For the last year, along with readings in personal information management (PIM) literature, I've been making my exploratory fieldwork in order to uncovered information artefacts at the office, at home and what mobile workers carry with them according to length of «stay away» and the kind of transportation used. One of the trickiest problems is getting to «see» what is sometimes invisible in different occasions. The other is gaining access to the places where those information artefacts are, since I have to «intrude» many times, on different occasions, to «record» them by means of photos, drawings, descriptions and/or recording conversations) .
When doing research is very important to assume nothing (easier said then done, cause we all have our world views). The way each individual uses information artefacts is very idiosyncratic and can contaminate our observations. The use I give to my information artefacts can not be transported to the people I'm studying. To explicit my own usage I've been also recording the artefacts I carry with me, in different occasions (first saw this on «what's in your bag» flickr group) and adding comments on my own usage behaviour. This is to say that I can not infer what people do with those artifacts just because the object is present. I have to know the how and why of that information artefact for that person, in that context.
A «simple» key chain can be much more than the eyes can grasp. In a collection of «The Near Field Communication Pool»(1) at flickr, related to RFID artefacts some of them look just like toys, but they allow information exchange by proximity or contact. One of the uses for that alike-key-chains is exchanging personal information with someone we meet. Very similar to exchanging business cards, except the exchange does not have physical visibility. This is something that might trick the observations and alerted me for the need to be alert for the presence of other toys in mobility contexts. First time I saw similar artefacts in use was in public transportation in Hong Kong (around 1997). Around the same time, I was using Amazon book store and found one inside one of the books I had ordered.
I'm closing down this stage of the research and initiating a new one. For that I'll have to gain access to fair to high mobility workers of different business sectors that allow my presence in different contexts (office context and «on the go» context), during varying periods of time, distributed in a year period. Since I'm based in Portugal, and financial constraints limit my traveling (hence the variety and scope of the research), I'll have to limit my observations to Portugal. So if you feel you would like to be part of the study, can handle my presence during different times in an year, allow me to record the information artefacts you use and be willing to respond to some questions, I would be very glad to give more information and more details about the study. What's in it for you? Might not seem much what I have to offer, but you would be part of the research and, hopefully, with all the praxis I'll be gathering you (and/or your organization) would be contributing to the knowledge needed to advance support «from workers' mobility to information mobility» (and a front reservation seat when the research defense takes place ;)
The reason I'm posting in English is mainly for trying to connect to others that might be doing similar researches and/or have already done similar studies and want to share what worked and did not work in their design strategies or engage me in other conversations going on.
[Update, 29/Mar/2009]: More on NFC (Near-Field Communication): An Introduction to Near-Field Communication and the Contactless Communication API(2), by C. Enrique Ortiz (June, 2008). See table below, taken from this introduction on different technologies for NFC:
(1) Found this collection through Ton Zylstra photo in flickr.
(2) Found this on The Mobile Monday, after following VD call for the coming meeting of MoMo chapter in Portugal, on April 6th.