Intimacy and Mobile Devices


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Talk at Nottingham University (3/14/14)

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Intimacy and Mobile Devices

  1. 1. Intimacy and Mobile Devices John Rooksby Talk at Nottingham University 14/3/2014
  2. 2. These slides have been edited for the web - Participant images blurred and videos removed
  3. 3. Video Clip Removed – Boyfriend retrieves girlfriends phone while Strictly Come Dancing is on
  4. 4. • Intimacy can be a whole host of things – Kissing, holding hands, being close, looking into eyes… – Intimacy is category-bound (mother- child, couples, … ) – Intimacy is a moral issue • There are (“thorny”) differences between talking about, and doing intimacy – Both are orderly and category bound – But doing intimacy does not involve the same forms of reasoning as talking about it – Intimacy is „ascribable‟ within courses of action
  5. 5. “These days, insecure about our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time. … We fear the risks and disappointments of relationships with our fellow humans. We expect more from technology and less from each other.” • Intimacy can be had with and through technology, but is changing • A bleaker view than other sociologists (e.g. Giddens also sees a shift, but to „confluent love‟)
  6. 6. “When it comes to a sense of intimacy… young people make ready and skilled use of modes of connection that are instantly available but with the concomitant failure to pursue riskier, yet potentially more meaningful relationships with one another. Only those young people able to resist the Narcissus trap and the Circean lure of apps-of-the-moment are likely to form a meaningful identity or to forge intimate relationships with others.“ (Gardner and Davis) • Intimacy with and among young people • Intimacy as meaningful and valuable • Recommend resistance to tech, and appropriate styles of use
  7. 7. “Here you see a family, they may be sitting together in the living room, but, they‟re all using their own devices” Yvonne Rogers (TEDx Barcelona)
  8. 8. “And then in the most beautiful places like this Japanese garden, in spring, this couple should be looking fondly into each other‟s eyes, being romantic, but no what they‟re doing is they are totally immersed in their own mobile devices.” Yvonne Rogers (TEDx, Barcelona)
  9. 9. Source: The Guardian (originally published 1928) Source Unknown (widely shared on Twitter and other social media) Simmel (1908) discussed how people in cities avoid eye contact and do things like read newspapers when they are close to others.
  10. 10. [Use of WhatsApp] is togetherness and intimacy enacted through small, continuous traces of narrative, of tellings and tidbits, noticings and thoughts, shared images and lingering pauses. This friendship has a history and an ongoing trajectory into the future. It has a rhythm whereby people are coming together and then parting knowing they will come back not to the same space but through the next act of communication, the next expression of „what‟s happening‟. Some of this is in and through WhatsApp, but more of it is through a sharing of lives, a being together. O’Hara et al – Everyday Dwelling with WhatsApp (CSCW2014)
  11. 11. Intimacy in HCI • There is a widely recognised relationship between overuse of digital devices and diminished intimacy – Recognised in and beyond academia – But often as a moral problem concerning other people (teens, women, parents) • Intimacy is largely „talked around‟ in HCI (and related fields). – We consider intimacy-through-tech without considering intimacy.
  12. 12. Intimacy as a Design Problem • Rogers – Shared devices, and/or interactions across people‟s devices • O‟Hara et al (and many others) – Technologies to help us maintain intimacy when away • Gardner, Schofield, Turkle – Appropriate styles of use – Resistance • Many beyond this – E,g, Branham, “Design for couples” • But - We are designing for intimacy without knowing what it is – What is the question?
  13. 13. Video Clip Removed – Argument
  14. 14. Video Clip Removed – Girlfriend looks at boyfriend and is given chocolate
  15. 15. The Examples Show… • The use of mobile devices (in the videos) is enmeshed with TV watching, talking, eating, talking, and so on – It is not that devices are used instead of other activities, but they are used in and with other actions. – The question might be: how as these activities interwoven? • Many examples of intimacy can be found – Looking into eyes, cuddling, talking – Devices can be a part of this: sharing, fixing, retrieving • Intimacy is embedded in courses of action
  16. 16. So what is the Problem? • Shared devices? – Devices are already shared – Sharing, retrieving and so on are incorporated into intimate acts • Practices to support outside the home? – Intimacy is not itself an action, but us in actions • Styles of use – There already appear to be certain styles of patterns of use: for example, a partner has the rights to look or get first look. – Appropriate use is a topic of argument
  17. 17. Questions? This work was done in collaboration with: Tim Smith, Alistair Morrison, Matthew Higgs, Mattias Rost & Matthew Chalmers.
  18. 18. References • Yvonne Rogers (2013) “Society Minds, Technology Doesn’t”, talk at TedX Barcelona: • Simmel, G. (1908) Sociology: Investigations on the Forms of Sociation. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. • O’hara, K., Massimi, M., Harper, R., Rubens, S., Morris, J. (2014) Everyday Dwelling with WhatsApp. Proc CSCW 2014, Feb 15-19, Baltimore, MD: 1131-1143. • Turkle, S. (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books. • Gardener, H., Davis, K. (2013) The App Generation. Yale University Press. • Schofield Clark, L. (2013) The Parent App. Understanding Families in the Digital Age. Oxford University Press. • Tolmie, P. (2010) Everyday Intimacy. Recognising Intimacy in Everyday Life. Lambert Academic Publishing. • Branham, S., Harrison, S. (2013) Designing for Collocated Couples. In Neustaeder, C., Harrison, S., and Sellen, A. Connecting Families. The Impact of New Communication Technologies on Domestic Life. Springer. 15-36. • Giddens, A. (1992) The Transformation of Intimacy: Sexuality, Love and Eroticism in Modern Societies. Polity Press. • Kendon, A. (1990) Conducting Interaction. Patterns of Behaviour in Focused Encounters. Cambridge University Press.
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