Behind the ‘Like’

This week, I’ve been mostly immersed in speaking with experts and just putting scrappy ideas that are in my head, out in a sketch form. I’ve read several articles just on the implications of the ‘Like’ button alone. I’m getting a full picture on why people, especially teenagers, are vulnerable to a distorted self-image because of social media. If we just plainly look at the Like button on Instagram—it’s in the shape of a heart.

Image result for heart button instagram

More likes, more heart?

 

In a face to face interaction, we have phatic, non-verbal cues to help aid communication and are crucial to conveying what we really want to. Things like hugs, kisses, a pat on the back—those things are important and crucial in helping us determine acceptance and a sense of belonging. Now with that all being scraped away, we’re only left with emojis and buttons as our only indicative cues to help us understand our place and how we belong in our community. Studies also mention how a lack of Likes on people’s posts can also lead to one feeling ostracized or disconnected. On top of that, these are all controlled by algorithms, by people and organizations who want to profit off our engagements with one another.

I can’t even.

A couple of heavy questions that’s been steeping in my mind after:

  1. What does a meaningful online interaction actually look like? (in what context, with who, etc).
  2. How or what makes people feel connected online?
  3. How can we create systems that make everyone feel like they are included? Helps them gather the information they need for meaningful interaction? 

This will be my next phase as I talk to users of social media or communication/community platforms.

I also managed to show my early ideas to the experts or thinkers in the field, and got valuable feedback.

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People told me that this was a good approach, but that giving users control will be most important. So instead of disallowing them to proceed with the knee-jerk reactionary comment, the app or thing will just alert them that their heartbeat has gone up, and question if they’re still sure of posting the comment. This is also a growing field, called Adaptive Interfaces.

 

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The hypothesis I have behind this next idea is that since we cannot control how positive or negative other people’s interactions are, we should reflect on our own—making ourselves more aware of things we are exposing ourselves to and how that makes us feel. However, many people had a hard time understanding the intent. One person also suggested showing a consumption side—not just the reactions. In her own words, “what you eat is what you grow.” I agree.

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The hypothesis behind this idea is that we spend too much time mindlessly interacting, without understanding how our frivolous interaction can be perceived by someone else. If we can force people to leave a comment, then maybe we can have more meaningful engagements on social media. But one person says that, sometimes she likes thing just because she wants to send our good vibes. By forcing her to leave comments, she might reduce her interactions and therefore, reduce the good vibes she wants to give out.

These are all great feedback, but all these ideas actually point at different intentions. My focus for the next coming week and week after, is to talk to as many non-experts, and get their perspective on what they want social media to be place for; how it has worked/not worked for them, so I can scope this project (this can of worms!!!) even more.

Link to Rubric 1 presentation.

What’s in a ‘Like’?

This week, I mainly immersed myself in the subject, through secondary research that’s been previously done and finding out about other digital products that might be in the same space as what I’m exploring.

To my surprise, there are actually quite a number of people and communities that are concerned, and therefore, creating products that aim at alleviating or combating the negative effects of addictive technology. There are also movements, like National Day of Unplugging and communities like the Center of Humane Technology. It makes me relieved because at least it means I’m not alone!

I also took some time to dissect what forms of social interactions are available online.

I looked into different domains first. Pictured below — Orange is Twitter, Pink is Instagram and Blue is Facebook.

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Then I proceeded to categorize them based on how similar they are with each other. Similar in that they mean similarly.

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After that, I noticed that they all differ in depth. Some are more engaging, might take a longer time, while some others are only momentary (Like buttons, for example). So I put them linearly, according to how deep each interaction would go.

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I paused and thought about each interaction, and pondered and how we do each of this in real life. It is actually no wonder that our digital platforms or technology is causing all these negative behaviors. Twitter’s prompt used to be “What’s on your mind?” for the longest time. In real life, we don’t always speak our mind – and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. It gives us time to ponder how it might come across to others. By prompting us to speak our mind so freely, and without consequences, I get why there’s so much rage on Twitter now. I was also thinking about the Facebook Like button or Instagram’s heart. Those innocent icons are representations of approval in real life. It’s no wonder people’s self-esteem can be affected, especially for teens or people who are more vulnerable to these types of interactions.

I got plugged in to the Humane Tech Community, and found many wonderful people who were willing to chat with me about their work. That will be my focus for the upcoming week, and will also work towards gathering stories from users about positive/negative behaviors they had online.

