Katriona Beales, Working Table IV (2017), from the exhibition Are We All Addicts Now? Furtherfield. London, 2017. Photo by Paul Ros

Dr. Vanessa Bartlett’s research at the University of Melbourne works with the arts to explore emotion, affect and wellbeing in a digital age. Her current research project investigates the idea of ‘persuasive design’ — a set of techniques used by social networking platforms and commercial websites to shape user behaviour and keep us online for longer. If you liked the Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma then you might be particularly interested in Vanessa's work — there are many overlaps. For more information about Vanessa's research, visit her website: vanessabartlett.com

Part 1: An introduction to Vanessa's research:

In part 2, Vanessa discusses the work of artist and media theorist Anna Munster in relation to viral videos and affect. Munster's book on this topic, An Aesthesia of Networks, was published by MIT Press in 2013.

Part 2: What does ‘aesthetic experience’ mean? And how does aesthetics relate to things like emotions, feelings, and affects?

Bil Gillette, 1932 -. Photographer (NARA record: 8464444). National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=73569625

In part 3, Vanessa discusses the persuasive use of aesthetics in commercial contexts, as in for example, cigarette advertising.

Part 3: How is aesthetics used in commercial settings to evoke desire in consumers?

In part 4, Vanessa discusses her work on persuasive design in more detail. This has involved recent collaborations with artist Katriona Beales on, for example, the exhibition Are We All Addicts Now? in 2017, which led to this book. An image from that exhibition is at the very top of this page, and here's a Vimeo clip about the event:

Part 4: Can you provide some examples of ‘persuasive design’ at work? And how can the arts can be used to combat the influence of persuasive design?

Frederic Kiernan is the Research Coordinator of the Creativity and Wellbeing Hallmark Research Initiative (CAWRI) at the University of Melbourne.