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When we use secure computer systems, we engage with carefully orchestrated and ordered interactions called “security ceremonies”, all of which exist to assure security. A great deal of attention has been paid to improving the usability of these ceremonies over the last two decades, to make them easier for end-users to engage with. Yet, usability improvements do not seem to have endeared end users to ceremonies. As a consequence, human actors might subvert the ceremony’s processes or avoid engaging with it. Here, we consider whether beautification could be one way of making ceremonies more appealing. To explore beautification in this context, we carried out three studies. Study 1 surveyed 250 participants to derive a wide range of potential dimensions of “beautiful ceremonies”. These statements were sorted into dominant themes and converted into statements, which fed into the second study, with 309 respondents, to reveal the dominant dimensions constituting beauty. Study 3 asked 41 participants to carry out a Q-sort, which revealed the ways that people combine the identified dimensions when characterising security ceremonies as “beautiful”. These studies have allowed us to pin down the perceived dimensions of beauty in the context of security ceremonies, and also to understand how people combine these dimensions in different ways in judging security ceremonies to be beautiful, confirming the old adage of beauty being “in the eye of the beholder”. We conclude by highlighting the constraints imposed by the overarching requirement for security to be maintained in the face of any usability improvements and beautification endeavours.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
JournalPhilosophy & Technology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Jun 2022


  • Security ceremonies
  • Beauty
  • Perception
  • Human-centred security


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