Narrowing Down the Ideas
Last week I left off with three concept sketches to explore my research question:
I want to better understand how we define our virtual sense of “self” versus how our collected virtual data defines us, in order to make users more aware of what digital data they are consciously and unconsciously providing through their online/app behavior, how sites/apps encourage its collection and what consequences this can have for their virtual identity if the collector has bad intentions.
I decided that the semiotics that fascinated me the most in this area were those around mirrors, shadows, reflections. To me, these framing devices have been used throughout history as metaphorical representations of our inner nature. Mirrors especially are interesting devices that explore identities, inside vs. outside, true vs. false, and as such, can be extended to real vs. virtual.
In many ways, our virtual identity is a manifestation of our inner desires. We have a degree of self-selection when it comes to what we consciously share online, how we choose our reflection to be, however there is another layer that is collected based on our actual behavior (our true reflection).
Interesting Note: In economics, you always want to collect behavioral data vs. self-reported data. In fact, the more personal information you have about your clients in economics, the better you can shape prices to reflect their limits/interests. One goal is to charge each person exactly how much they would want to pay for something. This is actually the basis for how monopolies work… Sound familiar?
So I developed a series of three role prototypes that represent ideas around “looking at our device behavior as reflections of our digital identities”, and more literally, “our device as a mirror.”
I want to critically examine ideas around how current data-collection techniques used by websites/apps manipulate us to provide information and push related content or force us to pay a cost – literally through in-app purchases – or by a lack of convenience when opting out.
This occurred to me after trying to use Ghostery to block my data-tracking and realizing that half my websites and social media profiles no longer worked correctly. Without allowing my data to be collected, I paid the price in convenience.
Some questions I want to explore are:
- How our own data represents us (such as our Twitter feed)
- What type of data we consciously and unconsciously provide
- How we choose to provide data so as not to impede convenience, even though we know the price
- How websites/games/apps use behavioral psychology to entice us to provide data
Foggy Mirror App
After demoing my prototypes in class, I picked one of the three that I was most interested in to continue prototyping. For now, the working title is called “Foggy Mirror App”.
As described earlier, I did a quick role prototype which seeks to answer the question “how will this app function in a user’s life?”
Since this is a critical design piece, this essential question is harder to answer. However I realized that I can reframe that question to be, in a hypothetical future, given the way we are going with connected accounts and data collection, how could something as simple as a mirror app be distorted to collect data and gain revenue for ad partners?
Role Prototype & Screenshots
This is a very simple screenshot prototype to get an idea of how people interact with the app in terms of understanding its role and conventions. What did they think it is, and how did they think they should use it?
Prototype Feedback and Next Steps
The biggest feedback I got from my user testing in class and beyond was:
- If it is a mirror app, don’t make it look like a game. You can use aspects of “gamification” and/or behavioral psych methods used in games typically, but don’t make the interface look like a game if it isn’t one.
- It needs to be more outrageous. It isn’t connecting strongly enough what the consequence of giving al your data to be able to use this app is.
- It was suggested that I add a component to make people get through Terms & Conditions that start normal and become increasingly predatory at the bottom (the part no one reads).
- Also suggested was that I take the data collected and actually go ahead and sell it after a certain amount of time is spent on the app. Some students suggested I create a fake eBay post, others that I threaten to send some of the more personal questions answers to social media/friends/family if not paid within a certain time.
Next Steps for Prototype 2
- Storyboard out all of the screens and how they will link together to get a better idea of what will be necessary and how it will flow.
- Create a look and feel prototype that shows basic interactions so that users can get an idea of how navigating through the app would feel.
- After next prototype round, start building out one screen at a time using code, prioritizing the apps key features, and faking anything extraneous to start