This website is the culmination of a year-long thesis project for the BFA Graphic Design program. It's an interactive article that I hand-coded using Bootstraps as a starting template. The project is an exploration of how people develop an understanding of the world, with a focus on the effects of content personalization on our ability to empathize with different ways of thinking. One of the goals throughout the project was to collect diverse opinions in the form of video in order to showcase the differences, but also the similarities, between many groups of people, in the hopes that we will be able to better understand each other.
The internet serves as a connection for multitudes of people across the world and offers access to incredible amounts of information. However, the information presented is often targeted to us on an individual level, and this is because of a marketing strategy referred to as content personalization. In this strategy, users are categorized based on data collected on them, and then are shown information specific to their presumed interests. There is an ensuing danger that the internet limits our perspective, and causes us to interact with information that fits in comfortably to our previously established worldview. This “Filter Bubble” only confirms our beliefs and opinions, and makes it more difficult to understand and empathize with perspectives other than our own. When a user has a limited perspective online, their opinions become authoritarian and anyone who challenges those thoughts is rejected and ostracized. In an age where we increasingly gather information and news through Facebook and Twitter, the people who we choose to follow and the posts we click on define the sort of information seen on our newsfeeds. To some extent, we create our own filter bubbles, but it is extremely enhanced by algorithmic functioning largely outside of our control.
To gain a sense of people’s online experience, I decided to create a survey, especially considering that at the time we were in the height of online disparity (hello election day!). It should be noted that the results of this survey are in no way statistically sound, because it was a voluntary survey and I mainly received respondents through posting it on my own Facebook account. However, it did give me some idea of how people other than myself experienced the internet, which benefited my thought process.
As I was planning the final product of my project, I realized that I wanted to include a more human aspect. I decided to get a gauge of the differences between the beliefs that various people can have by getting people to respond to a two-part prompt, in the form of a video. Once I got around 25 videos, I started the process of selecting and editing. I struggled to come up with a cohesive way of tying the videos together, since many of them had different backgrounds, colors, and audio levels. I ended up unifying the videos by applying a Tritone effect, and resolving the audio level issue by creating callouts for significant quotes.
For the thesis show, I wanted to have a way to present the videos all at once at a large scale. I decided to combine the videos into one movie file, and looped them all at least 10 times. When playing the combined video, I looped it so that when the video was projected at the show it would be a constantly moving presentation. I also wanted people to be able to experience the interactive article at a larger scale, so I brought a desktop computer and a laptop which opened to the website.
I think the biggest challenge of having a web-based project is that it takes time and investment to really explore it, and in a context where there are a lot of distractions it is hard to get people to sit down and experience a screen. However, the projections caught people’s attention and communicated the essence of what I was trying to say.