9/14 “Ephemeral Narrative Systems’ Sociability Mediated by User Experience” – Bridget Hall

In Ephemeral Narrative Systems’ Sociability Mediated by User Experience: A Case Study of Instagram Stories, de Souza Silva et al. studied whether ephemeral media platforms, specifically Instagram stories, enables high levels of social interaction amongst users. 

The authors found that the “interface and interaction model of Instagram Stories offers features to support the social interaction, but the way these features are available on interface may limit the sociability among its users.” In other words, some of Instagram’s features can be difficult to use, which prohibits users from reaching the maximum level of sociability. 

Researchers were able to test their theories through a series of experiments. They had participants, from various age groups, do a series of tasks on Instagram. These tasks included posting photos/video from the user’s camera roll, tagging friends, creating a poll, posting a photo/video with a face filter. The researchers then evaluated the level of completion and error for each of these tasks. They found that there were issues regarding use of use, feedback, flexibility and stimulus of social interaction. The results found that “eight tasks (57%) were completed with error or have not been completed for at least nine users [and] four tasks (28%) were completed (with or without errors) by all participants.” It is clear that Instagram needs to make major adjustments to their interface to help users complete simple tasks, such as clicking on friends’ locations in their stories.

I do agree that Instagram’s interface could be improved slightly. I find myself getting frustrated when username tags and locations are blocked by items that are a part of Instagram’s stationary interface. I would also love to see a search feature on Instagram stories. The ability to search if a specific friend has viewed your story would make many users’ lives so much easier. It is very time consuming and tedious to scroll through 500 followers to find out whether one individual has viewed the story. 

I would be interested to see how this experiment and methodology might be reused to test the sociability and User Experience of other ephemeral media platforms. I would also like to see how older users fare with the Instagram interface. The majority of the participants (72%) were between the ages of 20 and 29. I would assume that those who are older than this age group had much more difficulty completing the tasks.

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