Mobile Convergence Lab

 

Mobile Convergence Lab

 

Media and communications are converging across countless devices used in various social contexts, which makes designing both media and applications more complex. Cross-platform designs need to be customised for a range of hardware or media, while responsive design emphasises that online media must be accessible on desktop, tablet and a wide range of mobile devices alike.

All these approaches require extensive testing in field and other contexts. Testing and field studies are particularly important in the South African context, where devices are used in multilingual contexts and are often being used without the supporting infrastructure of easily accessible electricity, affordable Internet access and other resources.

A grant by the Nokia Research Corporation seeded the Convergence lab, which was supplemented by a successful application to the Strategic Equipment Fund. It used to purchase laptops, mid-range tablets, cameras, a movable television screen, a charging trolley, feature phones, entry level smartphones and to set up a mobile usability lab. Operating systems include Windows, Symbian, Android and a small number of devices with Firefox OS and iOS installed.

The Mobile Convergence Lab was established as part of ICT4D primarily for the use of researchers and postgraduate student projects in the Centre, as well as for teaching in affiliated departments. The lab assists in the development of innovative grassroots approaches to mobile media, software and creative expression. This gives us access to the low and mid-range devices that might be used in lower income households across SA, but also higher cost items used for citizen journalism, in schools, clinics or libraries.