VR Project: The Power of the Social Media Algorithm
In my ideation and prototyping graduate course, we were challenged to create a piece of technology that we can expect to see in about 40 years from now. My teammate and I explored the social media algorithm and how it changes what we see based on our searches, likes etc. It is becoming such a huge part of our online experience. We visioned a world where that leaves our screen and merges into our physical world. This seems probable because of how successful and popular this algorithm is becoming. In most types of social media platforms, there is no way to turn off this algorithm so we just accept it and continue browsing. It changes our views of the world and we become ignorant of other perspectives, but this ultimately makes us live happier lives. After all, ignorance is bliss.
To begin, we created a timeline to imagine how this algorithm would change over time.
How would it work?
Before beginning, we had to do some research to see how we can make a feasible prototype. At first, we thought to use glasses, but realized that glasses themselves might not be able to access what a person is reacting emotionally to the world around us.
Through research we found that:
"The primary visual cortex, often called V1, is a structure that is essential to the conscious processing of visual stimuli. Its importance to visual perception is underscored by cases where patients have experienced damage to V1; these patients generally experience disruptions in visual perception that can range from losing specific aspects of vision (e.g. depth perception) to complete loss of conscious awareness of visual stimuli."
From this research, we decided to have a chip installed in the lower back of the head that will affect what a human sees. It can then stretch to areas of the brain that can communicate emotions thus affecting a humans vision based on this database of emotions. The algorithm will live in this chip. Below is an image of a low-fi prototype to simulate the positioning of the chip.
Below is a video of a quick VR prototype I made using proto.io. It is meant to show how social media algorithms would work if they existed in our physical world
[The original, unedited image used in this video is not my own. Got it from google.]
My teammate and I wanted to show 2 very different perspectives to simulate how a person's vision would change based on what they want to see. We used the current political tension in the U.S. to represent this concept. It seems that the algorithm has aided in the separation of ideologies between the people.
The images below show the perspectives of two very different people, one having more conservative views and the other having more liberal views. It shows how someone would experience being in Times Square in New York City. The algorithm from the chip will select what they see in their everyday lives by replacing ads, images, signs, etc. to match what makes them happy.
Below are the static 360 images. The image at the top shows a more conservative view and the image at the bottom shows a more liberal view.
My teammate and I made a 360 video to show the 2 different perspectives. Below is an interactive preview of the 360 video prototype. The liberal view is on the left side of the starting view and the conservative view is on the right side. It simulates what someone would see as they look around the Times Square location.
Click and drag your mouse to explore the scene in the video.