D4TC - An Algorithmic Democracy


Social Media, what is it really? It evolved from the confines of a rough chat tool between servers back when ARPANET was still in production and the World Wide Web was still under development by Tim Berners Lee. It was a dream back then to communicate, to create a social circle digitally where individuals can connect around the world. It started with Chats, AOL, Friendster, MySpace the wave of Internet 1.0 and 2.0. Then came the real time Twitter and Facebook, where walls and tweets dominate us all.

At the time in the early days, advertising was alway done by random based on whoever payed on your website, but today advertising and what we see are based on calculations from views, likes and interactions in the digital space. This algorithm basically controls what we see and limits the freedom we have to a set of choices that we’re comfortable with. This today is what we call the bubble in Facebook, where the information we see, the ads that we see and the posts are all based on these interactions plus the reliability of these content becomes muddled because of the level of quality and detail of the information which confuses an audience even more.

I have had my own personal experience with this, creating detailed content for purposes in manipulating the early algorithm of social media. One of my startups in 2008 was the Creative Team and back then I was so hell bent about quality because if it looks good, people would believe it's legit and trust the source. This was especially true in the internet, back when everyone else was publishing mediocre designed content. So if a group posted really well designed outputs then everyone would consider it legitimate.

Stanford University recently published a research stating that middle schoolers and students of various institutions today could not distinguish real news and fake news due to certain factors such as quality of images, videos and the words "A CEO said" or "According to most people". This is rather alarming and brings me back to a point of reflection.

Going back to 2008 where as one of the founders I was focused on outputs to feel and sound "legit" for it to be legit. Because people online judge by cover and appearance and headline. If the outputs seem like they're official then subconsciously they would follow it because it would seem official. (surprise: it worked, look at all the followers and interactions and culture references to the team)

It was only by 2011 when other creative teams started arriving and producing content of quality where I began to realize how the influence of creating output in a "certain quality" influences it's membership and reach greatly. At the time it seemed really fine because the quality was only isolated to teams and equipment was still expensive.

Moving on what I didn't account for by 2014 was when this quality production originally made by teams was capable down to an individual level, where anyone can now produce the same detail of quality and pretend to be a large organization by following the rules and using a wider skill set.

I first thought it was good that each and everyone would have the power to create better content and less comic sans. But what I didn't realize is because these individuals were empowered with detailed content creation, they could easily produce things that would create the fake news and real news.

I should have seen this coming by ADDU memes and ADDU confessions. That an age of individual empowerment to create content and their own plans would influence and shape a large group of people and would later have detrimental issues to society once something bigger comes along.

Perhaps I should have read more into McLuhan on Medium is the Message for only now have I realized the "What have I done" moment. and the moment of "What can I do to fix this" is now here.

I guess my experience with media and mass communications has been rather fascinating both as a producer and a consumer.

If any one ever reaches this part, my undergrad was never communications nor arts yet that's what my career has been on for years since 2001. I took computer science because I knew one day it was going to be the medium of the message. Now I just need to look a little further for the answers to the "What can I do to fix his."

How as a designer to fix this algorithmic democracy we’re all in.