Have you ever found yourself checking your phone at an inappropriate moment? Or looking up from a casual game and wondering where the time went? If so, you’re not alone, as people report widespread feelings of dissatisfaction with the way they engage with technology and a lack of control over their own behaviors. “User engagement” is a fundamental design goal for many consumer-facing products, and the resulting technologies are often irresistibly engaging. Though modern technology offers enormous value and convenience, many people report struggling to disengage and an inability to change their habits. In this talk, I describe a series of studies to, first, understand people’s feelings about their engagement patterns and, second, create new systems and tools to support intentional engagement for children and adults.
Alexis Hiniker is an assistant professor of Human-Computer Interaction in the Information School at the University of Washington (UW) where she studies users’ frustration with the technologies they choose to use. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Centered Design and Engineering from UW, a master’s degree in Learning, Design, and Technology from Stanford and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Harvard. She is the technical co-founder of Go Go Games Studios, a startup company that builds educational games for children on the autism spectrum. Her past and current research has been supported by Mozilla, the National Science Foundation, Sesame Workshop, the Google Anita Borg Scholarship, the Facebook Fellowship Program, and more. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, in The New York Times, TIME Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and many other media outlets. Before returning to academia, Hiniker spent six years as a software engineer and engineering manager at Microsoft working on Windows and the .NET Framework.