Butler Lies

Butler Lies: Deception in Text-Based Communication

People frequently find themselves in situations where they want to end a conversation prematurely, perhaps because the conversation is boring, or because another event or activity is more important. There are also times when it is desirable to avoid a conversation altogether, or to postpone it to a later time. We refer to behavior in these situations as “availability management” – that is, behavior that allows us to control when and how we interact with others. Availability management can be difficult in that people typically want to appear polite, even when they are doing something (such as leaving or avoiding a conversation) that could be perceived as rude. Examples of common availability management behaviors include setting one’s instant messenger status to “away” or “busy” to avoid conversations only with certain people. This project focuses on how people use various technologies to manage their availability, and how we can design novel systems to improve support for these behaviors.

Supported By: National Science Foundation


Birnholtz, J., Hancock, J., Smith, M., & Reynolds, L. (2012). Understanding unavailability in a world of constant connection. Interactions 19(5) 32-35.

Reynolds, L., Gillette, S., Marder, J., Miles, Z., Vodenski, P., Weintraub, A., Birnholtz, J., & Hancock, J. (2011). Contact stratification and deception: blackberry messenger versus SMS use among students. Proceedings of the ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2011)

Birnholtz, J., Guillory, J., Hancock, J.T., & Bazarova, N.N. (2010). “On my way”: Deceptive Texting and Interpersonal Awareness Narratives.Proceedings of the ACM conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2010), 1-4. [Acceptance rate: 20%]

Hancock, J.T., Birnholtz, J., Bazarova, N., Guillory, J., Amos, B., & Perlin, J. (2009). Butler Lies: Awareness, Deception and Design.Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2009). (Acceptance Rate: 24.5%)

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