Mobile nodes: Mobile and locative media, everyday life and sense of place

Didem Ozkul, Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster

PhD research

Disciplinary background(s) Communication and media studies

When did the research take place? 2012

Aims of research 

The research aims to shed light on the social and spatial interactions in urban spaces in relation to the proliferation of mobile communication technologies and their location-aware features. To do this, herein the development of locative media, as specific types of location-aware mobile devices and services, is shown to be intimately interrelated with different aspects of place-making and self-presentation in everyday life. The research demonstrates that the mobile and locative media provide platforms, through which users of such technologies can communicate different aspects of their selves in relation to specific places as well as construct a sense of those places by sharing individual narratives of their everyday lives.

Description of creative research method

I organised 7 workshops (focus groups) in London with a total number of 38 participants – all of whom were mobile communication technology users. Each participant was asked to draw a sketch map of London showing ‘frequently visited places’, which they then presented to the group.

Mobile Nodes 1The workshop setting

After the initial stages of warm up and drawing, I asked the participants to add more places that had particular importance for them (in whatever sense they liked) on their maps. They were also told that the maps they drew did not need to be geographically accurate, but rather should show London as they experienced it in their everyday lives. I employed sketch mapping as a creative methodology in order to provide the respondents with a platform where they could freely draw and create their own selective representations of London and through which they could discuss how they use mobile communication technologies in London as part of their everyday interactions.

Mobile Nodes 2A participant drawing her own map of London

During the workshops, I recorded all the discussions and conversations. Then I transcribed those discussions in order to find emerging themes for the data analysis. I did not use any visual analysis of the sketch maps, because I was interested in how the research participants reflect on their own sketch maps and what they say about those maps – rather than me analysing what was drawn on each map.

Mobile Nodes 3Part of a participant’s map showing place-specific communication using a mobile phone

As each workshop progressed, after the initial stages of drawing sketch maps, and as the participants started talking about their maps and memories of London, they would typically mention and discuss their use of mobile and locative media in relation to different memories, associations and meanings of places in London.

Why did you choose to use this method? 

Creative visual methodologies are useful to overcome the difficulty of expressing different perceptions of places and meanings associated with those places. As a limitation of verbal elicitation (such as interviews), we cannot know about people’s images of their observable nonverbal behaviours.

What did you learn from the research process? 

Creative visual methodologies could be used as supplementary tools to verbal elicitation in order to base our understanding not only on what people say but also on what they do and how they interpret what they do.


Kevin Lynch’s influential work The Image of the City and David Gauntlett’s creative approach to research methodologies in media studies.

Gauntlett, D., (2007). Creative Explorations: New Approaches to Identities and Audiences. London: Routledge.

Lynch, K., (1960). The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Further information