Non-use research

My academic interest has since 2006 been on the topic of “technology non-use” and its impact on design theory and practice. This category shares relevant literature, along with field notes and ongoing research findings.

Creating meaning in the abandoned – a perspective on disenchantment with the new

The short film “Follow Me on Dead Media – Analog Authenticities in Alternative Skateboarding Scene” by Joonas Rokka, Pekka Rousi and Vessi Hämäläinen presents their research on an alternative skateboarding scene in Helsinki. It is a so-called videography – academic ethnographic research using video as a method (for an intro on the academic methodology debate, […]

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Ignoring social inequality in design: poor customer experience

As sociologists, we frequently use inequality as a lens to examine various dimensions of social life. A blog post by Jenny L. Davis illustrates how the non-use of technology (in this particular instance, due to lack of access) may not only be a manifestation of the so called “digital divide” – the topic of the […]

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MoMo – the anxiety that strikes when friends become non-users

The impact of social technology’s non-use on its users is sometimes abstract to explain. But every now and then, the issue surfaces in very accessible manner as in an editorial piece by Radhika Sanghani on the Telegraph. While active social media users, through constant sharing of detailed accounts from their lives, can cause their friends […]

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“Disconnectionists” – the institutionalisation of non-use?

Back in November, Nathan Jurgenson, the scholar who earlier coined the term “digital dualism” to describe (and challenge) the belief that online and offline lifes are separate entities, wrote an article on The New Inquiry titled “The disconnectionists”. The essay examines the philosophy of people promoting the benefit of consciously disconnecting from digital networks for […]

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Using while not using: social interaction on auto-pilot

A patent document was published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on November 19, describing a system developed at Google that analyses a user’s accounts on social network sites in order to provide half-automated reactions to relevant activity within these. From the patent description: There is no requirement for the user to set reminders […]

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The job anniversary that wasn’t

A few days ago, I noticed an interesting item on my LinkedIn feed that serves to illustrate one of the instances how non-use may manifest itself in social web services. A message featured in the news feed encouraged me (and likely a large number of others) to congratulate a former colleague for her 5 year […]

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Facebook non-use: An explorative study on practices and motivations

A paper titled “Limiting, Leaving, and (re)Lapsing: an Exploration of Facebook Non-Use Practices and Experiences” by Eric P.S. Baumer et al., presented in May at CHI 2013 (slides), sheds some light on the practices of Facebook non-use and people’s experiences with them. While the presented numbers on the prevalence of Facebook non-use are knowingly not […]

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Have-nots and want-nots – a taxonomy of voluntary and involuntary non-users

About 10 years ago, technology researchers started to discuss voluntary non-use in contrast to the prevailing assumption that non-use is an involuntary state. In their 2002 book chapter “They came, they surfed, they went back to the beach: Conceptualizing use and non-use of the internet”, Sally Wyatt, Graham Thomas and Tiziana Terranova suggest a “taxonomy […]

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Scarcity of personal time resources as a reason for quitting Facebook?

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project published some interesting non-use related numbers related to Facebook, in a report titled “Coming and Going on Facebook”: 61% of current Facebook users say that at one time or another in the past they have voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of […]

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Where is the saturation point in social media penetration?

Earlier this year, some media outlets pinpointed that the Facebook user statistics published by social media analytics platform Socialbakers would indicate a decrease in the absolute number of “Monthly active Facebook users” over the last six months in the US, Indonesia and the UK. Even though the data indicated growth to continue at even two-digit […]

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Some people stopped using the internet already 15 years ago

Looking at the trace of “non-users” in the history of technology research, the work of James E. Katz and Ronald E. Rice is not to be missed. In their 2002 book “Social consequences of Internet use: access, involvement, and interaction” , they describe a research project which – as an unexpected side product – brought forth […]

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Why research on non-users is relevant in B2C business

Ever since I first read the publication on the 2010 study of communication technology use by Finland’s official statistics service (Tilastokeskus), I thought it would be great to visualise some of the data contained. In particular, I wanted to dissect the “official” numbers on the use of SNSs in Finland and put them into context […]

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The Absent Peer – Non-users in Social Interaction Design

Greger, S. (2010). The Absent Peer – Non-users in Social Interaction Design (Master’s thesis). Aalto University, School of Art and Design, Helsinki, Finland.

“Best HCI-related MA thesis” award in the 2011 SIGCHI Finland thesis competition

This research aims to provide a framework for the consideration of non-users in the context of social interaction design (SxD), in particular for the design of social network sites (SNSs).

The theory of “The Absent Peer” consists of two core concepts, presenting the network aspect and the sociality aspect how non-use influences SNS concepts. Herein, the focus of the work is on the discovery of the impact of non-use rather than on its reasons.

Building on the insights from the study, this report presents the conceptual considerations for the creation of valuable SNS concepts that acknowledge non-use as a permanent and complex phenomenon of social reality. The work is based on the sociological perspective of symbolic interactionism. Social interaction design is presented as a practice within the discipline of interaction design, with its goals defined through a discussion on user value and worth-centred design.

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