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Have you ever found yourself checking your phone without knowing why? Or losing your cool during an online argument? If so, you're not alone, and these habits are no accident. Online products are designed to draw people back as often as possible, keep them hooked for as long as possible, and encourage them to disclose information along the way. But designs to maximize engagement and information disclosure are not always aligned with human wellbeing. The User Empowerment Lab examines people’s frustrations with the systems they use, including: distraction, compulsion, outrage, information overload, lack of privacy, and an inability to connect with others. And we create proof-of-concept systems that support more meaningful human experiences.


Are you excited about the potential of technology but dissatisfied with the status quo? Join us today.

Green sound waves against a black background

Usable Security

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.

A splash screen says "Coco's Videos" and includes a play button and a cartoon animal

Children's Technology

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.

Two men stand back-to-back holding cell phones

Arguments Online

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.

An exclamation point on a yellow triangle signals a warning

Dark Patterns

When are design decisions in service of the end user and when do they manipulate the user in service of profit motives? We catalogue dark patterns, invent ways to detect them, and present "bright patterns" as a foil designers can adopt instead.

A smiling family gathers around a device

Interpersonal Design

Interpersonal relationships are the most important part of life and the best predictor of long-term wellbeing. Technology has the potential to support relationships but too often undermines them instead. We design systems that support, rather than erode, these connections.

A blue phone app says "MyTime"

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.

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