Attending to email

Benjamin V. Hanrahan, Manuel A. Pérez-Quiñones, David Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Email has become deeply embedded in many users' daily lives. To investigate how email features in users lives, particularly how users attend to email, we ran a 2-week study that logged interactions with email and gathered diary entries related to individual sessions. Our study showed that the majority of attentional effort is around reading email and participating in conversations, as opposed to email management (deleting, moving, flagging emails). We found that participants attended to email primarily based on notifications, instead of the number of unread messages in their inbox. We present our results through answering several questions, and leverage conversation analysis, particularly conversational openings, to explicate several issues. Our findings point to inefficiencies in email as a communication medium, mainly, around how summons are (or are not) issued. This results in an increased burden on email users to maintain engagement and determine (or construct) the appropriate moment for interruption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-272
Number of pages20
JournalInteracting with Computers
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Software
  • Library and Information Sciences
  • Human-Computer Interaction


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