Remix The Internet
Over the last decades the internet has grown into an essential part of modern life. As more and more of our lifestyle is mediated and experienced through the net, concerns and criticisms have surfaced on a myriad of topics. Issues concerning privacy, security, filter bubbles and echo chambers, radicalization, monopolization, disinformation, discrimination, harrassment and increased surveillance are just some of the challenges we are faced with today.
As a designer interested in working within online space in the future, I am motivated to pursue and understand these issues on a deeper level. With the diploma, I saw an opportunity to delve deeper and explore ways in which design can be used to address some of these topics. Seeing how these topics are large, complex and entangled, I wanted to take an approach that would prioritize research and experimentation.
Rather than designing something from the ground up, I’ve used existing websites, and the elements found within them, as the starting point for my exploration, using them as digital material to be modified, disassembled and reassembled into something fresh but familiar. This approach of proposing many small changes in the design of the internet is analogous to the process and outcome of remixing music to make new, alternative sounds.
To narrow down the scope, my diploma has explored two major themes: that of sustainability online and the attention economy.
The first theme deals with the inevitability of increased digitalization, where infrastructure of the internet is starting to have a substantial impact on the environment. Drawing from my research in the field of sustainable web design, I explored screen based low-energy approaches, primarily through colour and image compression, that are complementary to improving functionality and usability.
The second theme deals with the attention economy, which has manifested itself throughout many aspects of today’s internet. In this part I experimented with the social media platform Instagram to challenge current norms within interaction design. Using the example of the Instagram feed, I remixed the typical experience of looking at visual content online with the different ways we can experience visual media (on screen-based feeds, in museums, in FPS games). I wanted to ‘refresh’ the underlying assumptions we have about online experiences, and challenge the ideas of usability and efficiency through different lenses.
From researching and understanding these topics, despite surface impressions, the physical and virtual worlds are becoming increasingly complex and interwoven, whose needs extend beyond classical concerns in the design of use, function, and form. While my intention was to approach these topics individually, I realized they overlap and are hard to separate. This is a recurring challenge and is therefore highlighted in different parts of the diploma.
The result of this project is what you are reading now. Through my experiments I hope to offer some fresh perspectives to show how the topics of sustainability and attention economy are interlinked. Beyond its use in my internet-based project, from the role of a designer I also want to show how a “remix approach” that reassesses how we prioritize design criteria can be used to create new possibilities. The intended audience for this text is primarily interaction designers, but it will hopefully be of interest to designers in other disciplines.
The text is structured into two parts, one for each topic. Each part starts with a general overview with highlights from the background research, followed by the experiments I’ve conducted and my reflections on the outcomes. In the final chapter I will reflect on my process, research and insights throughout this project.