Trauma-Informed Computing: Towards Safer Technology Experiences for All

Chen, Janet X.; McDonald, Allison; Zou, Yixin; Tseng, Emily; Roundy, Kevin A; Tamersoy, Acar; Schaub, Florian; Ristenpart, Thomas; Dell, Nicola

Trauma is the physical, emotional, or psychological harm caused by deeply distressing experiences. Research with communities that may experience high rates of trauma has shown that digital technologies can create or exacerbate traumatic experiences. Via three vignettes, we discuss how considering the possible effects of trauma and traumatic stress reactions provides an explanatory lens with new insights into people’s technology experiences. Then, we present a framework—trauma-informed computing—in which we adapt and show how to apply six key principles of trauma-informed approaches to computing: safety, trust, peer support, collaboration, enablement, and intersectionality. Through specific examples, we describe how to apply trauma-informed computing in four areas of computing research and practice: user experience research & design, security & privacy, artificial intelligence & machine learning, and organizational culture in tech companies. We conclude by discussing how adopting trauma-informed computing will lead to benefits for all users, not only those experiencing trauma.