Mind the App Gap

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Oona Schmid


What is an association to do? In the flurry of some 500-plus articles, commentaries and reviews published each year on AnthroSource, few readers can read them all, no matter how penetrating each item is. Our individual readers, in fact, each desire a unique selection. In addition, more and more members turn to social networks to share and discover content. The Pew Center reported in May 2013 that over 70% of Americans over age 18 and with a College degree or higher used a smart phone. This proliferation of portable devices has accelerated the process of taking research, teaching, and learning mobile. Yet, AnthroSource’s primary format (the PDF) requires awkward scrolling on small screens like those on smart phones or tablets.

To close the gap between the fast-moving mobile environment and AnthroSource, AAA has begun conversations with Wiley-Blackwell, its publishing partner, about how to make our content more searchable, and how to make our publications more readable on portable devices. Wiley-Blackwell recently launched the “anywhere article” . This will mean that HTML versions will be in HTML5 and be readable on mobile devices. In 2014, Wiley-Blackwell will rebuild AnthroSource, to help make its content more visible on that platform, and in January 2015, we can expect any HTML content published from 2008 onwards will be able to be easily read on mobile devices. This relaunch will also support full-text searching of content on AnthroSource.

AAA also believes development in an app—or a suite of apps—might also close this gap. We took the first step in September 2013 with a survey to identify how some anthropologists use technology. This survey can help AAA create a panel of DC-area tech-savvy anthropologists who can help develop use case scenarios.

The survey went to 539 DC-area anthropologists, with particular attention to anthropologists not in academic settings. The greater Washington DC area has especially high concentrations of anthropologists employed by the government and Non-Governmental Organizations. I used the AAA AnthroGuide to identify government employees and I used the AAA membership database to locate as many independent consultants and non-government research entities as possible.

Eighty-nine respondents completed the survey. Respondents reported a preference for Apple and more than half of the respondents own an iPad, MacBook or Notepad. Consistent with Pew’s findings, 79% of the survey respondents had a smartphone. The most widely selected alerting tool (to learn about new scholarly content) was social media sites (nearly 50% of the respondents ticked this option), followed by 34% said they use blogs to stay current, and the third most widely indicated answer was 32% of the respondents said they use automated alerts from search engines.

I hope you will add your thoughts in the comments or by emailing me at: oschmid@aaanet.org.

Oona Schmid is the director of publishing at the American Anthropological Association.

 

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