Shadwell BasinShadwell Basin

Seoul, Korea sunset over the Han River from Michael Gallagher on Vimeo.

Research Study, Pilot Data, and Mobile Media

That is a fairly hefty title, but most of that is to do with my thesis on mobile learning in the humanities and how the use of mobile technology (and specifically what it is used for) signals (a deepening) participation by graduate students. I have chosen a few basic research questions, which exist currently as the following:

  1. How do graduate students in higher education in the humanities in South Korea use mobile technology to support their learning practices?
  2. What mobile artifacts (compositions of text or multimedia designed to make meaning for graduate students in their disciplines) are being produced in mobile technology in Korean higher education in the humanities?
  3. How do graduate students engage in the participatory process in the humanities in South Korean universities?

These research questions are answered, more or less, is this research design, summarized  below:


  1. Narrative Interviews
  2. Mobile Artifact
  3. Self-Reflection Prompt

Data produced

  • Narrative interview: Processes of participation, expectations, formal and informal learning practices, technology use to support learning, motivations for participation
  • Mobile artifact: Media practices, technology use, engagement with the discipline, novel forms of composition and participation, scope of informal and social learning practices
  • Self-reflective prompt: Media practices, participant reflection on what submitted artifacts signal about their mobile technology use and about participation in their discipline.

I am using Community of Practice theory to generate an idea of what this participation looks like (and what communities the graduate student interacts with outside the CoP to make meaning within the CoP), and Multimodality to try and extract the salient bits of the compositions (teased out verbally through the self-reflection prompts) and what those signal about participation. A lot of what this will fall under will be mobile media practices, how these students construct meaning for themselves and their community through text or multimedia. That is all good. I am starting to get the generated data from my pilot project (x8 participants across a few different Korean universities) and some have chosen video as their preferred artifact submission.

This is fantastically rich data (video) and it had me pondering how to approach deciphering it. There is plenty to work with in multimodality on video transcriptions, or through media studies on video and media practices, etc. but I wanted to start somewhere not so clinical. I wanted to posit myself in their position and remember how I came to this research subject myself. I did mobile media and then tried to retroactively apply it to disciplinary participation. I used my mobile technology to generate the media first and then I looked for compositions to apply that to. This can be taken as an Aristotelianism foundation of experiential learning (“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them”), or as a Shakespearian idea that the momentum of the activity writes the story. I believe in the latter. We do something and then that momentum carries us elsewhere. I use mobile media to record or document and then use the products of the documentation to compose and build. Media practices emerges from this activity, from disciplinary to not, from formal to informal, from social to isolated and back.

I suspect that these students might approach it in the same way (which is why I deliberately trying to avoid the use of the term “mobile learning” as it compounds the formality of the issue). I went back to some of my older videos shot on my phone, edited using iMovie or Camtasia or even a basic mobile application, and hosted on Vimeo. This is where a lot of this research started, deep within the mass of Flickr imagery, or Audioboo sound recordings or Vimeo. So I gathered some of my favorites, some more formalized than others. Regardless of the disciplinary or purely personal focus involved, all are impressions of learning.

This documents a bit the weekend workshop with the good people of Otavan Opiston Osuuskunta in Helsinki, Finland exploring mobile learning and field activities. The general goals of the workshop were to collaboratively explore how mobile technology could be used to conduct learning activities outside the classroom and what those field activities might look like mediated through mobile technology. As far as I am concerned (I will let the participants confirm or deny this) it was a great success. They were an amazing group of people from all walks of the educational sphere (including the spouse of a participant who was one of the more eager participants). They understood the dynamics of collaboration from the very beginning of the presentation, were involved and inquisitive, and some of the most creative people I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

A Day in New York City: how mobile technology allowed me to narrate (ie, relate the significance beyond the activities). This was just an assembly of media recorded on a perfect day in New York City with my wife in the spring of 2013.

This is a short video articulating some ideas on learning through naturally occurring structures, in this case the Thames River. They provide organic models for understanding learning as a fluid, layered, and simultaneous set of processes. I recorded these videos almost everyday on my walk, trying to capture some new angle of the Thames that I had missed in other recordings. It was a process of constant reinvention and discovery.

These are mostly personal videos with some professional practice thrown in. But I suspect they need to be reflected in my research study. Basically, this study needs to reflect that practices emerge from use (of technology, tools, ideas, or community practices) and not through adherence to an existing practice. It is organically linked to activity, perpetual, messy, boundless activity.

By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

3 thoughts on “Mobile video practices emerge from personal use: using video to reveal disciplinary activity”
  1. Michael Sean, I enjoyed seeing the videos. It strikes me they have more meaning if we have their context. Where is that slipway on the Thames? The Finnish example has maps and seemed less personal as a result. Very interesting, thanks.

    1. Hello there, John,

      Thanks for the comment. Some more context would have certainly helped those videos so I might slip some more in. The London one was a series of short videos along the Thames that I recorded walking from Tower Hill to Canary Wharf and back, so basically through Wapping, Limehouse, Shadwell. One of my favorite walks in the world. Highly recommended.

      1. Ok, the content and aesthetic quality of the video x context is interesting, especially as you are so widely travelled.

        This 3D imagery video from WWI is contextualised in terms of placename and date but an integrated map might be more meaningful for those of us who do not know the territory.
        Anyway, thanks for the thought provoking post!

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