What Smartphones, Ethnomethodology, and Bystander Inaccessibility Can Teach Us About Better Design?
Chapter from the book: Loizides, F et al. 2020. Human Computer Interaction and Emerging Technologies: Adjunct Proceedings from the INTERACT 2019 Workshops.
Smartphones, the ubiquitous mobile screens now normal parts of everyday social situations, have created a kind of ongoing natural experiment for social scientists. According to Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology social action gets its meaning not only from its content but also through its context. Mobility, small screen size, and the habitual way of using smartphones ensure that, while offering the biggest variety of activities for the user, in comparison to other everyday items, smartphones offer the least cues to bystanders on what the user is actually doing and how long it might take. This ‘bystander inaccessibility’ handicaps shared understanding of the social context that the user and collocated others find themselves in. Added considerations and interactive effort in managing the situation is therefore required. Future design needs to relate to this basic building block of collocated interaction to not be met with discontent.