max van kleek

senior researcher, department of computer science, university of oxford

I do research in human-computer interaction, focusing on identifying, researching, and solving problems people have in managing and making effective use of data, in everyday life.

A key problem with the age of the platforms is a growing dichotomy between the capability at the edges (i.e. what end-users can do with data) versus at the centres (i.e. what large institutions can do with data). This has come from the constant investment in technologies to empower entities at the centre, and a comparatively small investment in tools for empowering and protecting the interests of people at the edges. Where interests between the centre and the edges do not align or diverge, gaps form, and such gaps can threaten the very benefits that digital technology has granted. Examples of such gaps include the inability for people to move data effectively between platforms, the lack of tools available for letting people effectively keep data safe and available over a long term, the inability for people to control what information is being collected about them by apps and services. Indeed, most of the new capabilities that people enjoy have been carefully designed to benefit the centre to an equal or greater extent than users themselves.

A healthy digital future requires people to be able to effectively control and navigate a diverse ecosystem comprised of a plurality of services and platforms, and to be able to identify when their interests are not being served. This requires more than better tools for end-users; it requires a fundamental re-thinking of the relationships between services and people to one that grants users autonomy and flexibility, instead of one of dependence for the purposes of retention.

In my research, I work on identifying concrete examples where platforms and people's needs fail to align. Recently, this work has included interfaces and systems for letting end-users integrate data across platforms, tools for empowering users to liberate and archive their personal health data, and work studying information flows out of smartphone apps.

selected papers

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Please contact Max via LinkedIn, Twitter, FB or via e-mail at max at hip dot cat.

Max is available for freelance consulting on various interaction and system design topics and enjoys difficult UI and systems design challenges, particularly pertaining to personal information management and privacy. His resume can be found here.