Horizon CDT Research Highlights

Research Highlights

Investigating Modality and Cooperative Collocated Interaction with Portable Devices

  Martin Porcheron (2013 cohort)   www.porcheron.uk

This PhD is developed from an intrigue of the methodical practice around the use of mobile devices (e.g. mobile phones, smart watches, tablets etc.) within casual social gatherings, and in particular, group conversations within settings that are both inherently casual and social (e.g. pubs, cafés, public squares). The outcome of this work is developed around the idea that observations and details of such practice in can be used to inform and shape future design of mobile devices. This work is primarily oriented to unpacking the ways in which individuals presently make use of mobile devices within collocated interactions, and how the device use can, and is, occasioned and utilised in and through conversation by members. Furthermore, this work also seeks to understand how such use can be occasioned and embedded within talk whilst remaining ostensibly unrelated to the existing conversational focus. In essence, this work wants to understand how people can, and do, interleave device use in conversation whether it is related to, or unrelated from, the conversation at hand.

The research stems from a desire to understand and interpret the broad rhetoric around the impact on social order and conversation that is attached to the rise in mobile device ownership and everyday use. However, this research does not specifically scrutinise this work, or allow such notions to have bearing on the findings. Instead, this research primarily uses this rhetoric as a springboard to project and orient analysis towards the use of devices with an ethnomethodological perspective, providing a phenomenological understanding of this interleaving practice. In summary, this work seeks to purposefully unpack the interactional methods through which the phenomena of interleaving device use occur within everyday talk amongst socialising groups, through which (any existing) interactional troubles (should they exist) can be identified. Through this exploratory and unstructured approach, it will be possible to inform the design of mobile devices, allowing them to better support mundane use in collocated situations better.

Research Questions

Ultimately, this PhD that attempts to answer the following research questions:

  1. How do individuals methodically embed mobile device use in collocated social situations?
  2. How do co-operative interactions unfold with different device interaction modalities, ranging from visual-touch to speech-only?
  3. What are the interactional troubles that arise from such interactions and how could these potentially be addressed in design, or explored through further research?


Please see my website for an up-to-date list of publications.

This author is supported by the Horizon Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Nottingham (RCUK Grant No. EP/G037574/1) and by the RCUK’s Horizon Digital Economy Research Institute (RCUK Grant No. EP/G065802/1).