In the attention economy, video apps employ design mechanisms like autoplay that exploit psychological vulnerabilities to maximize watch time. Consequently, many people feel a lack of agency over their app use, which is linked to negative life effects such as loss of sleep. Prior design research has innovated external mechanisms that police multiple apps, such as lockout timers. In this work, we shift the focus to how the internal mechanisms of an app can support user agency, taking the popular YouTube mobile app as a test case. From a survey of 120 U.S. users, we find that autoplay and recommendations primarily undermine sense of agency, while playlists and search support it. From 13 co-design sessions, we find that when users have a specific intention for how they want to use YouTube they prefer interfaces that support greater agency. We discuss implications for how designers can help users reclaim a sense of agency over their media use.
The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (https://chi2021.acm.org/)