Web 2.0, Web 3.0, and the Internet of Things

The internet has become an integrated, seamless, and often invisible part of our everyday lives. Some see this connection as a way to a brighter future, while others have trepidations. The only thing that seems certain is that the Internet is changing rapidly, the laws surrounding the Internet are changing even faster, and it’s all we can do to try and keep up. Changes in style, design, and interactions across the web have big implications for users, but even bigger implications for us as creators. While we often highlight the importance of connecting our design to the big picture goal, it’s less often that we consider the much bigger picture: the World Wide Web. Knowing where web technology is now and where it might be going informs the quality of our daily work. How can we create optimal user experiences if we don’t at least have a basic knowledge of what the technology is capable of? It’s akin to trying to build a house without knowing what houses looked like in the past, or what materials might exist on a future project. So let’s explore the web—from the 1990s to today, and onward into the future. The world of the web The web was originally a tool used for military, scientific, and academic purposes, but since the early 1990s, it has become a huge part of our everyday lives. As technology has progressed and as more people have begun using the Internet, the web has has gone through (and continues to go through) dominant shifts, specifically Web 2.0, Web 3.0, and the Internet of Things. As the Cretaceous, Jurassic,...

The Ethics of UX Research

As a UX researcher for a social media operation, Ute considers different interface designs that might allow users to make more social contacts. Ute gets a radical idea to test her hunches: What if we manipulated some of our current users’ profile pictures and measured the impact of those changes on their friends list? If successful, her research would provide valuable insight into the social media design elements most likely to result in sociability online. Of course, a successful study would also diminish the experiences of thousands already using her company’s service. In Ute’s mind, this is a simple A/B test, yet in the wake of recent controversy surrounding social media research, she’s starting to wonder if she should be concerned about the ethics of her work. As a research scientist and professor at two different universities, I work to better understand the social and psychological impact of technology on human communication. Our experiments have tested the limits of accepted research design practice, with designs ranging from the manipulation of romantic jealousy using social networks to studying the impact of induced stress and boredom on video game experiences, and a host of other experiments and observations. Yet, these studies all share a common element: they were all subject to intensive internal and external ethical review practices to ensure that participants in these studies were both informed (either before or after the study concluded) and unharmed. On these two points, recent debates surrounding the recent Facebook “emotional contagion” study have centered on notions of informed consent (Did Facebook users know they were in a study?) and minimizing harm (Were any...