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So rather than post my now lengthy and messy outline, I figured I’d share a live Dropbox link of my current outline/document, so people can get a sense for how I’m organizing my content, and provide feedback if they want. Best of luck everyone!

Hey everyone, I’m in the process of working through the draft of my argument for my paper, and would love to get some feedback. This is all very rough, so feel free to ask for clarification on anything that doesn’t make sense. As a point of reference, I plan to take the ultimate findings from the process of writing this paper (namely the schema and/or persuasive patterns I uncover from my research) to inform the latter half of my capstone project on Dark Patterns.


Transactional trust towards a charity is earned over time, not inherently given, and is a byproduct of interactions that occur within the context of a user’s donation experience. (THE WHAT)

  • Trust is built through the fulfillment of promises. This includes the promises you’ve actually made to someone explicitly (e.g., contracts and commitments) as well promises that that are assumed or implicit (e.g., “this website isn’t selling my data”). (van Gorp and Adams, p107)
  • Principle of Earned Credibility: Credibility can be strengthened over time if computing technology performs consistently in accordance with the user’s expectations. (Fogg, p137)
  • The building and maintenance of transactional trust should be considered a pivotal stepping stone to increased donation compliance within an online donating framework. Instead of considering trust and donation compliance as mutually exclusive concepts, commercially driven issues of donation generation should be considered alongside the psychological concept of transactional trust. (Burt, C.D. and Gibbons, S. p192)

The trailing of charity websites to adopt modern e-commerce practices, coupled with the rapid rise of moral commodification of charitable giving has resulted in a unique set of problems of persuasion with respect to interface design. (THE WHY)

  • [G]iving to charity has been characterised as ‘the monetary purchase of moral satisfaction’ undertaken for the egoistic reason of wanting to feel better…The gift conveys a symbolic statement about the person that fits in with his or her self-identify. (Bennett, p120)
  • Overall the findings indicated that there was a lack of strategic intent to harness the potential of online social networks and evidence that charities are not mirroring the adoption of digital media that has occurred in the external environment in which they operate (Slater et al., 2010). There exists a lack of consumer orientation because charities have not embraced digital communications to the same extent as either their target audiences or for-profit based businesses. (Quinton and Fennemore, pp 44-45)
  • In the USA, internet donations for tsunami relief in 2004 accounted for more than a third of the total amount raised. Half of all the donations received following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 were given online (NFG, 2006). It follows from the above that charity managers have become increasingly interested in the website designs and online fundraising tactics that are most likely to maximise the frequencies and levels of online donations. (Bennett, p117)
  • …[I]t is recognized by some (but perhaps not all) that charities are not businesses and therefore reading across and imposing private sector governance frameworks to the charity sector may not be appropriate, and indeed may be counter-productive. (Hyndman and Jones, p153)
  • A needs-based change, animated through a problem-solving approach, assumes that the right outcome is known from the start…Desire is the destabilizing trigger for transformational change, which facilitates the emergence of new possibilities and realizations of human “being.” (Nelson and Stolterman, p110)

A semiotic analysis of the design patterns used in charity websites will yield greater insight into their functions of address, and how the emotive modalities of a website (i.e. its interactivity) can establish a relationship between the donor and the charity. (THE HOW)

  • The ability to use various modalities enables technology to match people’s preferences for visual, audio, or textual experiences. Technology can also create a synergistic effect by combining modes, such as audio, video, and data, during an interaction to produce the optimum persuasive impact. (Fogg, p9)
  • Wider information, particularly relating to performance, is probably paramount in discharging accountability to donors; and this will require the telling of ‘the story’ of the charity (often from the perspective of beneficiaries—if it is possible to operationlize such a perspective. (Hyndman and Jones, p152)
  • Principle of Surface Credibility: People make initial assessments of the credibility of computing technology based on firsthand inspection of surface traits like layout and density of ads. (Fogg, p135)
  • As Forlizzi and Battarbee (2004, p. 264) put it, “emotions affect how we plan to interact with products, how we actually interact with products, and the perceptions and outcomes that surround those interactions.” (van Gorp and Adams, p39)

A framework is needed to better understand the user cognitive patterns that emerge in context, resulting in effective emotive persuasion. (THE CONTRIBUTION) 

