Operationalizing Mobile-based Daily Life Research

Universität Ulm

Fakultätsöffentliche Vorstellung des Promotionsvorhabens (Grüner Vortrag), Michael Stach, Ort: Online, Datum: 27. Juli 2022, Zeit: 10:00 Uhr

Mobile-based research has become a fundamental pillar for data collection in recent years, especially in the field of psychology. The high prevalence of smart devices enables the observation of individuals in their natural environment and,  thus, the collection of ecologically valid data. In literature, Daily Life Research methods describe a collection of methods for conducting such research using both objective and subjective data collection procedures. In order to reach a large  audience (i.e., number of study participants), Daily Life Research projects are increasingly conducted using apps for smart mobile devices (e.g., smartphones) and distributed via major app stores to a previously unknown set of potential  users. This distribution procedure shifts the responsibility for providing and operating the research device, as well as for executing the research logic, to the person being studied. As a result, the execution of the app often cannot be  guaranteed according to the intended research methodology. In turn, this poses a major challenge for conducting large-scale smartphone-based studies which requires a more in-depth investigation of the impact of the aforementioned distribution procedure on the study conducted and the ability to use smartphones as scientific tools in general.
In this work, the challenges for operationalizing Daily Life Research applications from a technical-operational perspective are analyzed, discussed, and addressed by developing appropriate solutions. To this end, the most important aspects  of Daily Life Research on smartphones are identified in a conducted literature review and enriched with observations from various long-term research projects conducted as part of the dissertation. Furthermore, a framework for  studying the execution - as well as the interaction - with Daily Life Research applications is presented. The main focus is on the system notifications that are executed on mobile devices in the wild. The lessons learned will be used to  improve future mHealth projects and provide reliable technical solutions for key features of Daily Life Research applications such as Smart Notification Management. Finally, the results should lead to a better understanding of whether  smartphones are suitable instruments for scientific measurements with high ecological validity.