Thesis Phase 1: Speculation

Sucking it up and taking back all the horrible things I said about Dunne and Raby here, I decided to take on a speculative design project for my thesis. I even read a few of their books to work out what speculative design actually was. The first step in any speculative design project is obviously the speculation, in this case speculation of what social media will look like 5-10 years from now. Being a research project, the future is inevitably dystopian, because if the ghost of Christmas future had brought good news then “A Christmas Carol” wouldn’t have sold nearly as well.

 

So what trends are observable in social media today?

  • Success on social media is incredibly important to people, for reasons most people aren’t quite sure of
  • With some work, this “success” can become increasingly lucrative, to the point of being an almost legitimate career option.
  • Mystery algorithms have a large amount of control over what we see and consequently what we do
  • We are becoming aware of how faked a lot of posts are, particularly those from social media personalities

In her book, “Seeing Ourselves Through Technology”, Jill Walker Rettberg states that there are three distinct modes of self- representation in digital media: written, visual and quantitative. For this I am eternally grateful to her, because this is the premise I built my entire thesis on.

 

In the early internet, self-representation was purely text-based, the internet was less capable of handling images, so social media consisted of blogs and instant messaging. Lying about who you were was very easy to do. As technology advanced, we moved on to basing the transfer of information on visual communication; photos, videos, and emoticons in place of words. Lying on the internet became slightly trickier. Not so tricky as to discourage any of the people who appear on “Catfish”, but the likes of Facebook and Instagram require a little more effort than typing about how you’re totally a 16 year old girl from LA who is also Britney Spears’ best friend. As such, the natural progression would be quantified social media, that couldn’t be manufactured. No one would go to the extent of  actually living a false life for the purposes of social media. Right?

 

Combining this with wearable technology, because that is literally the only consistent thing in my entire dissertation, my mission is:

 

To design a wearable connected platform that introduces what is sold as a “purer” form of social media. The quantitative data means users would have to go to extraordinary lengths to misrepresent their lives, thereby making its information more reliable than that of its competitors. Thanks to revenue from wearable sales, it can afford to offer a platform with less advertising.
This platform measures four factors to give as accurate a representation as possible of social actions.

 

1. Where the user is
2. Who the user is with
3. What the user is saying
4. What physical contact the user experiences

 

The user is then scored on these factors by an algorithm to earn points, which determine the users rank on what is less a social network and more an online scoreboard. Cutting to its point, this scoreboard reduces each user to a name, a picture, a vague location, a number of points and most crucially, a global rank.

 

To keep up with daily activities, the device would have to be worn daily. No one wants to wear the same thing everyday. So, the device built for this project is just a representative of what would be a suite of wearables available for sale from the corporation. These would track and display at various different levels, allowing users to choose to what degree they engage at different times. More understated, smaller wearables, like smart jewellery are more suitable for day-to-day wear. Larger scale wearables, garments,  that track more and therefore collect more points as well as offer more pageantry, can be worn for social occasions. The dress built for this project demonstrates the full range of parameters that could be tracked and a more elaborate display. An extended selection of the range is shown in the “Shop” section of the website demonstration.

 

The name of this social media platform and the corporation behind it is QBee, named for “Queen Bee”.

 

Phase 2: Design write up should be coming next week, seeing as I’m already on Phase 3.

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