Beyond Persuasion

Evaluating persuasive technologies is a challenging problem, and often, the evaluation focuses on the use of the system itself. But what of systems whose goal is to eliminate the need for the system? Do we really want people to use nicotine patches, or diet-tracking software, forever? And in some systems, the goal might be to help people reach a level of knowledge or activity beyond what a particular sustainability or exercise system can provide on its own.

Further, these systems often have side effects. Don Norman has famously noted that people often attribute blame to themselves when using computer interfaces. The stakes are higher in persuasive technologies--what happens when a system like Wii Fit tells you you're obese? Could that actually reinforce that self-image, possibly leading to harmful emotions or harmful behaviors such as eating disorders?

At root, these questions suggest that there is a certain mindset around persuasive technologies: the goal is often to induce system-oriented behaviors desired by the designers. This may, indeed, be a worthy goal--but designers shouldn't accept it uncritically, and should be aware of the potential consequences of their persuasive designs.

This project's goal is to think about these issues and question those assumptions through studies of use and design activities.

Active: (Faculty) Dan Cosley (Phd) Victoria Schwanda Sosik
Past: (Masters) Steven Ibara
  1. Khovanskaya, V., Baumer, E., Cosley, D., Voida, S., Gay, G. (2013). “Everybody Knows What You're Doing”: A Critical Design Approach to Personal Informatics. CHI 2013. 3403-3412. [PDF] [Publisher]
  2. Purpura, S., Schwanda, V., Williams, K., Stubler, W., Sengers, P. (2011). Fit4Life: The Design of a Persuasive Technology Promoting Healthy Behavior and Ideal Weight. Proceedings of CHI 2011. [PDF] [Publisher]
  3. Schwanda, V., Ibara, S., Reynolds, L., Cosley, D. (2011). Side effects and 'gateway' tools: advocating a broader look at evaluating persuasive systems. Proceedings of CHI 2011. [PDF] [Publisher]