Human-Computer Interaction Thesis Proposal

  • Gates Hillman Centers
  • Reddy Conference Room 4405
  • Ph.D. Student
  • Human-Computer Interaction Institute
  • Carnegie Mellon University
Thesis Proposals

Presenting Distortions, Encouraging Subversion, and Questioning Perspective-Taking:The Precarious Benefits of Playing with Identity Expressions and Social Norms in Digital Spaces

In my work, I argue that digital spaces of discomfort, uncertainty, and moral ambiguity proffer unique design perspectives for how we can support people in connecting with each other and themselves. Through my research, I seek to provoke and call into question our existing assumptions about how we should interact with one another through technology, and design for ways in which we can support conflicted desires for human connections in online spaces. I introduce three themes that guide and organize my research: (1) presenting distortions, specifically focused on self-presentation; (2) encouraging subversion of norms, such as norms of social politeness; and (3) questioning the limits of perspective-taking in our quests to understand others and ourselves.

I present four related projects. First, under the umbrella of presenting distortions, I discuss my study of Miitomo, a mobile app released by Nintendo that simultaneously promotes non-idealized self-fictionalization and authentic self-presentation. I found through this work that by encouraging self-presentation through distortion, Miitomo allowed participants to incorporate non-idealized forms of semi-fictional self-presentation, while still maintaining and allowing for interpersonal closeness. Second, I present my mixed methods work on the subreddit r/RoastMe, an online forum community in which people post photos of themselves to be harshly ridiculed by others, subverting norms of social politeness. I discuss how we can design online community spaces that account for or leverage users' predilections for baiting behaviors, harsh judgments, and caustic humor. Third, focusing on the nuances of perspective-taking from the authorial side, I discuss my interview and survey work understanding how character creators approach and grapple with the process of creating or embodying the “Other’’— a character that diverges from the self along one or more axes of identity. Lastly, I present my work on Turker Tales, an interactive system that allows crowd workers to write, share, and view short tales while completing tasks on MTurk. I designed this plug-in to encourage self-presentation through distortion and subvert the “typical” expectations of crowd work, and my research showed how such strategies can connect and create community in interesting ways.

Looking ahead to the final stretch of my PhD career, I propose four additional projects in the space of presenting distortions, encouraging subversion, and questioning the limits of perspective-taking. My work contributes to research in human computer interaction, online community design, virtual reality, perspective-taking, crowd work, online harassment, deviant online spaces, and character creation for games and other media. I propose new ways of engaging with and considering the complexity of human-human understandings and connections in digital spaces.

Thesis Committee:
Geoff Kaufman(Chair)
Jeff Bigham
Laura DabbishI
Jessica Hammer (HCII/ETC)
Saiph Savage (West Virginia University)

Copy of Proposal Document