In the last decades, new technologies have repeatedly found their way into our everyday lives, changing and often simplifying our lives at the same time. In the recent past, for example, wireless in-ear headphones (WIEH) have been introduced, which enable us to receive audio formats through Bluetooth technology without needing a wire. We can observe – on the way to meetings, on a bus and even at work – people use WIEH everywhere and most of the time. One listens to music or podcasts, takes phone calls or answers voice messages. With these innovations, the wireless headphone market allowed us to use headphones in an even more effective and invisible way.
Our interest was to find out how people integrate WIEH into their everyday life. We wanted to find out whether types of users can be distinguished and where similarities and differences in use exist. We also wanted to find out how new technology is accepted and whether it changes our behaviour by using the example of WIEH.
To answer our research interest, we first carried out a literature review on technology adaptation and technology use and looked at current models about technological acceptance. Besides, we familiarized ourselves with a special research method: ethnomethodology within qualitative social research. Ethnomethodology investigates everyday scenarios and the actions taking place in them. It questions the HOW of actions or uses to understand the meaning behind it. With this, we wanted to get as close as possible to the use of WIEH users.
After we had been introduced to the research method, the project proceeded in an iterative process. At the beginning of our research, we could not define a rigid course with fixed steps that we could work through. We had to decide on further progress and the different survey methods related to it based on the intermediate results.
To get an overview of the field of WIEH users at the beginning, we sat down in public places and recorded observations protocols. This gave us an impression of how people use WIEH and interact with others.
However, the observer’s perspective in the field research did not provide sufficient insight into the use of the WIEH, so we decided to let four test persons make diary entries about their use for one week. The subjects answered six key questions in a table for each of the listed uses. They were asked about the type and duration of use, the intention behind it, whether other people were involved in the use, the place of use and the feelings during use. This allowed us to get a better impression of the use. In addition to the diary entries, we interviewed the test persons before the week of the survey and afterwards. In these interviews, we asked for general information about the person, their assessment of their use and how they felt about the use after the week of the survey. Also, we asked them about their assessment of the survey method through diary entries, as this research method was also new to us and we wanted to reflect on this research process with the help of the respondents. The survey of data finally provided us with enough data to be able to answer or assess our research questions.
The data material showed that the use of WIEH in a professional context differs from that in a private one. All test persons see the biggest advantage of using WIEH in the fact that they can carry out other activities, have their hands free and thus are able to „multitask“. All test persons use the WIEH for entertainment and to consume audio or video formats. They avoid disturbing people in their environment (e.g. work colleagues, flatmates or neighbours), but also avoid being disturbed themselves. The headphones convey to external persons that the WIEH user is currently engaged in listening or any other activity associated with the WIEH. In some cases, the test persons have adapted their simultaneous activities to the duration of a consumed format (e.g. length of a podcast).
All in all, the research project could give an interesting insight into the use of WIEH and an impression of how people with different living conditions integrate new technology into their everyday life. For us researchers, the research method was especially new and we were able to familiarize ourselves with different research and survey methods.