To further engage with the “audience” side of the subject, I decided to also conduct a few interviews to find the relationship between the spatial nature of using smartphones. When we are using our smartphones in a public space, physically we are in that public space but mentally we could be talking to a friend who lives on the other side of the world or beating a high score on Candy Crush.
These focus study questions were designed to be answered by people of various generations and designed so that the person being interviewed could answer and elaborate on their experiences with smartphones.
- How old were you when you first got a phone?
- Do you find that your phone usage has increased with smartphones?
- How often do you use your phone when you’re with someone?
- Do you find it easier to connect with someone face to face?
The participants’ age ranged from 12-50 in order to get a well rounded idea of the spatial nature of using smartphones to connect with one another.
Here are the results
How old were you when you first got a phone?
Darcy (17): I was 12 when I first got a phone. It was a Nokia slide phone, that was my mum’s old phone. Since then, every two years or so I get an iPhone from my mum when she starts a new contract. I’ve gone from iPhone 4, to 5, to 5c.
Edward (19): I was 12 years old. Some people I knew got phones the year before I did, but many got them around the same time, as I had just started high school. My phone was a lot more basic than a lot of other phones at the time though.
Melissa (24): I was in year 6 when I got my first phone. I remember it being such a novelty because I was one of the first people in my grade to get one. I only got one so early so my parents could call me on it, it never had any credit or anything. It was one of those old Nokia brick phones with old- school snake. Since then, every few years I upgrade my phone, I have a Nexus 5 now.
Michael (51): I was actually 29 when I first got a mobile phone. I didn’t really see the need for it because we had a landline in our house. My first phone was a classic Nokia which I used for many years. I now use a Samsung S4
Jessica (12): I’ve only just gotten my phone this year – it’s an iPhone 4s, my mum’s old one. All of my friends have iPhones or Samsung equivalents.
Do you find that your phone usage has increased with smartphones?
Darcy (17): Definitely. As more applications are released with more features my phone use has only increased. I use my phone for everything – taking photos, watching videos, listening to music and even as a flashlight.
Edward (19): Definitely. Being able to access social media and games from my phone has it made a very common way to kill time, and often just to feel ‘caught up’ on everything, even if it isn’t particularly important.
Melissa (24): Yes, my phone usage has definitely increased. Phones were only for communicating via text and phone calls when I first had a phone. I remember using a digital camera to take photos and then having to upload it on my computer to put it on Facebook. Now, phones have everything. Cameras on phones are now better than many of the digital cameras you can get. You also have internet and all these different apps so everything can be done from your phone, nothing else is needed.
Michael (51): Yes. As a person working in IT, most of my work can be done on my smartphone. I also have Facebook, so I can connect with people who I grew up with and this has increased my usage of my smartphone.
Jessica (12): I don’t know what it was like to not have a smartphone but I think I am pretty attached to my phone to do things like text my friends or Snapchat them. I mainly use my phone to check the time or to take photos.
How often do you use your phone when you’re with someone?
Darcy (17): I only use it to check the time, depending on the social situation. If we’re watching a movie or something I’ll probably use it a bit more.
Edward (19): Even just hearing a notification come through can lead me to spend the next five minutes on my phone, even if I am spending time one on one with someone. And when I am with a group where there isn’t much conversation happening, it is easy for me to justify pulling out my phone to start scrolling.
Melissa (24): I try not to use my phone when I’m with a friend, it’s a bad habit that I’ve found a lot of us have in this generation. However, if my friend is on their phone, I find that I can’t help but peak at my phone, just to check if anyone has messaged me etc.
Michael (51): I will only use it if there is an important or official phone call to be made.
Jessica (12): I don’t usually but my friends and I use it to talk to each other when we are together – like Snapchatting each other or using Instagram to message each other. I think it’s mainly for entertainment when I’m with my friends.
Do you find it easier to connect with someone face to face?
Darcy (17): It depends on the person. It’s easier to avoid awkward situations online with the option to take time to forge a reply and think of what to say with no pressure. If I’m more comfortable with someone I find it easier in person though.
Edward (19): Yes. Being face to face to someone allows you to get a sense of what they are really like, as a person’s personality is so much more than what they can say on a chat screen. You pick up little mannerisms and quirks, and how they react to certain things, and allows you to perceive things like their attitudes and emotions when you are with them face to face.
Melissa (24): I do find it easier to talk to someone face to face. Often, I find that I can’t be bothered typing out too much on my phone and so face to face conversation is a lot easier. However, I find with little things it can be easier to simply message someone – it’s definitely more time efficient
Michael (51): Definitely yes. Growing up in an era where there was no smartphones, or mobile phones in general, its definitely easier to connect face to face as there is a personal touch element too.
Jessica (12): I’m not sure. I like having conversations with people in person but it’s also a lot more fun to talk over Instagram or Snapchat them. I think it’s easier to understand what someone is trying to say when you’re with them face-to-face but it’s easier to just text them.
From interviewing this mix of people, it is evident that there are some similarities that run through each age group and the way they interact with the different spaces while using their smartphone. The way the participants used their smartphones while in the same space as their peers were highlighted through their age. The younger the participant, the easier it was for them to use their phone around others.
It is interesting to note the first phones of the participants. Most older people first had phones for the main use of calling/getting calls but the younger the person, the more tech-savvy their phone was (this could be due to technological advances). The age of smartphones has results in them upgrading from just a phone to call and text people to a phone that can check emails, take photos and search the web. This has resulted in them using their phones a lot more, several times a day to do tasks a computer would usually do.
The age of the participants also were conveyed when it came to using their smartphones in the presence of other people. The older people, such as Michael did not use their phone at all when with other people (only in an emergency), however, younger participants like Edward, Jessica and Darcy found it relatively easy to be distracted and be taken away (mentally) to another place.
The focus group created insights on the relationship between their smartphone and the spaces around them – the digital vs the real; it can be deduced that smartphones have both aided in connecting people face to face but also acted as a barrier for people connecting fully.
Let me know some of your answers to the questions above!