Mobile computers combined with sensors and knowledgeable users, present new opportunities to quickly and relatively easily collect copious amounts of heterogeneous data relating to an assortment of phenomena. At the same time, increased use of mobile computing has heightened users’ expectations in terms of application design and ease of use. Through this dissertation I seek to reveal ways in which mobile computers can be used to collect meaningful data, underlining the role of usability in this process.This dissertation uniquely identifies intersections between volunteered geographic information (VGI), location based services (LBS) and geovisualization literatures. Smartphone users address this integrated trinity within single applications yet the literature pertaining to the use of these components is currently fragmented. VGI is the collection of the data that are then distributed to the user through LBS while geovisualization is the actual interface that the user either contributes or consumes the information. The tight interrelationship between these three facets informs the success or failure of location based applications. Finally, I apply this theoretical framework to two case studies, one in which I collect perceptions of use of mobile location based applications, while the second case study investigates the data collection process using tablet computers in a clinical setting. I outline findings gathered via these two case studies regarding the use of mobile computers for geographic inquiry. Based on this research, it was found that application user interfaces act as information funnels – determining the success or failure of the application. The usability of the user interface or geovisualization dictates what information goes in or out of the device and is delivered or obtained from the user.
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Thesis advisor: Schuurman, Nadine
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