Couples are one population with a valued kind of relationship. Both partners coordinate their behaviors to construct a “coupledom”; they make a “we” out of their respective “me’s” and “I’s”. Disagreement is naturally threatening to couples. It creates an obstacle to the coordination of “coupledom”. This requires partners to either resolve or abandon the disagreement, to work it out or work past it.
An increasing number of communication devices are open to and used by couples. Texting, instant messaging, the phone, email, Facebook — those technologies are tools partners use to coordinate and communicate with each other.
Disagreements can come to light when couples use these technologies. Couples must then deal with how to navigate the issue. The couple is trying to live their lives, but the technologies they use are placing them on a track – making certain behaviors more or less likely to occur.
The omnipresence of mediated communication means that it is ever more important to understand fine-grained behavior and distal effects in particular situations, such as arguing. It is not enough to be able to say that people can accomplish interactive feats, we must know whether they will.
A part of the answer is to develop a phenomenology of couples arguing. We investigate what couples say and do when they discuss something they disagree about using different media. The phenomena of interest exist on a micro-level as a highly detailed account of behaviors, language devices, pauses, and patterns in the couple’s interaction. We have to expand on existing phenomenologies because the questions associated with the use of technology surface different patterns and issues than previously explored.
Our aim is to locate and expand existing theory on couples dispute and argument to better understand what happens during discourse and to design to better support the overall nature of a caring and intimate relationship.