Discovery Park Undergraduate Research Internship Program

"Security and User Deception in Interactive Computing Systems"

About the Project

Project Time & Type:
Summer 2017 - DURI
Research area(s):
Human-computer interaction, user experience design, design research
Project Description:
User interactions with computing systems pose numerous security challenges. In this project, we focus on persuasive aspects of technology known as “dark patterns.” These interaction and experience design patterns are aimed to entice or deceive users, using the designer’s knowledge of human psychology to manipulate potential actions in ways that are contrary to the user’s best interest. Users’ privacy and autonomy might be breached via design tactics of user deception using such approaches. Therefore, understanding the relation of user deception to security and a sense of trustworthiness in interactive computing systems may inform future interaction and user experience design practices, mitigating risks and enhancing security at individual and system levels. Because this research space is new and understudied, the first step of the project is to build a foundational corpus that includes known examples of dark patterns in interactive applications and systems, as well as including examples that have rhetorical value (e.g., critical and reflective designs, speculative designs). The corpus documentation will inform future research studies on dark patterns in relation to design education and practice. The project’s contributions are two-fold: 1) documenting common “tricks” for user deception used in system design and proposing principles to mitigate such risks; and 2) understanding users’ perceptions regarding deception and the misuse of technology.
Expected Student Contributions:
The intern will work with the research team to identify online conversations that take place on social media and are related to dark patterns, such as existing cases of dark patterns, criticism, and designerly talk. They will work with the team to collect related data from social media (via either data crawling or standard APIs), generating a corpus of exemplars for future research. The intern will collect and compile data for analysis. As time allows, they will work on qualitative coding of datasets, potentially including statistical analysis or visualization of data to form more precise research agenda. The intern will also work with the research team to identify interaction and user experience designers for the next phase of work set to begin in Fall 2017. This work may result in contributions to conference and journal publications if the intern is interested. Strong data collection and analysis skills are helpful, but a self-driven student with related technical competencies is also welcomed.
Related Website(s):
Desired Qualifications:
The ideal candidate possesses strong Internet research skills and can thoroughly document and organize findings using appropriate quantitative and qualitative techniques. Human subjects training or past research experience with human subjects is helpful, but not required. In addition, an interest in or ability to collect data through crawling or standard APIs, would be valued.
Estimated Weekly Hours:
Department awards independent research credits for this project?

Professor in Charge

Gray, Colin
Computer Graphics Technology

Student Supervisor

Yubo Kou
Postdoctoral Research Associate

Cooperating Faculty

Marisa Exter
College of Education