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Paper presented at the 11th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, Las Vegas, NV, 2005.
This paper reports on research carried out as part of a doctoral thesis which focuses on how the social software of
the mobile internet, such as text messaging and picture messaging, is used by teenagers in the process of
constructing negotiated and shared understandings of unfamiliar environments in which they find themselves.
To this end, the study was constructed such that students were given opportunities to collaboratively explore and
navigate unfamiliar environments using the technologies of the mobile internet, as well as to engage in debate, and
use multimedia evidence recorded in the field to defend their positions both to peers in the field and in the
classroom, regarding various issues of concern to these environments, with specific links being made to their studies
Key research questions that delineate the bounds of the study are:
1) How do pupils seek to explore and understand the local environment in which they find themselves?
2) How are such understandings of three-dimensional environments communicated, through text, pictures and
video, with their peers and friends?
3) What are the mechanisms (including textual and non-textual cues) which teens employ to coach their peers
to successfully navigate alien environments?
4) How can the technologies of social software, specifically messaging technologies of the mobile internet,
augment and / or detract from the semiotic processes of making and sharing meaning about place?
Specifically, the requirement that the students engage in real-time collaborative interaction while still onsite in
multiple remote locations can only be properly realized with the mobile internet. No longer should students have to
wait till they return to school before sharing their thoughts with their peers.
The study encouraged students to empathise with, and defend, different points-of-view. Through debate, students
gained an appreciation of the issues pertaining to the geography around a particular location. The quality of the
debate was a function of their powers of observation, and what they perceived as meaningful in their environment.
CRP 14/03 JH
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