Sean Munson

Hello & thank you! I enjoyed my visit to HCDE, and would be thrilled to have the chance to join you all in the fall. I've put together some references and information about the work I cover in my talk, as well as my contact information and some other potential conversation starters. Thanks again for your hospitality and taking the time to introduce me to your community!

Research Statement · Teaching Statement · CV

The Talk

Preferences & Nudges in Sociotechnical Systems

Tuesday, 28 February 2012, 10:30-11:30a
Electrical Engineering Building (EEB) 403, UW Seattle

Every day, millions of people make decisions in digital environments or supported by software tools. Designers of sociotechnical systems influence the choices people make, both intentionally and inadvertently, with their design decisions.

In this talk, I will discuss my research on individual preferences and systems designed to nudge people to be their better selves. I will present, in detail, a study of people's preferences for political opinion information and efforts to nudge those preferences (pdf); this study has shown the importance of individual differences in selective exposure theory. I will then give an overview of my current research platforms, designed to help people live healthier and happier lives, and my research questions and expected contributions.

Talk references · Slides (25MB PDF)

Bio Sean Munson is a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan's School of Information, where he studies the use software to support positive behavior changes. His work primarily focuses on the domains of political news and opinion access and health and wellness. He is an Intel PhD fellow. Sean completed his BS in Engineering with a concentration in Systems Design at Olin College in 2006. At Olin, he was one of 30 students who spent a year developing the new college's curriculum and student life programs before becoming part of the first-ever class. He has been a political blogger and, while working at Boeing, designed concepts for future passenger airplane interiors.
samunson at umich dot edu
105 S. State Street, NQ4370I,
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Work referenced in my talk


Exposure to Diverse Political Opinions (BALANCE)

Aggregators such as Digg, Reddit, and Google News rely on ratings and links to select and present subsets of the large quantity of news and opinion items generated each day. This work requires understanding people's preferences for diversity (CHI 2010) and where diverse interactions may already occur online (e.g., ICWSM 2011), as well as developing methods of selecting diverse sets of items (ICWSM 2009), and presentation techniques to make these sets appealing (CHI 2010). This project will provide a better understanding of alternative notions of what it means for a set of items to be diverse, the range of reactions that different people have to varying levels and presentations of diversity, and of the outcomes of exposure to diverse political views. Funded by NSF award #IIS-0916099 and a Yahoo! Key Technical Challenges grant.


Health & Wellness (Swellness)

I am building and deploying a series of applications designed to support various aspects of wellness. This work will identify ways to build applications that effectively support health behavior change and will also contribute to our understanding of theories about influence and persuasion and their interactions with indvidual differences and preferences. Published work includes a study of how people use Facebook and Online Health Communities to support health goals (CSCW 2011) and a study of a social version of a positive psycholog exercise (Persuasive 2010). This project is funded by Intel and the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School.

Research platforms: 3GT · Commitments · Steps (currently mid-overhaul!)

Also ask me about...

Research & Design :::::

SI Display

Public displays to nurture community. Design, long-term deployment, and evaluation of two public displays at the School of Information. CSCW paper and open source software.

MedShelf Logo

Wikis as memory. I worked with Derek Hansen to study how wikis (which allow for synthesis) can complement threaded discussion software (email lists) for technical support and health. I also deployed and evaluated a wiki as an organizational memory tool in a workgroup at Boeing (WikiSym 2008).

Flight Portal prototype

Designing passenger airplane interiors. Including ethnographic observations of and interviews with passengers and airport employees and design and prototyping of a trash collecting and compacting robot, more secure and easier to use lavs and stowbins, and an interactive destination space.

TMSP Cover

Technology Mediated Social Participation. I participated in a series of NSF-funded workshops to define a scientific research agenda and make educational recommendations for creating a community that generates the foundational science, engineering, and training necessary for a new era of social participation technologies, contributing to articles on design, health, and government transparency.

Teaching, Curriculum & Institutional Development :::::

A theory-based, design course.

A course on Designing Nudges. I would really like to develop and teach a theory-based design course on influence in socio-technical systems. I've given some thought to how it might work as a one quarter course, as well as a two quarter course with a stronger design component. It could also be adapted to a PhD seminar.


Redesigning SI/EECS182. With Paul Resnick, I redesigned the introductory programming course in UMich's undergraduate informatics program. Assignments include accessing and processing data from the course backchannel (Twitter, later a Facebook group), as well a final project using of Google App Engine and data available through APIs. By the end of the course, students who might have started apprensive about programming had web apps to show off to friends and family. 2009 Syllabus.

Michigan Interactive and Social Computing

Co-founding Michigan Interactive & Social Computing. As with many schools, HCI and social computing live in many different departments at the University of Michigan. I co-founded the MISC seminar to help bring these researchers together and to create a strong brand for this research outside of the university.

Olin College

Olin College, from the ground up. I was one of 30 student partners spend a year developing this startup, revolutionary engineering college before joining the freshman class. I helped pilot courses, develop laboratory assignments, create the student government, propose the first curriculum, and design Olin's entrepreneurship offerings. We also built a really big Rube Goldberg device and designed a greenhouse for Mars (with accompanying radio drama) along the way.

SI501 Affinity Wall

Other teaching. SI501, a foundations, real-world projects course for masters' students, and SI529, a theory-based course on online communities. I also have some ideas for a doctoral-seminar or directed research group on civic engagement and technology, which could be timed to run with a Presidential or midterm election, or a more local race.