A Critical Review of Mindfulness in Human-Computer Interaction

Researchers and practitioners are increasingly incorporating mindfulness into technologies for health and well-being. The psychology literature recognizes that mindfulness is an umbrella term that is used to describe a variety of states and traits of awareness. In this project, we reviewed the literature to see how HCI researchers are defining and using ‘mindfulness’ in new technologies. We also identified key dimensions to consider when designing for mindfulness. Paper under review.

Collaborators: Jasmin Niess, Pawel WozniakKristina Knaving, and Sean Munson

What Makes Smartphone Use Meaningful or Meaningless?

Woman's face is sucked into a smartphone
Image from SUR-FAKE, courtesy of Antoine Geiger

Interview and experience sampling study of what smartphone use people find meaningful (or not). We found that the erosion of a user’s original intention for app use contributes to less meaningful experiences and that smartphone ‘micro escapes’ may be a helpful tool for emotional self-regulation. Paper accepted to Ubicomp 2018 [PDF].



Prior research indicates that many people wish to limit aspects of their smartphone use. Why is it that certain smartphone use feels so meaningless? We examined this question by using interviews, the experience sampling method, and mobile logging of 86,402 sessions of app use. One motivation for use (habitual use to pass the time) and two types of use (entertainment and passive social media) were associated with a lower sense of meaningfulness. In interviews, participants reported feeling a loss of autonomy when using their phone in these ways. These reports were corroborated by experience sampling data showing that motivation to achieve a specific purpose declined over the course of app use, particularly for passive social media and entertainment usage. In interviews, participants pointed out that even when smartphone use itself was meaningless, it could sometimes still be meaningful in the context of broader life as a ‘micro escape’ from negative situations. We discuss implications for how mobile apps can be used and designed to reduce meaningless experiences.

One key figure:

Meaningfulness (higher score = more meaningful) vs. type of smartphone use. Shows the mean and its 95% CI. Entertainment and social media are related to a lower sense of meaningfulness.

Collaborators: Cissy Yu, Julie KientzAlexis Hiniker

Mobile Food Journaling to Facilitate Family Support for Healthy Eating

Food journaling on smartphones is typically done at the individual-level. But the health of family members is interrelated, so this project looks at food journaling at the family-level. We used journal entries, surveys, and interviews to analyze how food journaling together can facilitate family support for healthy eating. Pending submission to CSCW 2018.

Collaborators: Yuan Zhuang, Taoxi (Tessa) Li, Brian Lim

Designing Parenting Blogs to Promote Father Involvement

Studied how parenting blogs can promote father involvement by using do-it-yourself (DIY) language. I contributed to the study design, ran the experiment, wrote up the findings, and presented at CHI 2017 [PDF].


Father involvement is important for child well-being. However, fathers still do significantly less childcare than mothers, due in part to traditional gender norms. This research investigates whether incorporating do-it-yourself (DIY) language and imagery into parenting blogs is an effective mechanism for boosting fathers’ willingness to perform childcare activities. We conducted a between subjects experiment with 374 participants in the U.S. who responded to ten parenting blog posts. Subjects were randomized to view posts with either DIY or neutral language and either routine childcare activities (e.g., changing diapers) or interactive ones (e.g., finger painting). Results show that DIY language actually decreases a father’s willingness to do a childcare activity. Further, fathers underestimate how socially appropriate it is for them to perform childcare activities and this misperception relates to their willingness to get involved. We draw on social norms literature to recommend next steps for designing interfaces to support father involvement in childrearing.