ECRA Member Thomas Mildner

"My research focus lies on the evaluation of problematic design elements in social media and the development of ethical user interfaces in the web."

Ever since social media, like Facebook or Twitter, emerged over ten years ago, they did not only grow their user base, but also changed while playing an ever more important role in our everyday lives. They help us maintaining relationships with people from all over the world and create spaced to share meaningful moments or opinions. Aside from these opportunities, however, novel risks emerged which need to be understood and countered. Observations of the past years show a possible negative impact that social media may induce on peoples’ mental wellbeing. Noticed in young adolescents in particular, a connection was drawn between addictive usage and an increased occurrence of depressions. Here, well designed technologies have the potential to aid our wellbeing instead of harming it.

Two topics are particularly interesting to me. Firstly, I focus on the ethical design of user interfaces of social media and, secondly, I investigate how they affect users. On the basis of these topics, I want to understand the impact social media has on our mental wellbeing in order to, among other things, suggest positive changes. Recently, an interest to evaluate problematic design practices - so-called Dark Patterns - has grown within the human-computer interaction (HCI) community. In my research I want to tie in with existing research and, using human-centred methodology, help users and practitioners to recognise and avoid these dark patterns.

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