Imagining Alternative Social Media Designs
Taking inspiration from art, critical design, and media studies, this interactive workshop, facilitated by RSM Assembly Fellow Ben Grosser, will explore how everything from novel constraints to finite structures can help us break out of the profit-driven engagement-obsessed platform world we currently inhabit.
Despite promises to “bring the world closer together,” today’s big social platforms have, in many ways, torn us apart. Rather than centering deep communication and connection, their profit-motivated engagement-inducing designs have damaged mental health, privacy, and democracy, and emboldened authoritarianism, racism, and disinformation. But what if social media wasn’t engineered, first and foremost, to serve the corporate need for endless growth? How might online collective communication be different if our time and attention were treated as the limited and precious resources that they are? Where might society—and our planet—be if capitalism’s drive for more more more wasn’t the foundation underlying such essential human infrastructure?
Taking inspiration from art, critical design, and media studies, this session will explore how everything from novel constraints to finite structures can help us break out of the profit-driven engagement-obsessed platform world we currently inhabit. Rather than the algorithmic feeds, visible “like” counts, noisy notifications, and infinite scrolls we’ve grown accustomed to, attendees will imagine alternative, radical designs that enable new modes of online communication. Ideas from this guided session will be assembled into a Compendium of Alternative Social Platform Designs, a collection offered freely for anyone to draw inspiration from when building new platforms and experiences for the future of online sociality.
All attendees are asked to please make themselves available for the full duration of the workshop (3-6pm EST).
Artist Ben Grosser creates interactive experiences, machines, and systems that examine the cultural, social, and political effects of software. Recent exhibition venues include Somerset House in London, Centre Pompidou in Paris, SXSW in Austin, Museum of Modern Art in Moscow, Museu das Comunicações in Lisbon, Museum Kesselhaus in Berlin, Science Gallery in Dublin, Japan Media Arts Festival in Tokyo, and the Digital Arts Festival in Athens. His works have been featured in The New Yorker, Wired, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, PBS, Fast Company, BBC, The Telegraph, Le Monde, Corriere della Sera, Der Spiegel, El País, and Folha. The Guardian (UK), writing about his recent film ORDER OF MAGNITUDE, said “there will be few more telling artworks [from] the first decades of this century … a mesmerising monologue, the story of our times.” Speaking about his social media-focused projects, RTÉ (Ireland) described Grosser as an “antipreneur.” Slate referred to his work as “creative civil disobedience in the digital age.” Grosser’s artworks are regularly cited in books investigating the cultural effects of technology, including The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, The Metainterface, and Investigative Aesthetics, as well as volumes centered on computational art practices such as Electronic Literature, The New Aesthetic and Art, and Digital Art. Grosser is an associate professor of new media in the School of Art + Design and co-founder of the Critical Technology Studies Lab at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA.