportunities for collecting and uploading field data directly to Dedoose via mobile devices.  Imagine being able to collect and upload video, audio, photos, and documents from a mobile device?  Makes absolute sense, right, but what else can we do to make a useful mobile application?   Perhaps the ability to pull up saved interactive visualizations could be useful and there is a world of possibilities that can emerge from tapping into the GPS information when performing data collection.  In fact, there is a whole research center at UCLA investigating just these things: The Center for Embedded Networked Sensing.  There is a lot of great and valuable data out there, so how to efficiently tap into it all?   This could make certain studies, such as traffic patterns, variations in air quality, or even neighborhood safety (from public health and/or safety perspectives) employing mixed methods far more efficient and effective.  The possibilities are limitless, but to make Dedoose effective and efficient we must continue to focus on creating the best workflow's for mixed method researchers through the use of innovative tools—and that's where we need your help!  We would love to hear any ideas on how a mobile version of Dedoose could improve your research, and what and how you see those features being used in your study.  Let us know and we'll definitely add these ideas to our growing list!

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