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KNOXVILLE – The College of Communication and Information (CCI) has opened a new lab where researchers can study how people use computers and react to what they read on the Internet.

The User Experience Lab, in room 230 of the Communications Building, is the brainchild of a partnership between the college and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. This lab will serve as a research center for the College of Communication and Information’s graduate students and faculty, as well as for ORNL researchers.

“Each researcher will have his or her own studies and a number of different participants,” said Carol Tenopir, chancellor’s professor and director of the Center for Information and Communication Studies/CCI director of research.

The lab contains a pre/post-testing area for paper testing, a room with two computers to conduct computer research and another room for observers who record the tests.

“There is a camera with microphone to record people’s facial expressions and verbalizations. The software also can record the key strokes and Web sites they visit during their time on the computer. It also can record their reactions to what they see, such as colors or any number of things on the Web,” Tenopir said.

The lab will be used to test many different areas of communication and information science research. A few examples are software usability, interface design, Web site design and advertisements. The computers can even test people’s reactions and record their emotional responses.

“We can show them a series of ads, then ask participants questions or record what they are thinking while they are watching. Or we could give them a task to search and record their search strategies,” Tenopir said.

The lab also can aid in general Web research.

“A lot of our faculty members do tests where they just want to observe different age groups and how they navigate the Web,” Tenopir said. “The ORNL partnership is important. It allows the college to do collaborative research with the lab, as well as assist their user experience testing. ORNL has a growing human-computer interaction interest that is shared with our college.”

The User Experience Lab opened last week.

For more information about the User Experience Lab, see


Bobbie Suttles, (865) 974-7909,