Skip to main content

News & Events

Professors Starbird and Kolko discuss social media networks on KUOW

January 10, 2019

Can we build a better social media network?

That's the question Human Centered Design & Engineering Professors Kate Starbird and Beth Kolko discussed with Bill Radke on KUOW's show The Record.

When news about data breaches, online bullying, and disinformation campaigns makes the headlines, many are left debating if benefits outweigh the negatives on platforms like Facebook.

But Starbird and Kolko believe online social networks have potential to bring people together for the greater social good, if our platforms are designed with the user’s best interests in mind.

“My first experience as a researcher of social media was watching social media used after disaster events by people to come together to help each other – to help people halfway across the world. And I actually got to see the best of human behavior, mediated by social media, during these horrible events,” Starbird described. “And I still have that in mind as what’s possible. But I do think that we need better designs that shape the kind of experiences where that’s possible, so we are not allowing the uber toxicity that we can see right now.”

Kolko believes the ideal social platform would be designed to be transparent. Using the option of changing privacy settings as an example, she described “If it was truly transparent, you could go in and click on ‘privacy,’ and it would be in plain language, and it would say: this is who accesses your data, and this is who you have given access to your data from other sites, and you would have the ability to it toggle on or off. You would be able to make micro decisions about the kind of content you want to see and the kind of data you would want to give up."  

Starbird and Kolko delve into the history of human behavior in text-based communication, and discuss features that could help designers create more fulfilling experiences for their users in the seventeen-minute interview on KUOW. Listen here »


17 minute interview audioCan we build a better social media network? 

January 8, 2019
We take for granted that social media networks will always contain a certain amount of unpleasantness - where there are comments enabled, there will be trolls. But could we build something healthier: a true network that brings people together for the greater social good? Kate Starbird and Beth Kolko, professors of human centered design and engineering at the University of Washington, think it may be possible.