The Absent Peer
Sebastian Greger, social interaction designer, internet sociologist and post-graduate student at the Media Lab of the Aalto University School of Art and Design in Helsinki, has published his Master’s research that aims to provide a framework for the consideration of non-users in the context of social interaction design, in particular for the design of social network sites.

Abstract

This thesis 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). It is based on the sociological perspective of symbolic interactionism.

Positioning social interaction design as a practice within the discipline of interaction design, its goals are defined through a discussion on user value and worth-centred design. Existing research on the non-use of technologies is being reviewed and contextualised with SxD, coming to the conclusion that non-use is not a pathological state that needs to be corrected but a form of use that has to be accommodated by an SNS.

The empirical research, presented as a diagnosis of the times, employs auto- ethnographic observations that are analysed applying an inductive Grounded Theory process. The emergent theory of “The Absent Peer” consists of two core concepts, presenting the network aspect and the sociality aspect that influence SNS concepts. Herein, the focus of the work is on the discovery of the impact of non-use rather than on its reasons.

The theory is then set into relation with the practice of interaction design and a worth-centred model of value in HCI. Building on the insights from the study, this discussion presents the conceptual considerations required in order to create valuable SNS concepts that acknowledge non-use as a permanent and complex phenomenon of social reality.

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