Public and Private


This project focuses on the limits between private and public spaces online through the generation of a single serving website.

The Internet is filled with contradictions. It a space where people strive for anonymity, but also for transparency, visibility, and self-promotion. Zooming out from specific UI elements and platforms, we will now take a look to users and social interactions online.

Digital products are often designed to target individuals, but our behaviour is analysed as patterns within groups. Our decisions online both inform personalized experiences, but also contribute data to consolidate perceived communities. Predictive algorithms and digital infrastructures are increasingly modifying the relationship between our identities as individuals and as users of social spaces.

The lack of regulations around digital privacy has nurtured a complex landscape of abuses and manipulation. Algorithmic surveillance is not exclusive to national security and the NSA, but present in all forms of digital engagement. Regardless of your personal stance towards your privacy, it is fundamental to become aware of the information that is collected—most times without your knowing—by third parties while you use the Internet. Both as citizens and consumers it’s important to understand how this information is used, analysed, sold, and fed back to you in the form of targeted interactions.

Using your own data as a source, you will investigate and promote digital obfuscation strategies. We will reflect on how design is contributing to the consolidation of social and attention economies and on the influence that online spaces have in who we are offline.


Learning Outcomes







Step 1

As a starting point for your investigation, select one topic/strategy from this list (taken from the Privacy Paradox Tip Sheet). Examples include create strong, unique passwords, turn on two-factor authorization, take the Tor browser for a test drive, etc.

Then, in an in-class exercise with your classmates, collect personal, and public, data around your selected topic. For instance, if you choose privacy settings on Chrome, you may collect your browser history for this month. Or if you promote downloading the encrypted messaging app Signal, you'd collect your text messages from the past week. Think critically around what permissions your applications are allowed, and what data they have access to as a result.

Present your topic and data to the class in an informal 5 min presentation/discussion (it’s ok to be non-specific when showing your data).

Due Weds Apr 12


Step 2

Using what you learn in step 1 and your personal data as source material, design a proposal for single serving website about privacy. A single serving website is typically defined as a website with one page, one url, and one focused function: You can make your site about the specific topic you selected in Step 1 or another topic related to privacy.

For instance, you could explain how to construct complex and secure passwords using your own passwords as examples (you’d probably want to change your passwords after this…), or tell people how to restrict location monitoring by apps using your own location data. As you create your proposal, keep in mind how the single serving site format privileges certain communication styles, and how using Javascript which enables variability and increased interaction can benefit your project.

Your proposal can be straightforward with a clear point of view and present information advocating for a strategy to ensure privacy. It can also be more poetic and ambiguous: and act as an open ended meditation on privacy and transparency online. Create your design in a graphics software and be prepared to share it with the class.

Due Mon Apr 17


Step 3

Now take your proposal and apply a layer of obfuscation to it. How can you communicate the tensions between your site being public but presenting private data? What graphic forms and UI interactions express notions of transparency? Perhaps you hide and show information by resizing the browser window and media queries. Or embed messages in your source code to be found via the Developer Console. Essentially, design an interaction that encrypts your content in your website and create a “key” to then decrypt that information.

Your encryption and decryption methods are just as important as your website’s distribution methods. Think about how would you then distribute the key. Be purposeful in who can have access to the unfiltered messages?

We’ll be working with Javascript and jQuery, so you can bring in events like scrolling, dragging, typing, and shaking into your websites. As well as notions of randomization.

The final website should use HTML/CSS/JS and be a single "page".

Due Mon May 1




References (Projects on Privacy)


References (Single Serve Site Projects)