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August 16, 2017

Researcher Tracks Cell Phone Usage Trends

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Good news for festival organizers, a University of Alberta study suggests that mobile phone usage drops during big, important events.

Elizabeth Halpenny, associate professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, teamed up with co-researchers Christine van Winkle and Kelly MacKay at the University of Manitoba and Ryerson University, respectively, to study how festival-goers use their phones during these events.

The three of them have been conducting various surveys at festivals across Canada, largely in their home provinces Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario.

At these events, they asked attendees about their phone usage both during festivals and in their day-to-day life.

“The strength of the method is, when you’re talking to people at the site, rather than afterwards, they’re able to reflect immediately about how they’re using their devices and maybe how it’s shaping their experience,” Halpenny said.

If you do it later, people’s memories will get a little more fuzzy, she added.

The researchers also did some quiet observation at festivals, noting that mostly people only used their phones to take photos or video, rarely using email and texting most often to try to co-ordinate with friends. They also performed some interviews with attendees after the events.

Though there is a margin of error, since parts of the data rely on self-reports, the researchers found that using phones for online reading, answering emails and other tasks declined, while people using their phones to capture parts of the festival slightly increased.

The researchers have been working on this for about four years. The idea began six years ago but it took two years to find the necessary funding.

In Edmonton, Halpenny chose two local festivals to perform her study, the Fringe Festival and the Festival of Trees.

While the Fringe integrates technology quite heavily into its operations (it releases an app for users, and was an early adopter of this practice), the Festival of Trees was slower to adapt in this way, thus providing Halpenny two sides of a spectrum.

Though she believes that mobile-use is now firmly rooted in the festival experience, Halpenny thinks organizers can use it to enhance the festival experience.

The researchers hope to use this data to help festivals get the most out of their resources when it comes to investing money in technology.

For example, the study’s findings suggest that festivals should try to engage with social media more immediately following the event, and also during its downtime through the rest of the year.


Copyright 2017 Edmonton Examiner. A member of Sun Media Community Newspapers part of Postmedia Network.
All rights reserved. From http://www.edmontonexaminer.com. By Doug Johnson.
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