Smartphone Moves: How Changes in Embodied Configuration with One’s Smartphone Adjust Conversational Engagement

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Smartphones are often spontaneously used for personal purposes and during face-to-face gatherings. New terms like “phubbing” and “technoference” describe negative consequences of this behavior, but analysis of the actual everyday social situations where smartphones feature has largely been neglected. This article shows how simultaneous smartphone and conversational engagements are shaped by participants’ embodied conduct. A naturally occurring three-party conversation in a Finnish café is analyzed in detail to show how changes in embodied user–smartphone configuration impact ongoing conversation. User–smartphone configuration consists of the smartphone’s location, its physical relation to its user’s hands, and its screen direction in relation to the user’s head. Usersmartphone configuration can manifest a change in an interactive footing in conversation, function as a turn-holding device, and organize a change in the conversational state. New methods and concepts for studying smartphone use in social situations are introduced. “Smartphone positions” refers to the embodied user–smartphone configurations that are oriented as manifestations of degrees of user–device engagement. “Smartphone moves” are the changes in smartphone positions, and they carry sequential relevance. Increased smartphone engagement is seen as decreased conversational engagement and vice versa. Making interactive resources available for one engagement manifests as an accountable event of disengagement from another. Engagement and disengagement are argued to be a continuum rather than a contrast pair.

Original languageEnglish
Article number219
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • conversation analysis
  • engagement
  • multimodality
  • smartphones
  • social interaction

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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