The Social User Experience & Creativity


What the internet of the last decade has encouraged us to explore: How do we perceive the world around us? And how do we transform those sights & sounds into mediums/media that others, friends and strangers alike, will have the chance to experience to some degree?

If social networking has taught our civilization anything, it’s that we enjoy peering at and through the lens of others. But has that lesson come at too heavy a price? The price of having our curiosity satisfied has come at the will of these big companies mediating our social connectivity, restricted not only by their rules but by their interfaces. And the trouble arrives when we realize how in-the-dark we’ve been about the [lack of] capabilities using these social interfaces.

In this post, I will explore this concept through some tidbits of what the PRCPTION Travel project has been up to in the past few weeks. But first, I’d like your input!

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Social Hierarchies: “See, Like, Share, Repeat”

When the omniscient algorithms of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc are the gatekeepers of content exposure, the ones deeming what is worthy of broadcast to the world, then we’re no longer creating content for the sake of creating; we’re creating to satisfy someone else’s rules. And more often than not, it’s so engrained that we’re unaware of those restrictions. We must distribute our content which is formatted to others’ specifications and the subject matter is culturally appropriated. Otherwise, the content is either not accepted by the network or the user is warned or banned.

In this digital world we know today, not only is our consumed media thus tailored to fit an agenda propagating the same old control & power hierarchies, but it fails to take into account the other side of the equation: humans also like creating new perspectives for others. As biological machines of creation, we inherently thrive in the act of creating (shout out to the upcoming book, The Creativity Conundrum, from our partner Creativity Advocacy).

So what happened to the act of creating? Where did it go?

Artists have always had it tough in our society, but for the average person it feels like the act of creating has turned into a game of hashtags and content that pleases the social guidelines of the relevant culture. The act of having fun with a video, in my case, gets buried by the desire for exposure–which equates to following others’ restrictions for format & content.

For years now has the process of creating for the sake of creating been drowned out and saturated by the ego stimulation of likes, follows, and shares. It has the semblance of a metric, something to quantify how many people have interacted with your content… but where does that take us, the users, in the end?

Rather than dwell on the problem, let’s shift our focus to transformation and change. How do we grow from this?

User Experience Reflects Intention

I like to consider the User Experience (UX) of an app to be the primary indication of what an app is for (the medium is the message, after all). For example, Snapchat includes lots of swiping through screens–even when you’re not creating content, you’re swiping through others’ content. Instagram has taken on similar features but its primary browsing mechanism is hashtags–you don’t even need to compose a search in order to be recommended content that the application believes you’d enjoy. Meanwhile the Facebook feed, for me anyway, was predominantly about scrolling. Kind of meaningless boredom, with the occasional tap or swipe, but more or less like clicking through the channels on a television remote.

Each of these interfaces are designed with a certain attitude in mind to encourage/dictate of its users. Snapchat wants users to be constantly on-the-run, snapping, viewing, and in the end turning to the app whenever the user needs a ‘hit’ in life. As with Instagram, longer-term focus is not encouraged. Meanwhile, Facebook wants users to spend as much time as possible on that screen, to scroll through as many sponsored posts, ads, discussions, and fake news bits as possible.

And as a creator, in return for using these networks your user experience is interaction with the people that are interested in your content. But what are unformatted textual comments really worth in the age of trolls & bot-nets?

Multiple Lenses For One Platform of Intention

PRCPTION Travel is working on software that will reflect its own intention: to enable people to come together to communicate, collaborate, and co-create without the threat of censorship. This task has been, to say the least, a tough one–because this intention can manifest in endless ways. The true challenge (beyond organizing the vision, funding, and development) is to engage users to fulfill the platform’s intention without any second thought.

Contrary to typical social networks today, we want to allow the user experience no space for wasteful energy. We want to allow interactions that can take place in a variety of realms, in many formats, that can either be chosen by a user or creator for specific posts or by the selection of the app itself. The app itself is just a lens of the platform’s intention, and there is never a threat of too many perspectives in this world. An infinite array of apps could theoretically be available to support a user experience of collaborative creativity, a user experience that even supports the creation of new apps for the same platform!

(this is where I ask you, if you feel so inclined or inspired, to get in touch via the form on the Community & Partnerships page)

User Experience = A Designer’s Experience

This last few weeks I’ve been working with our newest developer to enable sign-ups and logins on the platform. From here on, we’ll have a solid database for flexible development to happen upon by an infinite number of co-creative applications. (Think art games, music jams, or live photo montages.) The main questions I’ve been asking myself as we move forward yet again begin to err on the spiritual side of things:

How do people want to play creatively?

How can users be creatively vulnerable within a social application?

How are we connecting together through this software?

I’m just still trying to figure out how. Our little design troop has created some brilliant prototypes this last month, and I’m very eager to share the fruits reaped from it in due time. If you have some bits of insight or ideas to contribute, by all means are they welcome.

If you’re interested in having a glance at the beta of the social platform, please let me know in a response to this e-mail or using any contact form on the the PRCPTION Travel site.

Thanks for your support everyone, I look forward to connecting with you soon.