i’m tanvi~

I’m a product designer based in New York.

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Digital Media Infrastructures


How might we critique the functionality of social media platforms, internet networks and chart their impact?

Initially, we started with putting whatever we had in mind related to ‘Media Literacy’ on the board as post-its. We then organised them into groups and I tried to identify the crux of each group (stroke-outlined). We also realised we have roughly two categories of subjects, things that are affects, and their causes. We later relabelled ‘Media Literacy’ to Digital Infrastructures. The new term clarifies out scope more accurately. 

In this process, we discussed how Media can be defined, whether it is strictly digital or includes newspapers, magazines and other physical forms. 


Do you identify with content you see on the platform?


1. We initially free associated all our question in ‘zoom chat’ as a group. We finalised our questions by sorting them into categories and then ‘voting’ on one question that interests us the most.

Once we had finalised our questions, each group (2 people) took up one category.

The team of two then decided on a methodology for their area and discussed it with the larger group. Some of us even interviewed each other in practise! Our queries and methodology evolved a lot with these test runs.
2. We then went into our particular groups and supplemented them with more queries.
  • What does your social media feed represent about yourself in general?
  • Do you interact with your followers?
  • Do you have a sense of digital community?
  • Do you feel like you see certain 'types' of people on your feed?
  • Do you feel like you share a community?
  • Do you think there is a divide in what is aprorpriate for you to share to be in certain groups?


Why do you think your social media looks the way it does?

Why do you think the algo tries to push this consolidation of people to you?

Why is this your preferred platform for social engagement and does it fit your needs?

Why do creators and users on this platform have so little agency?

Why have users creators not done anything about this already?

****1. Are people seeing content from people in their area / race/ gender / other kinds of communities?
  1. Does this platform play an important role in strengthening (or weakening) people’s belief?

Follow up questions:
  • What are the frequent types of feed you see on this platform?
  • What types of feed do you wish to see more on this platform?

To fully contend with our hypothesis for this research, I loosely formulated our assumptions.

People either only see contents from an echo chamber — people who think like them talk like them look like them — what does this do to our perception of our social and digital community? does it entrench class divides? do you people think the internet treats everyone similarly?

Q: have you heard of the MIT project that shows you a different users feed instead of your own? would you want to see something not curated for you and your interests?

How are digital social experiences governed?


I used The Board of Innovation cards to analyse social platforms as they exist — not as a coming together of the proletariat but a strategically enforced fog that muddies all other signifiers of hegemony. [3] I looked at loosely three categories: geopolitics, labor, and ethics. There was a lot of overlap but I tried to take my commentary under these 3 notions forward and make a prototype. The technique was quite useful as it allowed me to flesh out my thoughts and approach the problem from
different areas (economics, technical, labor and policy.) 

I wanted to further be able to point to what exactly are the elements that create distruptions that I want to address. I tried to find examples of expereinces that I seek to address.

In my analysis I realised most social sites are looking to algorithmic policing and governance, in order to:
1. enhance the working of their business model
2. discipline technocratically — because the internet is an international space,
social sites have their own internal policy and that of the country that they are based in to abide by.

However, international governments are able to coerce or solicict certain behavior from the social sites in order to preserve the ideology of the state in interest of appearances of soverignty.

Social networks such as Instagram also do not have the capacity to parse through text when it’s rasterised and in a language other than English. Taking advantage of a platform without consequences, right-wing platforms encouraged their followers to shoot protestors at sight. Eurocentric, platforms are not built for information to be globally relevant.

Within the native environment of WhatsApp, the aesthetic choices promote a philosophy of homogeneity, betraying nothing about the original authorship of the text or its source. In the absence of the spectrum of ideology being highlighted with any hierarchy, everything appears neutral. Information that is circulated ends up further radicalising people towards fascism in the guise of building community with those who are familiar to us. The echo chamber is never disturbed.

