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Using science fiction texts to surface user reflections on privacy


We explore how an excerpt from a science fiction novel describing a near-future miniature wireless streaming camera technology can be used to elicit privacy concerns from participants. We conduct an online experiment (n=151) to compare participants’ responses to a narrative fiction passage and a “plain” functional description of the same imagined technology. Qualitatively we find that participants with the fiction passage raised concerns about different types of privacy harms and were more likely to suggest design modifications to protect privacy. Quantitatively, we find that participants with the fiction passage provided higher ratings of negative affect, and lower ratings of comfort and acceptability. This suggests that researchers trying to understand users’ privacy concerns with new ubiquitous computing technologies may benefit from presenting the technology in multiple formats to elicit a broader range of values reflections.

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