MS1 Final Project | Checking In & Design Values Checklist

Last week I created a 3rd prototype for “Steamy Selfie” that attempted to combine some issues and questions I have been having about communicating my concept through my final design.

I demoed this prototype the MFADT play-test day, and a slightly refined version – based on feedback – to our Major Studio 1 class.

The latest iteration of “Steamy Selfie” previously “Foggy Mirror” is a selfie app that allows users to take a photo of themselves and draw on a foggy overlay to decorate the image. In order to keep drawing on the “steamy mirror” of their own reflection, users must unlock “defogger” by answering very innocuous questions about their preferences and demographics.

I received a lot of positive feedback about this idea from Monday’s playtesting and subsequent conversations with members of my Major Studio 1 class. I also received a lot of critical feedback, mostly concerned with how I am communicating my idea through the design.

Good Feedback

  • People like the idea of “sharing more than you realize” represented by the selling of the users data at the conclusion of editing the image to eBay – as represented in the last prototype
  • People liked the interactive prototype I created in Keynote and were impressed by the transitions and format.
  • People liked the overall idea I am trying to convey, that when it comes  to user-generated content, privacy is the price for convenience and connectedness.

Critical Feedback

  • The app should do more to educate the target demographic about how/why/when/where their data is being collected, shared, and what the consequences are for ones online and real-life experience and identity
  • There needs to be more incentive to use the application beyond the first time. Simply defogging a mirror, or drawing on a steamy mirror is only fun once. People will just use it once. People want more control and flexibility over what they are making, especially with added layer of having to answer questions to keep using the app.
  • The terms and conditions at the beginning of the app might not be the place to have them, check other iOS apps to see how they handle this.
  • The Defogger should be more of a universal currency throughout the app. Just unlocking swipes is boring. What about unlocking the brush you are using when swiping, the transparency level, the color etc.
  • You need to pay more attention to the app flow. Where does the users start, where do they move to.

Again, I felt like my idea overall was compelling to people and I was able to explain it to them well in my framing and presentation, however my design was not conveying this idea correctly.

Last week I moved away from the idea of the Foggy Mirror because the main interaction, however poetically perfect – in my mind – the idea of revealing information to actually keep revealing oneself in a digital mirror seemed, just wasn’t compelling enough.

In Thursdays class, we each had an opportunity to present what we thought of as our biggest challenge. I chose to ask about my big reveal. As a piece of critical design, my intention was to have the user operate the app for a bit, and only understand the consequences of their actions at some critical point in the app. Where should that point be? What should the reveal be that could convey the message I am trying to send?

After presenting my app updates and challenge, I got probably my hardest piece of feedback so far in this process.  Not hard because it was super critical, but hard because to me it felt like starting over, and abandoning one of the central ideas of my whole process – the mirror. I was told – quite correctly – that it seemed I was moving away from my original premise – a very simple utilitarian mirror app that is broken – to a drawing app that just happens to involve a steamy mirror. So why did I need to keep it a mirror app at all when it was turning into somewhat of a drawing app?  Ahhhhhhh!

I also got the suggestion that I was pretty much making a selfie app, my title was after all “Steamy Selfie” and that there were a lot of tropes I could research there to make my app stronger. Maybe my app could programmatically generate elements of user experience that changed when questions were answered – generated stickers, certain filters that appear b/c  of age/race/weight etc.

All excellent pieces of advice that really stuck a dagger into the heart of what has been bothering me about my delivery from the get-go. The core experience just wasn’t that engaging and my message wasn’t coming across clearly or elegantly.

Some Critical Self-Reflection on My App So Far – What Am I Trying to Say?!?!

My idea is strong and it comes from something that troubles me deeply. I’m bothered by the idea that our online identities, a complex mixture of what we project about ourselves through user-generated content juxtaposed with the networks we participate in and the data that is collected about us and fed back to us through a capitalist ad-driven loop – are being taken advantage of. We are fed talk about the democratizing power of the internet when our actions in fact run corporate platforms for free by sharing, rating, tagging, geotagging, and connecting everything we do together into a beautiful profile, ripe for manipulation.

I participate in this willingly and freely. I admit it. Because it’s convenient, and because the expectations of my social networks, peers, even my professors and education – to my chagrin – require me to participate. Other people are the same way. Yet this isn’t that old a phenomenon. I remember the internet when it wasn’t this way, when it seemed fresh and new. Maybe that was my naive interpretation of AOL 2.0, but I don’t remember having so much of my daily existence shaped by advertisements and suggestions based on my past behavior.

This is the tension I am trying to critique in my design. People already feel this tension deep down every day – see my featured image about current top fears in 2015. They are right to be critical, this phenomenon is only getting worse and worse, the more connected we become, the more connected our digital identities and existence become to our IRL existence. What we share and who we share it with already is coming to have a huge impact upon how we understand ourselves, but we don’t think about our other reflection, the reflection we present through our behavior and information. How does this reflection of ourselves look and who can see it and what they hell are they going to do with it!?!

This is what I want my app to represent, and this is what I’m having trouble conveying.

Go ahead, play away, share away, but recognize that you are generating value for someone with every click, swipe and share you make. Most of us are okay with that, but once you send out this information, it’s gone, out of your control. For now, this is relatively benign, being used for coupons and to optimize things on say YouTube or Pandora for your optimal user-experience. Yet what else can your information say about you, and who is buying it and using it? In the future, what does this mean about your digital identity and privacy? Could the government label you a radical, a communist, a threat based on your search history and the trail of geotagged selfies you leave behind you?

More importantly, how can I convey these consequences in a simple, intuitive way that leverages the tropes of today to extrapolate the potential consequences of tomorrow.

This is what I need to think about going into this vacation week as I reconceptualize, re-prototype, retest and refine this app. I am also going to do a lot of research on selfies, psychology concerning selfies, and the potential implications of user-generated content and information sharing. I also want to look into the tension I feel between the dominant discourse of value generation and the perpetuation of capitalist economies of scale dressed up in the shiny package of community, connectedness and sharing.

Design Values Checklist

Our homework this week was to produce our design values checklist for the project. I am posting this here now, although I think this will change this week after my last round of feedback. I also borrowed a self-evaluation form from my friend from another class which I feel I need to do at this stage in the game. More to come after Thanksgiving !


Image Credit 

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