Portrait of Sean Rintel

Sean Rintel

Senior Researcher


I explore the Future of Work at Microsoft Research Cambridge (UK). I am a human-computer interaction researcher interested in how the affordances of communication technologies interact with language, social action, and culture. I am currently focused on Socially Intelligent Meetings.

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 video calling and video messaging in personal relationships, Skype as an accountable category, 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 have been a member of three global first-place winning projects in Microsoft OneWeek Hackathons. 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 Ph.D. in 2010 in the field of Sociology specialising 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.

I was the Senior Editor of the Communication Technology section of the online Oxford Research Encyclopaedia of Communication. I have edited special issues of the Electronic Journal of Communication and the Australian Journal of Communication. I chaired the 2012 conference of the Australasian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis.

Prior to working at Microsoft I was a Lecturer in Strategic Communication at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. I was also a former Chair and Board Member of Electronic Frontiers Australia, a non-profit group advocating for digital access, freedom, and privacy.

Full Publication List

I’ve been publishing about communication technology since 1997. This page provides (mainly) links to publishers. Free access is marked [FREE]. Downloadable versions are also available from the following sites:

Microsoft Research (Selected papers; No login required)
Academia (login required)
ResearchGate (login required)

Key publications

Articles, Papers, Chapters







  • Harrison, J., Rintel, S., & Mitchell, E.K. (2014). Australian Social Media Trends. Pp. 589-627 in C. Litang  & M.H. Prosser (Eds.). Social Media in Asia. Doerzbach, Germany: Dignity Press.











Conference Presentations (unpublished) (up to 2015)

  • Rintel, S. (2015). Technological affordances as categorical resources in video-mediated communication: From particularity to omnirelevance. International Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. Kolding, Denmark, 4-7 August 2015.
  • Rintel, S. & Fitzgerald, R. (2015). “What’s your definition of playing with it?” Category promiscuity as a multi-modal participant practice in teasing in a couple’s video call. 14th International Pragmatics Conference. Antwerp, Belgium, 26-31 July 2015.
  • Rintel, S. (2014). Video-mediated communication and interrogative gazes: Thoughts after releasing Skype Qik into the wild. News Discourse in the Digital Age: Dominant, Residual and Emerging Norms of Discourse Practice. University of Macau, Hengqin Campus, 27-29 November 2014, Macao, SAR.
  • Fitzgerald, F, & Rintel, S. (2012) From lifeguard to bitch: The problem of promiscuous categories in story telling. Australian Institute of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (AIEMCA) 2012. November 29-30, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.
  • Fitzgerald, R. & Rintel, S. 2011. “Soundbite or Interview: The Anatomy of a Category Disjuncture.” 3rd New Zealand Discourse Conference (NZDC3). December 5 to 7, Auckland, New Zealand.
  • Rintel, E.S. 2011. “Using Humour to Manage Technological Difficulties in First Uses of Personal Videoconferencing.” Laughter and Humor in Interaction Conference, June 23-24, Emerson College, Boston MA, USA.
  • Rintel, E.S. 2010. “Network trouble as an interactional resource in personal videoconferencing”. National Communication Association 96th Annual Convention, November 14-17, 2009, San Francisco, CA, USA.
  • Rintel, E.S. 2010. “Constituting long-distance intimacy through practices for coping with network trouble in personal videoconferencing.” The 12th International Conference on Language and Social Psychology (ICLASP) June 16-19th, 2010. Brisbane, Australia.
  • Rintel, E.S. 2009. “Coping with personal desktop videoconferencing bandwidth problems: Reactions, resolution outcome and continuity outcomes.” Top Student Paper in Human Communication and Technology, National Communication Association 95th Annual Convention, November 12-15, 2009, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Rintel, S. 2005. “Situated Exploratory Learning of Communication Technology: Questions Prompted by a Single Case Analysis of Personal IP Videoconferencing.” 55th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. New York, NY, May.
  • Pomerantz, A., & Rintel, E.S. 2002. Displaying deference while seeking information: Analysis of patients’ information seeking strategies. Top-Four paper in Language and Social Interaction Division. 88th Annual Meeting of the National Communication Association, New Orleans, November.
  • Rintel, E.S., & McKay, S. 2002. “Doing Online Fandom: Engagement with and interaction within the Official Big Brother website.” Australian and New Zealand Communication Association National Conference, Gold Coast, July.
  • Rintel, E.S. 2001. “The user – researcher – designer menage a trois: Lessons from ten years of research on interpersonal relationships in Internet Relay Chat.” 51st Annual Conference of the International Communication Association panel on Mediated Communication in Relationships, jointly sponsored by the Interpersonal Communication and Communication and Technology divisions. Washington DC, May.
  • McKay, S., & Rintel, E.S. 2001. “‘Have a good time, make some friends, then go watch TV!’: Online television forums.” 51st Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. Washington DC, May.
  • Rintel, E.S. 2000. “First things first: Internet Relay Chat openings.” 50th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. Acapulco, June.
  • Rintel, E.S., & Pittam, J. 1998. “Beliefs about Anonymity and Identity in IRC Interactions.” 4th Meeting of the Society of Australasian Social Psychologists. Canberra, April.
  • intel, E.S., & Pittam, J. 1997. “Communicative and Non-Communicative Silence on Internet Relay Chat: Management and Function.” 47th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. Montreal, May.
  • Rintel, E.S., & Pittam, J. 1996. “Strangers in a Strange Land: Managing Interaction on Internet Relay Chat.” Poster presentation. 46th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association. Chicago, May.
  • Rintel, E.S., & Pittam, J. 1996. “The Management of Silence on Internet Relay Chat.” Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference, Brisbane, July.