Portrait of Sean Rintel

Sean Rintel

Principal Researcher


I am a sociologist of communication technology, exploring remote and hybrid meetings in the Future of Work theme at Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK).

As a Principal Researcher in human-computer interaction, I investigate how the design of communication technologies interacts with language, action, and culture. I lead the Socially Intelligent Meetings workstream, which focuses on social and technological interventions for making organizational remote and hybrid telepresence effective, comfortable, and adaptable, ranging from traditional videoconferencing to future cross-reality systems. I also lead two cross-organizational programs for aligning collaboration research and product development in this area.


I am interested in video-mediated collaboration, enterprise social media platforms, cross-device interaction and device ecologies, engineering culture, tangible data visualisation of cloud data, and research-product group alignment. Most of my publications cover technologized interaction across a range of contexts, such as enterprise and personal video-mediated communication in various forms, online freelancing, ambient audio technologies to support independent living, IRC openings and non-responses, social media in the workplace, crisis memes, error mascots, Internet culture, and cross-device interaction in video-mediated collaboration and slideware. I have also explored membership categorisation analysis and omnirelevance.


My approach is ethnomethodological, drawing on ethnographic data and analysing that data using qualitative methods such as conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis. I specialize in field research but also conduct interview, diary, and survey studies, as well as lab-based studies of prototypes.


I have been a member of 5 global category first-place winning projects in Microsoft OneWeek Hackathons, including one global Grand Prize winner. You can read about the first of these in our Garage Wall of Fame post Mobile Sharing and Companion Experiences for Microsoft Teams Meetings. One day I might even be able to say what the other ones were! 😉


I received my PhD in 2010 in the field of Sociology specializing in Communication, from the University at Albany, State University of New York. My dissertation was chaired by Professor Emerita Anita Pomerantz with committee members Professor Teresa Harrison, Professor Glenna Spitze, and Professor Ronald Jacobs.

Prior to working at Microsoft, I was a Lecturer in Strategic Communication at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.

I have been a PC member of CHI and CSCW several times and reviewed for many major communication and technology journals and conferences. I was the Senior Editor of the Communication Technology section of the online Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. I have edited special issues of the Electronic Journal of Communication and the Australian Journal of Communication. I co-chaired the Microsoft 2020 New Future of Work Symposium (with Gloria Mark) and the 2012 conference of the Australasian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (with Richard Fitzgerald).

Digital Advocacy

I was the former Chair and a former Board Member of Electronic Frontiers Australia, a non-profit group advocating for digital access, freedom, and privacy.