Paratyping: A Contextualized Method of Inquiry for Understanding Perceptions of Mobile and Ubiquitous Computing Technologies
In this article, we describe the origins, use, and efficacy of a contextualized method for evaluating mobile and ubiquitous computing systems. This technique, which we called paratyping, is based on experience prototyping and event-contingent experience sampling and allows researchers to survey people in real-life situations without the need for costly and sometimes untenable deployment evaluations. We used this tool to probe the perceptions of the conversation partners of users of the Personal Audio Loop, a memory aid with the potential for substantial privacy implications. Based on that experience, we refined and adapted the approach to evaluate SenseCam, a wearable, automatic picture-taking device, across multiple geographic locations. We describe the benefits, challenges, and methodological considerations that emerged during our use of the paratyping method across these two studies. We describe how this method blends some of the benefits of survey-based research with more contextualized methods, focusing on trustworthiness of the method in terms of generating scientific knowledge. In particular, this method is a good fit for studying certain classes of mobile and ubiquitous computing applications but can be applied to many types of applications.