With big data comes big responsibility; this is the central theme of SVA’s MFA in Products of Design’s sixth annual showcase at Wanted Design, a part of NYCxDesign 2018. The timely exhibition exposes the data mining process used by large tech companies to create highly targeted advertisements and influence user behavior.
A penny for your thoughts, but your data is free.
The students have created The Datalogue, a four-part stationary machine which emulates the systems and unmasks the consequences behind data collection. Though data mining is an invisible procedure that occurs through countless digital channels, the exhibition transforms it into a visible, tangible process.
The Datalogue aggregates participants’ data points through a series of four tactile interaction stations. At each station, guests are prompted to answer seemingly innocuous questions. Each of their answers is marked on a card that they receive upon entering the exhibit.
After the guest completes the final interaction, it is revealed that each of their “arbitrary” responses translates into a surprisingly accurate assessment about their personality—such as level of extraversion or conscientiousness. The four categories and choice architecture for answers was drawn directly from this PNAS scientific paper. In the paper, Kosinki et al (2015) detail the significance of “liking” specific Facebook pages and correlation with an individual’s personality traits what it can disclose about an individual’s personality.
The Hamster Wheel
Visually enticing and engaging, the Hamster Wheel entices guests into the exhibition with its carnival-like nature. Once a participant steps into the wheel, they are prompted with the question “Whom do you admire?” and given four choices: Indiana Jones, Mother Teresa, Marie Curie or Steve Jobs.
Participants select their answer with a full-body interaction: walking in the wheel until they reach their final response. They discover that the real meaning behind their answer is a correlation to their level of satisfaction with life.
At the next station, participants are asked, “Which of the following individuals would you want to interview?” Again, they are given four choices: Police Commissioner, Emergency Physician, Serial Killer, and Wes Anderson.
They are instructed to maneuver a mechanical claw in order to choose the next input on their card. Their final answer corresponds to their level of conscientiousness, whether they are spontaneous or well-organized.
The Crank looks to the future; participants make a choice about a new career, once their job is fully automated by robots. The moving multi-gear form of this interaction is inspired by a similar question that was top of mind during the First and Second Industrial Revolutions. The individual’s response determines their level of extraversion.
In the fourth and final interaction, guests are asked about the contents of their search history. Their final response illuminates whether the relationship status of the participant. When they have make their selection, they ring a bell, signifying the completion of their “personality test.”
The Final Reveal and Book
Unbeknownst to participants, each of their responses contributes to the development of an intimate psychographic profile on themselves. In their final station, guests are given a summary of their profile that includes specific personality traits, along with a product selection.
Product selections were created from robust research on the the design studio’s brand values and mission statements, as well as the product’s form and function. Additionally, specific characteristics were extrapolated from each product to correlate them with 1 of 16 possible psychographic profiles.
Visitors leave with an increased understanding about the collection of data, consequences of big data, and the building of targeted advertisements that are used to influence user behavior.