The active agency of the receiver of the message is compromised in this situation, you have no choice
but to receive information. With no way of tracking who has received the forwarded or initially posted information, sending corrective and follow up information and making sure it reaches all the original recipients is nearly impossible.

To tie our Primary Resseach to the Secondary research, I researched what specific projects and research has addressed our focused inquiry. This also gave us a little bit of insight into what our final solution could look like.


Creating agency for users

1. After perusing through the We quickly realised there are multiple ways to achieve our desired goal.
We grouped the ‘pain points’ we observed in our interviews together by genre and realised nearly all of them have a common threat — the user is rendered helpless.

2. Keeping that in mind, we tried to sum up the different observations into a user persona. We decided to go with the Individual Content Creator as its a happy middle between the fiscally engagemed user and a more passive person.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

We categorised potential approaches in decreasing order of the epistemic entanglement with the existing platform:

  1. [Speculative Product]
  2. [Widget Intervention]
  3. [Educational]

This approach was my prefered way to go, as it offers the advantages of starting from a ‘clean slate’, without having to wrestle with what Instagram would realistically permit us to do. That said, after some thought I realised there are other factors that feed into which path we adopt. I tried to imagine a new metaphor for each of the paths to see them with different perspective.

  • Easy way to encourage people to imagine the options they could have
  • Concept can be designed as a pitch to what an ‘ideal IG would do’

  • Logistical nightmare, How would we get get the widget to work on Instagram? Maybe easier with something like Twitter? Is Instagram Web our target here or the mobile experience?  


  • A good fit considering time constraints
  • Might be easy to do a micro scale intervention and collect more data, do more user interviews to understand the landscape more fully. 

  • Its been done in different capacities before, We could observe how it has succeeded or failed.
  • Minimum infrastructural resistance, mostly internal. Easy to ‘shadow ban’. We’ll run into the same hurdles we are trying to address re: reach, audience etc. 


Distilling a multifaceted problem

In our initial stages, we charted out the problems we wished to address. We quickly realised that there are two distinct requirements for the Individual Content Creator:
1. a need for art, a conceptual gap that needs to be bridged & engineered
2. tools that address it.

we decided to distribute the work and compile them in the format of a web based product/platform, comrade.


1. [Awareness/ Support Access] Illustrate:

initial notes
Demonstrate the behind the scenes of how certain aspects of the feed work and what drives them algorithmically

eg Awareness (users want to be aware of their options; re: privacy: content moderation)

This could be Interactive too! Twine, figma Asking questions? Images? Data?
We wanted to make space to tackle the non service side of the experience, that mainly serves to educate by giving the people something to chew on and a touch point to imagine a different networked experience.

Some projects we considered that do this include:


2. [Service / UX]

initial notes
Change in the priorities of the existing platform (e-commerce, attention, data collection), algorithms are not self serving but focused on building a public space where users have agency, a different approach. Same UI? Widget that shuffles things up to give users more agency. eg: users can readily provide feedback and are a part of the building/implementations of new features.

We made a feature list and picked three things to focus on. Then, we tried to find analogues in the current digital infrastructure and imagined how we can expand them to our application.

  • open source building features: "issues" pull requests → too many ads → i wish i could easily repost things instead of screenshoting → link to website 10k followers gatekeeping
    → moderation
bite sized updates on changes in platform policies that affect user behavior etc (labelling, alerts, publishing??) eg. spotify wrapped but for algo-ethics
in built functionality (shuffle button / reset etc.) that encourage different povs on the feed → so you see different content, chronologically instead of algorithm based, organically widening interests

I branded comrade to be fairly straight forward in it’s design. The primary deecision I made was about it’s architecture. The website is decided into two tracks, that inform each other by juxtraposing each others content, and are a part of the same whole. Conceptually, it is an effort to show the figurative ‘back-end & ‘front-end’ of a website hand in hand. theory + praxis. 

Thanks for watching!

Reach out to chat:  
︎ chronictanvi@gmail.com

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