  • Principle of “Real-World Feel”: A Web site will have more credibility if it highlights the people or organization behind the content and services it provides. (Fogg, p156)
  • [There are] four developmental stages of organisational websites: contact, interact, transact and relate. At the ‘contact’ level, websites are largely about promoting an image and providing general levels information; at the ‘interact’ level, there is evidence of of targeting specific audiences; at the ‘transactional’ engagement level, websites facilitate online purchasing; and at the ‘relational’ level, sites develop two‐way consumer relationships. (Burt and Gibbons, p192)
  • [There are] strong positive correlations between rated transactional trust and donation compliance ratings…consistent with the idea that building transactional trust in an aid agency is likely to lead to more productive fundraising outcomes (Burt and Gibbons, p191)


I’ll post more about my influential sources and such later…but this is where I’m at right now.



The study of ubicomp (particularly Mark Weiser’s vision for an interconnected workplace) has always been one of my favorite topics in my study of UX. But one thing I’ve always found lacking in ubicomp is a greater discussion of the political implications of ubiquitywhat the ramifications of embedding computers are in the scope of everyday life. Yvonne Rogers approaches this discussion  from the perspective of “calm computing,” and makes the argument that we need to move towards a more proactive form of ubicomp that does not explicitly rely on technology to catalyze creativity:

Instead of augmenting the environment to reduce the need for humans to think for themselves about what to do, what to select, etc., and doing it for them, we should consider how UbiComp technologies can be designed to augment the human intellect so that people can perform ever greater feats, extending their ability to learn, make decisions, reason, create, solve complex problems and generate innovative ideas. (Rogers, p411)

DiSalvo’s approach to ubicomp through adversarial design seeks to accomplish many of the same goals as Rogers, albeit by utilizing the technologies themselves (in the form of articulative collections) to facilitate more holistic approaches to design:

Within the frame of adversarial design, the tactic of articu- lation constructs linkages between objects, people, and actions that transform them into an agonistic collective—an open space of contest in which the elements gathered together are able to act out a plurality of conflicting practices, values, and beliefs. (DiSalvo, p96)

The articulation of different devices within a collective of interconnected technologies allows for a new form of politics to emerge, and prompts the people using it to think more critically about its implications. I feel that as our lives become increasingly connected with the Internet, it is easy to lose sight of the consequences of our actions, both in the real and online spaces. Rather than merely rejecting ubicomp’s proposition of interconnectivity, DiSalvo instead introduces the idea of a countercolletive, which “[unhinge] the joints that bind another collective together…by leveraging qualities of connectedness and the interrelated dependencies that characterized connectedness.” (DiSalvo, p109) The result is an almost critical perspective on ubicomp; a sort of introspective that brings users into the discourse through its experience. Through articulation, we can better understand both how elements fit together in an ubicomp interaction, and the implications of the interaction of those elements on the world at large.

Reading over some of the other posts here on Carroll’s excerpt on horror and humor, it looks like several other people also found interest in the oscillation between horror and humor. Part of what makes both genres independently so engaging in my mind is the fact that they are on the surface so diametrically opposed to one another, yet have a great deal of overlap in their triggers:

The movement from horror to humor or vice versa that strikes us as so counterintuitive, then, can be explained in terms of what horror and at least one kind of humor – namely, incongruity humor – share….On the map of mental states, horror and incongruity amusement are adjacent and partially overlapping regions. Given this affinity, movement from one to the other should not be unexpected. (Carroll, p252)

While many of the examples provided pertain to cinema, I think this relationship can also be explored in other mediums. For example, the PC game Day-Z presents a number of situations for these genres to intermingle. There are two key elements to Day-Z that allow for this intersection to occur: first, player-to-player encounters are infrequent, with wide stretches of wilderness or abandoned buildings forming much of the experience. Second, because the game is essentially every person for themselves (as a zombie-survival genre game) and death is permanent, any player encounters always carry the risk of losing potentially hours of progress.

