iPhone as a Data Collection Device
In the aftermath of yesterday's seminar on Hugebrow and linking with my personal interest in research methodology, I have been tapping my thoughts into the possibilities of data collection through non-traditional means. One of the major problems of conducting a research study, especially one in which participants need to be monitored, is having them actually come to a lab and take the time to meet in-person. Online studies are becoming increasingly popular as they are one solution this problem, but Matt Killingsworth, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Harvard University, has another (and maybe even better) data collection strategy: conducting his doctoral research from an iPhone application. This article in the NYTimes explains his project, which measures the trajectory of happiness throughout one's day. Track Your Happiness (ps. look at its little icon in the URL line) is the name of the iPhone application through which participant happiness tracking is administered, and it enables the user to specify the frequency and time at which they are willing to provide information about their mood, and even generates your own "happiness report".
So far Killingsworth has a little over 1,000 participants, and Track Your Happiness can be launched through any mobile web browser (not just iPhone). He also states that limiting his participants to smartphone (mainly iPhone) users will not skew his study's results because, “We're looking more at universal human psychology and less at the demographic factors affecting happiness.” He makes another point that unlike most students in his cohort, and even most psychology doctoral students in general, the iPhone app enables him to break away from the widely used undergraduate student subject pool of 18-20 year olds. Last but not least, Track Your Happiness is not nearly as costly as traditional research studies of a similar design.
While I see his argument for why limiting participants to those with mobile internet capabilities works for his study, I am still skeptical that this should not be taken into account. Then again, I'm usually critical of study recruitment and personally find participant diversity essential to the validity of most research studies. Does possessing an iPhone have a relationship with happiness?