Building for Joy in the Digital World
Authors: Rachel Siow Robertson, Jennifer George, Matthew Kuan Johnson
Abstract: User experience of digital platforms and technologies tends to be quite ‘thin’, characterized by low-quality engagements such as addictive tendencies or browsing on autopilot. This paper takes an interdisciplinary approach to identifying more cognitive and active dimensions of ‘thick’ user experience, introducing a new design and UX framework which is centered around the notion of joy. In this paper, we explain how we are piloting this framework and working at developing measurements that operationalize the different dimensions of joy, through a series of case studies of different digital platforms and applications.The first part of this paper develops a conceptual framework for building for joy. We consider existing UX frameworks which focus on dimensions such as delight, happiness, satisfaction, pleasure, adoption, and retention. We explain how many harmful kinds of engagement either do not impact negatively on these kinds of assessments, or even result in higher scores. We then draw on recent work in positive psychology, which has seen a move from happiness and ‘thin’ conceptions of pleasure to ‘thicker’ notions such as joy. Although there is no one definition of joy, the kind of experience we are interested in involves an intense feeling of fulfilment and a deep alignment between some good in the world and oneself (Johnson, 2020a, 2020b). This kind of joy encompasses a range of motivations and intensities, and incorporates a cognitive profile which includes recognition of integrity and dependence on external factors, as well as normative assessments.The second part of this paper provides an overview of our case studies, which explore how design elements of digital platforms interact with the motivational, cognitive, and normative dimensions of joy identified within our conceptual framework. For these studies, we used a range of methodologies, including surveys which aimed to collect both quantitative and qualitative data, structured interviews, and autoenthnography. We suggest that platforms and applications which do well within our joy-focused framework promote a deeper and healthier level of engagement with digital technologies. We end by opening up some new research directions, including how building for joy might correlate with increases in adoption, retention, task success, and financial profitability.
Keywords: joy, digital platforms, user experience, positive affect, attitudes, survey, HaTS, HEART
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