Can you Turn it Off? The Spatial and Social Context of Mobile Disturbance

Eran Toch, Hadas Chassidim, Tali Hatuka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Contemporary mobile devices continuously interrupt people with notifications in various and changing physical environments. As different places can have different social setting, understanding how disturbing an interruption might be to people around the user is not a straightforward task. To understand how users perceive disturbance in their social environment, we analyze the results of a 3-week user study with 50 participants using the experience sampling method and log analysis. We show that perceptions of disturbance are strongly related to the social norms surrounding the place, such as whether the place is considered private or public, even when controlling for the number of people around the user. Furthermore, users' perceptions of disturbance are also related to the activity carried out on the phone, and the subjective perceptions of isolation from other people in the space. We conclude the paper by discussing how our findings can be used to design new mobile devices that are aware of the social norms and their users' environmental context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number91
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW2
StatePublished - 14 Oct 2020


  • context-aware
  • disturbance
  • mobile computing
  • physical privacy
  • social environment

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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