Research

Sean Munson

Autumn 2019

PhoneBalance: Prototyping a Website and Diary to Help People Address Their Concerns with Smartphone Use

Note: this DRG is no longer accepting applicants for autumn. Selected students will be notified on Sept. 20, 2019.

Many people find that smartphone use interferes with their productivity, health, and social interactions. As technologies become ever more immersive and ubiquitous, managing one’s relationship with them will become increasingly important. In human-computer interaction, past research has focused on how developers can build digital tools that nudge people to reduce their screen time. Yet technology users themselves have also identified creative strategies to self-nudge their behavior into alignment with their values and goals. For example, they temporarily disable access to certain apps, change the display to grayscale, and set rules for technology use in their home and at work. 

In this DRG, we will generate multiple prototypes of a website and diary for a “PhoneBalance” program that teaches people strategies to address their concerns with smartphone use. The website will map people’s concerns to specific strategies. A reflective prototype of the website might ask people to envision the outcome they hope to gain from implementing a particular strategy. Another social prototype could ask them to share and discuss with a friend, roommate, or partner to help them identify strengths and weaknesses of the strategies they selected. Similarly, we will create different prototypes of a learning diary (either paper or digital)--which has people monitor their use of strategies--that could emphasize reflective, social, or gamification elements. We will use rapid prototyping and iterative usability testing to move from low fidelity to high fidelity prototypes.

Planned activities:

  • Read about and discuss nudging (choice architecture) strategies
  • Rapid prototyping of a website and diary
  • Iterative usability testing of a website and diary
  • Other human-centered design practices as needed: personas and storyboards

Required availability:

  • Attend our 2-hour class each week: Thursdays, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
  • Work 4 to 6 hours each week outside of meetings
  • Register for 2 to 3 credits of HCDE 496/596 or INFO 499

Note: this DRG is no longer accepting applicants for autumn. Selected students will be notified on Sept. 20, 2019.


Autumn 2019

Identifying Dark Patterns on YouTube and Twitter

Note: this DRG is no longer accepting applicants for autumn. Selected students will be notified on Sept. 20, 2019.

Many people express concern with the ways that social media captures their attention. Users describe being “sucked in” when they would rather be doing something else with more enduring personal value. Designers, meanwhile, employ their knowledge of psychology to “hook” users and maximize user engagement.

In this DRG, our research team will conduct interviews and walkthroughs to identify dark design patterns on YouTube and Twitter that capture attention in unwanted ways. Some of these have already been reported (e.g., autoplay and infinite scroll), but others still remain to be identified. Conversely, we will also use the same methods to identify light patterns that support people in using these apps in ways that align with their enduring personal values.

Planned activities:

  • Read research articles on design patterns in technology design
  • Review popular media for design patterns that “hook” users (e.g., in books like “Irresistible Apps”)
  • Conduct semi-structured interviews and walkthroughs with YouTube and Twitter users
  • Analyze interview and walkthrough results

Required availability:

  • Attend our 2-hour class each week: Tuesdays, 1:30-3:30 p.m.
  • Work 4 to 6 hours each week outside of meetings
  • Register for 2 to 3 credits of HCDE 496/596 or INFO 499

This DRG will be led by PhD candidate Kai Lukoff, with guidance from Associate Professor Sean Munson (HCDE) and Assistant Professor Alexis Hiniker (iSchool). This DRG is open to both undergraduate and graduate students.

Note: this DRG is no longer accepting applicants for autumn. Selected students will be notified on Sept. 20, 2019.


Dr. Munson's Research Group archive