Task 3 – Proseminar Master´s Thesis

Title                   Investigating Dark Pattern Blindness

Author               Matthias Sluijpers

University         Utrecht University (UU)


The author of this master’s thesis kept the design rather minimalistic and probably used a standardized preset given by university. Simple headings, a single-column grid, and even margins define the layout. The only visible personalized design element is a very simple and low-impact graphic on the front page. However, a clear structure is given to the reader, which is of course crucial for a scientific paper.


The term “deceptive design pattern” (formerly “dark pattern”) is very young for a scientific topic and was first mentioned only in 2010. Nevertheless, the topic is very present and often dealt with in the context of ethics in digital design. Furthermore, there are already various studies about dark pattern-blindness, so it is nothing completely new. As stated by the author himself the question on useful countermeasures for deceptive design patterns would have been a step further and more innovative.


The work contains both a comprehensive search of the literature and a very detailed empirical method of data collection, analysis and interpretation. This suggests a neat and independent work. It can be said that the work stands on its own and does not require any swerving, additional research or deep prior knowledge on the part of the reader.


According to the table of contents, the thesis is divided into seven chapters, which in turn are broken down into up to three further sub-levels. The theoretical research, the objectives of the thesis, the method and the results are clearly delineated from each other. The literary and empirical parts complement each other well and result in a coherent overall concept.


In general I would say that the text is easy to read and understand. The author does not use a lot of technical jargon and most unknown terms are explained within the thesis. Tables, screenshots of the web applications shown and various infographics support the textual presentation of the results of the experiment. The appendix also contains the transcript of the experiment for review.


The entire work comprises 230 pages, which makes it seem very time-consuming and precisely elaborated. In addition, the planning, execution and evaluation of the experiment is carried out in above-average detail. Even if, according to the author, some results did not turn out as desired and as a result the hoped-for comparisons could not be drawn, the work standard for a master’s thesis is definitely met.


Since English is not my native language, I found it a bit harder than usual to evaluate the orthography and accuracy of the text. All in all I would say that it is pretty well written and I could not find any obvious mistakes. The only thing I noticed is that the author often repeats the same words and phrases in sentences or paragraphs.


It can be seen from the bibliography that the sources used cover a lush period from 1970 to 2022, and thus older and very recent works are consulted. The quotations are largely from conferences and articles and only very occasionally from experts’ books. Additionally a lot of internet sources are cited, however those are mostly from known authors in the field and trustful sources. Within the citations, the download links (e.g. Researchgate) of the full texts have been inserted, which looks a bit unprofessional.

Sluijpers, Matthias: Investigating Dark Pattern Blindness. Unpublished. Master’s Thesis. Utrecht University. Utrecht 2022

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