Do you ever find yourself frustrated with the amount of time you spend on social media and struggling to change your habits? Do you worry that your smartphone might be listening in on your conversations? Have you ever signed up for a service that provides features you value but comes with a catch?
The User Empowerment Lab is a research group in the Information School at the University of Washington that studies the love-hate relationships people have with the technologies they use. And we design new systems, apps, and interactions to help people feel empowered rather than exploited. Our current research areas are listed below.
Voice interfaces like Siri and Amazon Echo have become pervasive. We are exploring what worries people about these interfaces, what they love, and how they use them.
Would you know if your device was listening to your conversations? How do you feel when an app tracks your location? We are studying people's security choices and when and why they trust technology.
Can devices teach self-regulation, rather than trying to regulate children? We are examining how the design of a technology makes it easier or harder for kids to put down when it's time to stop.
Have you ever found yourself embroiled in an argument on social media? We are studying the ways in which the design of a platform changes the tenor of a conversation and what leads to friendship, fights, and reconciliation.
COMPULSIVE PHONE USE
Many people report compulsively checking in with their phones and wanting to change their behaviors. We examine why it matters to them, what they can to do to make changes, and how designers can be supportive.
What kinds of technology support children's development? What kinds of designs are best for the littlest users? We study the design of technologies for preschoolers and consider interface choices as they relate to development.