WAP and Accountability: Shortcomings of the Mobile Internet as an Interactional Problem


Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) is designed to allow
access to the Internet on a mobile phone. Attempts to explain its limited
success have focused on attitudinal and cognitive reasons for non-use, finding
that although people recognize the benefits of WAP, issues like lack of
content, privacy concerns, and reference group behavior account for non-use.
Such explanations have also been incomplete in that they have not addressed
problems related to actual use and interaction with the technology. Our
article studies the use of WAP as situated action. We focus on how users
make sense of WAP pages and how they disambiguate in situ the responses
from the service, i.e., new pages and new menus. Our method of transcribing
videos of WAP use following the conventions of conversation analysis offers
a cost-effective tool for understanding user interaction with technology
and provides useful implications for design.

Practitioner’s Take Away

  • We offer a video methodology that provides new insights into the usability
    of a standard technology. We encourage practitioners to try out this methodology
    in cases where human interaction with machines and automated services
    is essential. The obtained situated information provides cues for further
    product development.
  • Transcription of videos of actual use reveals how users reason their
    way when dealing with a complex small-screen device. It pinpoints their
    potential sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and exposes the
    underlying reasons. Extracts from videos and internationally standardized
    transcriptions are illustrative, and can be shared with and understood
    by different product development teams.
  • The study indicates that testing a service on a small number of users
    can reveal deep insights and complement large-scale surveys. Such cost-effective
    testing can provide useful implications for redesign.
  • The study offers an ethnomethodological perspective to complement the
    acceptance perspective. In essence, we claim that people’s intentions
    are not necessarily a good predictor of future use of a service, and that
    it is better to try the service in practice, even on a limited scale in
    a controlled environment. Interactional issues and moral attributions
    are best revealed in actual use.
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