Date of Award

Summer 7-2016

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Institute for Software Research


Lorrie Faith Cranor


People make a range of everyday decisions about how and whether to share content with different people, across different platforms and services, during a variety of tasks. These sharing decisions can encompass complex preferences and a variety of access-control dimensions. In this thesis I examine potential methods for improving sharing mechanisms by better understanding the everyday online sharing environment and evaluating a potential sharing tool. I first present two studies that explore how current sharing mechanisms may fall short on social networking sites, leading to suboptimal outcomes such as regret or self censorship. I discuss the implications of these suboptimal outcomes for the design of behavioral nudging tools and the potential for improving the design of selective-sharing mechanisms. I then draw on a third study to explore the broader “ecosystem” of available channels created by the services and platforms people move between and combine to share content in everyday contexts. I examine the role of selective-sharing features in the broader audience-driven and task-driven dynamics that drive sharing decisions in this environment. I discuss the implications of channel choice and dynamics for the design of selective-sharing mechanisms. Using insights from current shortfalls and ecosystem-level dynamics I then present a fourth study examining the potential for adding topic-driven sharing mechanisms to Facebook. I use design mockups and a lab-based interview to explore participants’ hypothetical use cases for such mechanisms. I find that these mechanisms could potentially be useful in a variety of situations, but successful implementation would require accounting for privacy requirements and users’ sharing strategies.