1 Research questions
My PhD research will address the following practical and meta-theoretical ques-tions: How does mobility affect the creation, distribution, and consumption of news? What are the theoretical and practical implications of applying gamification in a mobile news context? How could gamification techniques be successfully implemented in the distribution of digital news in order to increase news consumption?
My PhD research examines the application of gamification techniques in the distribution and consumption of news in the emerging mobile society. The focus is placed on persuasive design and game mechanics in order to motivate, engage, and create new habits of news consumption in the mobile audiences.
Taking advantage of the newest innovations in mobile technology and connec-tivity advances, mobile phones have expanded their functionalities, allowing to effectively unite mobile devices with Internet usage. The rise and ubiquity of mobile digital devices has already altered the environment of news and information . Traditional news organizations and other community-based information providers are trying to respond to audience interest with pervasive, portable, real-time local information . Mobile communication is being used in extremely varied ways, in some cases substituting and transforming traditional situations and behaviors , sparking ritual forms, reliance on co-present understandings, development, and sometimes erosion of social cohesion .
It is with this acknowledgement that journalism and the news industry need to re-examine the interactions with the consumers, and the shift of traditional forms of media consumption that derive from new digital and mobile media . New efforts are needed in order to capture the emerging individual structures of the self, through the engagement with technological personalized systems that turn life towards short-term, fragmented information, on-the-go life styles  . It is not technology per se that matters, but the way technology is used.
New techniques designed to overcome the challenges of going mobile and to empower and engage audiences are arising, such as persuasive design and gamifica-tion. The applications of gamification in digital news consumption, especially in mobile settings are quite promising. The idiosyncrasies of mobility and its personal nature make for the application of gamification techniques particularly suiting in order to engage users to use a service daily, and can increase levels of consumption and loyalty. Gamification has been successfully used in several fields, particularly in the large industry of mobile applications, but also in marketing campaigns, and business processes were user participation was important . The reasoning behind the application of gamification in web-based system, or a mobile app, is to enhance engagement, grant choices, reaffirm progression, and provoke social habit . Applied to media consumption, there is a vast opportunity to provide game elements in the systems that not only engage the news consumer, but also provide a personalized experience, a sense of relatedness, and help users create the habit of using the service regularly, translating it into a daily habit. In addition, gamification gives the tools for users to notify and engage other users, broadening the network of consumers to news engagement. The aim is to create a News Experience that is more attractive and enticing to the new mobile lifestyle of today’s news consumers.
The narrative of my dissertation focuses on the future of journalism and media, and the potential benefits that the enhancement of mobility approaches can bring to the emerging mobile society. Because gamification is a new approach, a proper em-pirical research could not only benefit academia, but also aim for business applicabil-ity in organizational environments.
Thus, this study focuses on the intersecting points of three different fields: gami-fication and persuasive technologies, mobility and mobile devices, and journalism and the news industry. Separately, all three fields carry a large body of knowledge, with a major background in media communication and information systems. Processes, challenges, typologies, success factors, media, a large variety of topics have been studied in depth when it comes to the creation, distribution, and consumption of news . The adoption of mobile devices for news consumption purposes can be seen as diffusion of innovation driven by various factors, such as technological, social, and psychological. Medium Theory, Mobile Network Societies, and Reward Substitution are shaping to be the theoretical points of departure in order to examine the new mediatized social phenomenon of constant information ubiquity in everyday life. Finally, even though the topic of gamification is fairly new, scholars like Werbach, Deterding, Hunicke, and LeBlanc give an introductory look into a vast new field that is waiting to be explored. Combined, however, the use of gamification on mobile settings to empower younger generations to consume news is practically unresearched. This study aims to fill this gap.
3 Research plan
For the purpose of my PhD, a triangulation of methods will be used to collect data. Fist, a large survey to examine the current mobile news consumption will be conducted. Second, a qualitative approach in the form of semi-structured interviews will attempt to study the effect of the new mobile devices in the users’ daily life and how that affects their media consumption. Finally, user experience experiments are planned in order to study the acceptance of gamified features, metrics of engagement and usability, and overall reaction of each individual to a gamified news service.
4 Advancement state
At the time of Persuasive’14, the project will have been running for almost a year. A great deal of literature has been examined and several courses been taken. On the empirical side, ten interviews have been conducted, providing preliminary data to support the study. Planning for the user experience experiments has already started. Feedback and ideas from the Doctoral Consortium in regards gamified systems would be of extreme value to the development of the study.
The project is funded by the Anne-Marie och Gustaf Anders Stiftelse för Me-diaforskning foundation, aided by the Media and Communication department at Karlstad University. My advisor is Associate Professor Michael Karlsson. Co-advisors are Professor Henrik Örnebring and Assistant Professor Christer Clerwall. The main examiner is Professor André Jansson.
Negotiations for cooperation have been established with the Swedish Interactive Institute (www.tii.se) in order to create a mobile research lab that could lead to con-duct of the user experience experiment that should serve as a data collection method for the project.
1. Castells, M., Fernández-Ardèvol, M., Qiu, J.L. & Sey, A. (2007). Mobile communication and society: A global perspective. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
2. Purcell, K., Rainie, L., Rosenstiel, T., & Mitchell, A. (2011). How mobile devices are changing community information environments. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.com/~/media/Files/Reports/2011/PIP-Local%20mobile%20survey.pdf [Accessed January 15, 2014].
3. Green, N. (2002). On the move: technology, mobility, and the mediation of social time and space. The information society, vol.18:4, pp. 281-292.
4. Ling, R. S. (2008). New tech, new ties. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
5. Westlund, O. (2008). From mobile phone to mobile device: News consumption on the go. Canadian Journal of Communication, vol.33:3.
6. Elliot, A. & Urry, J. (2010). Mobile lives. Routledge.
7. Urry, J. (2002). Mobility and proximity. Sociology, vol.36:2, pp. 255-274.
8. Deterding, S., Sicart, M., Nacke, L., O'Hara, K., & Dixon, D. (2011:a). Gamification, using game-design elements in non-gaming contexts. In PART 2 -Proceedings of the 2011 annual conference extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems, pp. 2425-2428. ACM.
9. Werbach, K. & Hunter, D. (2012). For the win: How game thinking can revolutionize your business. Wharton Digital Press.
10. Robinson, W., & Robison, D. (2006). Tsunami mobilizations: Considering the role of mo-bile and digital communication devices, citizen journalism, and the mass media. The cell phone reader, (ed.) Peter Lang, New York, pp. 85-103.