Full Seminar Details

Prof Natasa Milic-Frayling

Prof Natasa Milic-Frayling
Transparency in Design: How far did we get from WYSIWIG?
This event took place on Friday 22 April 2016 at 14:30


Digital technologies are becoming the main conduit for our actions, communication, and interactions. Having a good command of adopted technologies and a good understanding of processes they enable, is essential for informed and responsible participation in computer mediated exchanges. Because of the inherent complexity of computing systems, this places high demands on the interaction and end user interfaces designs. Even more challenging is support for human understanding of effects that specific actions may have in networked and distributed computing environments.

In order to illustrate these points we present empirical studies of information access on the Internet via Internet Browsers. We discuss how a need to deal with the limitations of the stateless HTTP protocol led to phenomena that were difficult to conceive at the design stage. The state management by Internet browsers have been carefully devised by introducing browser cookies and providing guidelines which made provisions for user privacy. However, the practices that unfolded have given rise to real-time user tracking via third party cookies and a lucrative ad-bidding business that completely disempowers end-users. The browser interfaces that held promise of clear value exchange missed to disclose traffic information to the user. Even if they did, a full user understanding of the implications would require a global sensing of the computing ecosystem.

This raises fundamental questions about the practices and principles of computing systems design that extend beyond the traditional HCI aspects into the realm of citizens’ empowerment. It puts the roles of CS and IT experts in the spotlight as professionals who are instrumental in creating technologies that fundamentally shape our modern society.  

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