Information Flow


Overview

In project 1 we focused on specific UI elements. In project 2 we’ll zoom out to look at these elements in tandem and how in combinations they create platforms.

This project analyzes how information flows across different platforms online: how it is accessed and distributed, and how these factors shape information’s meaning as a result.

While the internet once symbolized the free flow of information – with limited materials anyone could publish and access diverse points of view through their own channels – increasingly our online communications are being funnelled through private platforms.

In turn these platforms drive design, with the emergence of templates, style guides, interactive best standards and the like – as a result the traditional signifiers afforded through graphic design lose their relevance. For instance it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish the legitimacy of a news source once it is funnelled through Facebook’s infrastructure and presented in your newsfeed then if you encountered it through the original source.

Design is inevitably a point of view. This enhances our freedom as creators, but also opens room to introduce subjective bias in our designs, to spread misinformation, and to reinforce cultural stereotypes. Especially within these larger platforms it’s worth analyzing our potential and limitations. How does the designer enact agency when so many aspects of the communication process is controlled?

We will think about the ethical responsibilities of web design around notions of authorship — challenging ideas of originality, stability, and completion. We will develop projects aiming to understand the constant flux of information as well as the formulation of knowledge as a collective process which is in a permanent transitory state.

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Learning Outcomes

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Requirements

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Reading

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Project

Step 1

Analyse the relationship between content and context — between digital information and online platforms. Notice how visual and textual content shifts as its moves through digital space. Compare how the same bit of information can be presented and received in different ways. Does content transforms in return its hosting platform?

Using chance as a strategy select bits of information and a series of platforms to investigate. Remove yourself from making content related decisions. Be neutral. Don’t be yet concerned by the specifics of the elements you’re working with, neither by their symbolic or metaphoric qualities.

Focus on technicalities. Your main interest here is to analyse the transformative nature of platforms. Try breaking their operation standards. Provoke concrete layout shifts by scaling your browser. Map all the elements in play. Systematically test as many platform transitions as you can. Copy/paste, post, and email. Airdrop. Work against the 140-characters count. Did you lose content? Where is there room for ambiguity?

In an in-class group exercise we will republish the 'content' you gathered over the weekend. Document the evolution of your groups content with screencaptures and recordings.

Collect at least 10 images showing interesting visuals and text results. Organize your images in a sequential manner on 11” x 17” color printouts and present your findings to the class.

Due Weds Feb 22

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Step 2

Focus on a single platform and analyze its constraints (you can choose from this list, or suggest your own). What is it capable and incapable of displaying? What typefaces, image dimensions, graphic elements does it impose on the ‘content’ it presents.

Identify your point of view around this platform. What are the repercussions of Facebook’s newsfeed sterilizing its contents? How do people tag their posts to garner more likes in Instagram? Does Mark Zuckerberg owning both platforms influence their logics? How is misinformation spread and how can it be combatted in these platforms?

Consider tracking how a message travels through your social graph, map the limits of your information bubble, create tactics for crafting messages that subvert your platform, test the image compression algorithms and figure out its resolution threshold?

Create a digital diagram that explains the logic and processes of the platform that you are interested in. Your diagram should be designed and coded for the primary device on which you engage with this platform (phone, tablet, desktop), and incorporate text, image and animation.

Due Weds March 8

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Step 3

Think about your project as a parasite that responds to its hosting infrastructure — a critical mirror to the platform and its users. Your project will live within another website. Can you develop a plugin for Facebook? A Chrome extension that transforms online searches logics? A set of graphics that break a social media platform? Can you embed the Google Maps API into your website and re-purpose it through customization?

Engage with the platform's norms of use. Reflect on its users and its policies. Misbehave...report and get reported. If you troll, be mindful. Be coherent with your criticisms and strategic with your actions. Be courageous, but exercise respect. Buy fake followers, edit content after it has been liked, obfuscate and confuse the platform.

Your project has to continue considering a specific device on which it is presented — be technically self aware. Use media queries in inventive ways: it could have hidden information that appears when resizing the window, exhibit differences when viewed on an iPhone vs. Android, detect and warn all Samsung Galaxy Note 7 users and so on.

Projects will take multiple forms through different means. Create a website that compiles and expresses your process and actions, and makes your work accessible for potential audiences. If you create a tool or piece of software (like an extension) your website should distribute it. If you come up with a series of images to be uploaded in other platforms, think about interesting ways to make them downloadable. If your work is an online performance, screen record it and host online in engaging ways. Critique will take place over the week of March 27.

Due Mon April 3

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Schedule

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References