Opportunities and Challenges for Leveraging Smartphone Technology in Field Studies: A Pilot Study in New York City

Elyzabeth Gaumer, University of Chicago
Bell Daniel, Columbia University
Nathaniel Osgood, University of Saskatchewan
Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Columbia University

The increased saturation of technology in everyday life has opened new opportunities for collecting objective data to supplement more traditional survey methods. This is valuable for assessing outcomes where self-report is unreliable or where data requirements increase respondent burden beyond what is practicable. Smartphones offer a unique opportunity to collect data on geographic mobility, social interaction, and daily activities--increasing data quality and reducing respondent burden. These type of measurements may be particularly valuable for defining exposure (length and frequency) to different residential, work, and school environments and thus help to refine theories of contextual influence on a wide range of individual outcomes. In this pilot, we examined the potential for using smartphones to capture physical mobility and activity of adults living in a dense urban environment. GPS readings are compared to daily activity logs and respondent-defined residential neighborhood boundaries. We test validity and compliance rates and document technical challenges.

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Presented in Session 64: Innovative Methods in Spatial Demography