Sarah Webber


Human-Computer Interaction
School of Computing & Information Systems
Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology

Research Interests

I am an interaction design researcher investigating how we can design digital technologies for engagement with nature, animal welfare and enrichment, and for social connectedness and wellbeing.

My research into technology for connecting with nature and wildlife, provides new design insights for environmental engagement and learning. I develop methods for ethical and interdisciplinary design that address the interests of animals and ecosystems, and include them as stakeholders.

My PhD research examined the design of an interactive installation for orangutans, and its effects on zoo visitors' perceptions of the animals.

My secondary strand of research focuses on digital technologies for social connectedness, identity and wellbeing, encompassing projects for older people in residential aged care, for young people in out-of-home care, and for people quitting smoking.

I have a professional IT background spanning user research, UX evaluation, business analysis and project management in corporate, non-profit and governmental organisations.

Selected Publications

For complete list of publications see my Google Scholar profile or Find an Expert profile

Conference Papers

  • Sarah Webber, Ryan M. Kelly, Greg Wadley, Wally Smith Engaging with Nature through Technology: A Scoping Review of HCI Research. 2023 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2023.
  • Sarah Webber, Wally Smith, Marcus Carter, Frank Vetere. Watching Animal-Computer Interaction: Effects on Perceptions of Animal Intellect. 2022 International Conference in Animal-Computer Interaction. 2022.
    [DOI: 10.1145/3565995.3566035]

Best Paper Award Best Paper Award at DIS 2020

  • Sarah Webber, Marcus Carter, Wally Smith, Frank Vetere. Co-Designing with Orangutans: Enhancing the Design of Enrichment for Animals. 2020 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems. 2020.

Best Paper Award Best Paper Award at CHI 2017

  • Sarah Webber, Marcus Carter, Sally Sherwen, Wally Smith, Zaher Joukhader, Frank Vetere. Kinecting with Orangutans: Zoo Visitors’ Empathetic Responses to Animals’ Use of Interactive Technology. 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2017.
    [DOI:10.1145/3025453.3025729] [Free Access]

Honorable MentionHonorable Mention at CHI 2017

  • Wally Smith, Bernd Ploderer, Greg Wadley, Sarah Webber and Ron Borland. Trajectories of Engagement and Disengagement with a Story-Based Smoking Cessation App. 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. 2017.
    [DOI:10.1145/3025453.3026054] [Free Access]

Journal Papers

  • Sarah Webber, Mia L. Cobb, and Jon Coe. 2022. Welfare Through Competence: A Framework for Animal-Centric Technology Design. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 9: 885973.[DOI:10.3389/fvets.2022.885973]
  • Marcus Carter, Sally Sherwen, and Sarah Webber. An Evaluation of Interactive Projections as Digital Enrichment for Orangutans. Zoo Biology 40, 2: 107–114. 2021
  • Marcus Carter, Sarah Webber, Simon Rawson, Wally Smith, Joseph Purdam, and Emily McLeod. Virtual Reality in the Zoo: A Qualitative Evaluation of a Stereoscopic Virtual Reality Video Encounter with Little Penguins (Eudyptula minor). Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research 8, 4: 239–245. 2020.
  • Sarah Webber, Marcus Carter, Wally Smith, and Frank Vetere.Interactive Technology and Human-Animal Encounters at the Zoo International Journal of Human-Computer Studies. 98: 150-168. 2017.
    [DOI: 10.1016/j.ijhcs.2016.05.003] [Free Access]


I am available to supervise high-achieving students on interaction design projects relating to nature engagement, environmental education and attitudes, animal-computer interaction or social connectedness. Requests for PhD supervision should include a) your CV, b) transcript of results for your most recent academic studies, and c) a short project proposal.

Awards & Achievements

  • Best Paper Award, DIS 2020. Awarded to top 1% of papers accepted for presentation at ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems.
  • John Melvin Prize. Best PhD Thesis in Melbourne School of Engineering 2019.
  • Research Engagement and Impact Award, The University of Sydney Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Awarded to research teams who have achieved outstanding research results through external engagement or have had a significant impact on the world beyond the walls of the University (with Dr Marcus Carter).
  • Google PhD Fellowship 2017. One of four Australian awards for "outstanding graduate students doing exceptional work in computer science and related disciplines”.
  • Best Paper Award, CHI 2017. Awarded to top 1% of papers accepted for presentation at ACM SIGCHI conference (acceptance rate: 25%)
  • Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholar, Asia-Pacific, 2015. The Anita Borg Scholarship Program encourages women to excel in computing.
  • Master Major Innovator Award, awarded by Microsoft Australia & Australian Computer Society for the Best Overall Contribution at Computing and Information Systems Doctoral Colloquium, 2016.
  • Falling Walls Lab, Canberra 2016. Selected to participate in the first Falling Walls Lab Australia, presenting my PhD research to a distinguished panel of international scientists at the Australian Academy of Science.
  • Finalist: 3 Minute Thesis Contest, University of Melbourne 2016.


Lecturing and Subject Coordination

  • ISYS90026 Concepts in Information Systems. University of Melbourne, 2023.
  • ISYS90051 Impacts of Digitisation. University of Melbourne, 2016-2018 and 2021-2022.
  • GRAP2221 Design Studio: Digital Practice, HCI-mobile with Scott Mitchell. RMIT, 2017


  • INFO90001 Fundamentals of Information Systems. University of Melbourne, 2020
  • INFO30008 Interactive Technology Project. University of Melbourne, 2019
  • ISYS90051 Impacts of Digitisation. University of Melbourne, 2015.