My research interests are oriented by a value-sensitive approach to technology. I work at the intersection of social science and interaction design using insights from one to inform the other.
Technology and Vulnerability
This research has mainly been with young people who have special education needs and disabilities (SEND). I employ participatory design as an approach to stimulate more criticality as to the kinds of technologies we design with and for children and provide new perspectives on how ‘design problems’ are framed. As part of this work I have been concerned with methodological developments e.g. in how to enable children with SEND to participate in design (Benton et al., 2014 @ CHI) or how to undertake interpretive reflexive analysis of design research. Alongside my design focus, I have been involved in empirical work to explore the ways in which technologies (so far this work has focused on games and gamification) benefit the learning, teaching and social interaction of children with dyslexia (Gooch et al., 2016 @ CHI).
Privacy and Ethics
This research has been broadly concerned with designing ethical technologies and ways of engaging technology users and developers in ethical deliberations about their futures and futuristic technology. I have explored these questions in different contexts and from different perspectives. Some empirical work has looked into the long-term ethical implications of robot tutors in the classroom (Serholt et al., 2016 @ AI and Society) or how location-tracking systems developed for family use may undermine familial values or social arrangements (Vasalou et al., 2012 @ CSCW). I have also approached ethics from the perspective of research impact in how ethics is intertwined with professional and epistemological identities involved in multidisciplinary tech development work (Gooch et al., 2016 @ JASIST). Taking a critical view to the risk focused approach employed in previous privacy interventions (Vasalou et al., 2015 @ IJHCS), I developed a new text analytics tool to engage technology users in the wider social and political implications of privacy.
While working on privacy in particular I also became curious about what ‘privacy’ means, especially given the theoretical disagreements in the field. This led to a theoretical conceptualisation of a ‘fuzzy’ approach to privacy and a new linguistic tool for measuring privacy obtrusively through language (Vasalou et al., 2015; Vasalou et al., 2013 @ JASIST).
Conflict and Reparation
Conflict is part of every day life; resolving it productively can strengthen relationships and offer opportunities for socio-emotional growth. During my PhD research I had observed that reputation systems ‘broker’ trust. When trust breaks down, however, there were no mechanisms to facilitate the reconciliation process. Taking a value driven approach to conflict, I used philosophical and psychological concepts of forgiveness to develop new interaction design concepts for the purposes of repairing trust which were evaluated empirically (Vasalou et al., 2006; 2008 @ iTrust and IJHCS). In later work, I reconsidered conflict reparation from an educational perspective to develop a game with and for primary school children teaching them skills to negotiate and resolve peer to peer conflicts (Vasalou et al., 2012 @ DIS; Khaled and Vasalou, 2014).
Self-expression and Identity
This work focuses on understanding the social and relational aspects of online mediated communication and how these can inform designed interventions. An avatar user myself, I was curious to understand what strategies users combine together to construct their ‘online self’. Is there one coherent strategic identity, or do we construct our identity by combining perceived and desired qualities? How do avatar customization tools provide or constrain such possibilities? (Vasalou et al., 2008 @ IJHCS). This work went on to later inform how self-presentation through avatars shapes the way in which online users perceive themselves (Vasalou et al., 2007; Vasalou and Joinson, 2009 @ CHI and CHB). In a shift away from identity I have also investigated the effect of experience and culture on usage patterns in Facebook (Vasalou et al., 2012 @ IJHCS). These findings showed that even though designers’ intentions to encourage self-disclosure in a ‘one size fits all ‘ was successful, individual differences shaped users’ motivations and behaviours in very unique ways.