Designing for the Bittersweet

Improving Sensitive Experiences with Recommender Systems

ABSTRACT
It is difficult to design systems that honor the complex and often contradictory emotions that can be surfaced by sensitive encounters with recommender systems. To explore the design and ethical considerations in this space, we interviewed 20 people who had recently seen sensitive content through Facebook’s Memories feature. Interviewees typically described how (1) expectedness, (2) context of viewing, and (3) what we describe as “afective sense-making” were important factors for how they perceived “bittersweet” content, a sensitizing concept from our interviews that we expand upon. To address these user needs, we pose provocations to support critical work in this area and we suggest that researchers and designers: (1) draw inspiration from no/low-technology artifacts, (2) use empirical research to identify contextual features that have negative impacts on users, and (3) conduct user studies on afective sense-making.

CHI 2022

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