Abby Marshall

Research Project

Dark Patterns and User Autonomy: How Manipulative Design Undermines User Choice


Hello, my name is Abby Marshall. I am a fourth-year Professional Communications student at Toronto Metropolitan University. I am passionate about User Experience Design, particularly website and graphic design. In the future, I plan to work in the UX/UI design field, focusing on web design. I am very interested in working in environmental and science communications as these two fields are imperative when combating the impending threats that climate change has brought to the future of human development. Work relating to tackling climate change needs to be visible to the general public to garner support. Practical and simple communication practices like straightforward websites will make this possible.

Research Summary

User autonomy online is constantly threatened due to the increased use of dark patterns or manipulative design practices in User Experience (UX/UI) design interfaces. This research will outline how dark patterns in UX design practices and interfaces limit user autonomy online and offline. This project will use qualitative research methods to explore the effects of dark patterns further. These qualitative research methods will take place as a text analysis of 10 YouTube Videos covering dark patterns. This research aims to get a deeper understanding of the impact of dark patterns on individuals’ autonomy and society as a whole.

This research addresses how different UX design practices, particularly dark patterns, affect user autonomy online and offline. Moreover, it addresses the lack of protection that government agencies can provide to citizens against the use of dark patterns and whether there is a way that users can help themselves without support from government agencies. Lastly, this research addresses how user information is being used as a form of currency to gain access to online platforms and why there is a lack of pushback from users regarding this.


Research Poster

Lightning Talk

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