With these two things in mind, the following video represents an example of the genres of horror and humor intersecting (the video is really dark, but stick with it):


In this clip, we can observe a player entering an abandoned building, most likely to loot for supplies. When he reaches the top floor, he spots a player wielding a fire ax, in the process of killing another player. As he flees the building, Tiny Tim’s “Dancing in the Sunlight, Loving in the Moonlight” plays, triggered via the in-game voice-chat mechanism by the man with the axe. As our main protagonist runs, he is slowly pursued, heightening the tension and absurdity as the music continues to play. Then, when an altercation seems imminent, the offending player suddenly disappears, appearing to log off. The intention of this action seems a deliberate, trolling behavior, and the relief on our protagonist’s voice is apparent.

While there are many examples of this type of behavior in Day-Z, the fact that it is all player generated, coupled with the game’s frequent visual bugs results in a unique combination of tension and absurdity. In Day-Z, the players are both monsters and clowns, one and the same.

What I found most interesting about these most recent two readings was their juxtaposition to one another in the syllabus. In Barnard’s “Interpretation and the Individual” chapter, he references the two key examples of visual culture in the form of the fifteenth-century Italian art and Vespa scooters. Through these examples, he illuminates a hermeneutical approach to understanding them via the intention of their creators and the “life-world” of those who experienced them first-hand at their inception. But Barnard also highlights a crucial weakness our ability to comprehensively interpret the life-world of these individuals:

The most serious question that arises concerning understanding conceived in this way is about the very possibility of that understanding in the first place. It is argued that, if understanding is based on the intentions and life-worlds of people from other times and places, and given that, by definition, one is not of those times and places, then one cannot have those intentions or life-worlds and understanding must be impossible.   (Barnard, p55)

Whether through straightforward temporal distance, or other cultural factors, Barnard concludes that it is impossible to completely understand the situated context in which a particular piece was conceived and constructed. However, it’s in his discussion of Gadamer’s “horizons” as a means of reframing this approach that I found the most value. Gadamer takes the ideas, beliefs, and hopes of the interpreters (i.e. the core composition of their life-world) and rather than viewing them as an obstruction to holistic understanding, instead “may be thought of as ‘ways in’, or ‘entrances’ to the horizons of other people and thus to the visual culture produced by other people, no matter how distant in time or space.” (Ibid., p58)

It is these “ways in” that I eventually connected with the contrast between traditional ocularcentrism in film, and Elsaesse and Hagener’s examination of the use of skin and embodied systems of experience in modern filmmaking. The skin as an everyday experience is both everywhere and invisible; our largest organ and at the same time the one that is most often taken for granted when referring to culturally shared cinematic experiences. Elsaesse and Hagener cite several example of skin being used semiotically in various contexts: as a marker of accomplishment, of identity re-appropriation, as an agent of discomfort, and so on. But it is the ability for film to engage an audience on an intuitive and somatosensory level that is of greatest interest to me vis-a-vis design and life-worlds,

…the intersubjective communication in the cinema between spectator, film and filmmaker is predicated upon and enabled by shared structures of embodied experience that permits the perception of experience and the experience of perception in the first place. (Elsaesse and Hagener, p117)

At the intersection of our “accultured sensorium” suggested by Elsaesse and Hagener and Gadamer’s horizons I believe lies a space for interaction design to flourish. The dominance of ocularcentrism in film has resulted in the displacement of the other senses; so too has the commodification of the results of product design muted and anonymized the details of their origins, and the life-worlds of those who created them. As supply chains become longer and more occluded and demands for resources rise, I believe it will become increasingly important for us to establish and maintain a tangible, somatic connection to the physical artifacts we use every day. Elsaesse and Hagener suggest a potential approach to this problem by aligning the embodied experiences of the spectator, film and filmmaker, and it is not difficult to draw parallels to the user, artifact and designer from these conventions. If we can co-inhabit a shared perception of experience with respect to product design and ecology, a shared life-world of sustainability, I believe we can become more cognizant of both the means and ends by which the products we need and desire are sought, wrought, and moved to purpose.

In a world that has become so saturated with commodified signs that they have begun to lose meaning, sometimes it’s best to slap together a bunch of stock footage and just see what happens.


Just stumbled across this really interesting design yesterday, and thought I would share:


This design implies all sorts of really interesting lenses for critique: the hacking and reappropriation of commercial artifacts, commodification of government, civil liberties in a modern-day on-demand society, and even the notion that receipts are ridiculously wasteful (as anyone who has ever filled a prescription at CVS is no doubt aware).