Here, Now

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I had the opportunity to show my demo at an exhibition on Sunday and took that as an opportunity to do some usability testings. There were some obvious things that I knew I needed to do still:

  • Add instructions and signifiers so it can be a standalone experience.
  • Flip video feed!!! (not as easy as I thought)

But overall, felt very accomplished that at least the code works.

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I spent some time structuring my presentation and figuring out what is crucial and necessary for the story I want to tell. One thing that Apurva, a professor of mine from another class, mentioned was great stories normally requires intentional editing out of information. The 7-minute cutoff time for the presentation meant an additional emphasis on this editing out.

I also had a lot of stories that I heard from interview participants that were quite compelling. So, I needed to be critical and rigorous in this if I wanted to tell a compelling story within the time limit. I decided to use the Golden Circle framework:

What: the demo

How: the stories, insights, and criteria of the demo/experience

Why: the reason and my personal motivation for this topic

This helped me structure and edit the content of my presentation greatly.

Final Presentation

Deck


 

In retrospect, I feel rather proud of myself for doing this because it’s an extremely uncomfortable medium for me. There were plenty of times I doubted myself and doubted this thing. But I’ve learned and grown in ways I never would’ve if it weren’t for this. I learned how to be okay with failing and sucking at something real bad (and that it doesn’t mean I’ll suck forever), and I think I have reached a whole new level of perseverance.

Most importantly, I learned how not to do this alone. And it has made me all the more thankful for the wonderful people I get to be surrounded with.

The Stars Aligned

Pun heavily intended.

FINALLY GOT THIS TO WORK! I feel like a huge rock’s lifted. I was a little worried because, last week, while I got everything to work, it stopped becoming a collaborative activity – which I felt was the most crucial part of the experience.

But now, as shown, you need 2 persons to complete the whole experience:

Next week, I plan to do just minor tweaks on the experience, like prettying the buttons and making them bigger (because it’s hard to hover over the constellations now), and then it’s heads-down on the presentation.

A rough outline of the presentation looks like:

  1. My topic and why I wanted to do this – how I was inspired by the documentary, what I personally enjoy seeing.
  2. Insights heard from interviews and how it informs my approach.
  3. Numerous things I’ve tried.
  4. Demo.

Thanking My Lucky Stars

These are what I intended to do for this week:

  1. Detect multiple wrists
  2. Light up associated points only
  3. Add text instructions.

I’m still not able to get it to detect multiple wrists but I managed to find a way to combine #2 and #3, which are mostly the signifiers of the experience. This is all due to a couple of resources on Github that I found (Thank God!). These not only helped me get closer to a more complete experience, and also a more visually appealing one.

I was honestly getting a little bit panicky because of how amateurish it looked, but the new resources I found significantly helped me in this aspect.

From this:

dot turns blue

To this:

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It’s not very obvious in the gif, but there’s a subtle particle pattern going on in the background. The buttons become the signifier and also the instructions that initiate the experience.

My only concern is how, now, it becomes less of a collaborative experience. But now that the core experience and visuals are close, I think I’d be able to figure that out quickly.

Next week, I plan to:

  1. Finalize everything
  2. Figure a way to make it more collaborative
  3. Detect multiple wrists

 

Life Lessons from Sucking at Mini-Golf

Gina, Jessica and I went to Stagecoach Greens a few weeks back to play mini golf together. The place was themed—we had to go through each station, and they each had an individual story.

Turns out, knowing how to play golf doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll know how to play mini-golf. I know some basics of golf, and when applied to mini-golf—didn’t work. I kept hitting the ball too hard, and was also not used to using a putter throughout the game.

I was getting visibly frustrated, to which Gina responded,

“Nat, this is literally your first time playing. Of course you’re going to suck.”

In the end, I still came in last out of the three of us, but the gap wasn’t too wide. I got kind of the hang of it mid-way. Jessica and Gina also guided me along the way.

“Slow down.”

“Aim first Nat.”

I’m not competitive, but I hate sucking (or not being able to perform as well as I want to). This mini-golf experience kind of mirrors this semester for me. Experiencing Science Hack Day, and creating a code-heavy deliverable is my attempt to want to be okay with failing, with sucking, with seeking help and letting others help me throughout the process. At the beginning of the semester, I was very antsy with this, but forced myself to stick with it. It has honestly been difficult, as I am completely out of my comfort zone. But it has also been so much fun. With the help of my amazing classmates, I’ve also grown closer to them.

Some days, I still struggle, a lot, especially with my code. But my perspective has also shifted from wanting to get something done perfectly, to being okay with spending the time to explore all the possible options—even if that means it’s not done as how I wanted it to.