Bonus: DRM Chair, a piece of furniture that self-destructs after 8 uses (listen for the clicks in the background!)


Evernote Camera Roll 20140309 231153So I went through the process of consolidating the papers I’ve read over this weekend, and took a first stab at my main argument. Obviously there’s a lot more content linked to these claims, but I was hoping to get some feedback/critique on what I’ve summarized here.

  • Single Claim: If we are to understand the emergence and pervasiveness of Instagram and mobile phone photography, we must first situate its use in the context of both the aesthetic intent of the photographer and its intended audience.
  • Audience for Claim: the HCI community and professional photographers/photojournalists
    • The audience understands the basic technologies and tools available for digital image-making
    • We want to change the underlying belief that Instagram,or any other mobile applications that allow for one-touch photo manipulation, are “ruining” photography
    • Additional technical vocabulary is limited to Instagram-centric terms, such as hashtag (#). In addition, the name of the application itself can be applied as a verb (e.g. “to Instagram” a subject of a photo) in lieu of “photograph” to imply its use of capture, curation, and sharing as part of a set mobile workflow
  • Key supports for Claim:
    • The notion of what is considered a “camera” has undergone several evolutions over the history of photography, and the smartphone camera as evidence of “convergence culture” seeks not to replace the traditional camera, but rather augment it.
    • Image manipulation itself isn’t the entire scope of the problem, but rather the aesthetic misrepresentation of a subject or subject group that is problematic
    • When formerly “offline” activities are brought into the online space (e.g. sharing photos in an album vs. through an online service like Instagram or Flickr), new forms of curation and folksonomy emerge, and these forms of “social storytelling” through images have their own form of aesthetic value.

This post is not so much a discussion of the content of the Hansen excerpt on skin interfaces, but rather how she structures her argument, and particularly how she identifies her key themes of critique. I’ll start by identifying a couple key passages that for me resonated most strongly with her core argument:

In transmission communication terms, immediacy can be said to be the dream of noise-free communication, whereas hypermediacy is focused on the nature of the noise-adding channel. In representational terms, one could say that transparent immediacy is representation camouflaged as presentation – it is supposed to be as if the represented phenomenon is in front of us. Conversely, hypermediacy is presentation only, as it is concerned with the presentational aspects of the medium; about how the medium represents. (p74, emphasis mine)

Expressed polemically, these dresses are gadgets designed to satisfy the geeky gadgeteer who falls for easily understandable eye-candy and who is lacking so much social competence, and maybe even social intelligence, that s/he is only able to understand other people when they can be translated into algorithms. (p83, emphasis mine)

…hypermediacy is not the conceptual goal here, even though the dresses in themselves do nothing but point at their own mediacy. Conceptually and rhetorically, Skin Probes subscribe to the paradigm of the perfect and invisible servant responding to our needs even before we are aware of them ourselves. (p85, emphasis mine)

To put it in semiotic terms, the Skin Probe dresses have an iconic expression but they ‘pretend’ that the indexical and the symbolic are identical; that the symbolic has been engulfed by the index.  (p86, emphasis mine)

While I am cheating with my model here a bit (with “expressed polemically” mapping in my mind to In polemical terms, and “Conceptually and rhetorically” mapping to in conceptual and rhetorical terms), I found this means of reading and understanding the content useful. I think we can all agree that writers, academic or otherwise, have their own rhetorical cadence and this can used in order to more easily trace an argument from start to finish, particularly over a long span of a book chapter. Hansen opens this passage with a discussion of telepathy, and a brief overview of the norms of communication, primarily to frame her eventual discussion of the difference between immediacy and hypermediacy. This dialectic is then examined through a series of lenses (the “terms”) to develop critiques of the two Philips dresses as marketing efforts, and also as representations of an ideal for perfectly transparent communication, as imagined and manifested by a corporate entity. The overall point that I think Hansen is trying to make is that while the dresses are limiting in their ability to accomplish their goal of bringing latent human thought and emotion to the surface, they are successful as interpretive objects, and thus are valuable in that they allow us to think more critically about what forms embodied interactions can assume.


So here is a list of some Dark Patterns I’ve encountered across my capstone travels. Feel free to critique and comment, and see if you can find the Persuasive Pattern I’ve snuck in amongst the lot (they’re the good guys, at least from my research so far!).



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