social media pop-up
how might we design an experience that exposes what goes into staging the picture perfect instagram post?
this speculative pop-up proposal is a physical experience optimized for social media. it examines the phenomena where creating content (taking images and videos to share on your online profile) is becoming a substitute for authentic experiences (living in the moment, for the moment). the growing fidelity of and reliance on our virtual identities is followed by a trend where physical experiences and spaces are being designed and used for virtual dissemination.
the project can be separated into three phases: 1) research into the psychology of self design and how we use the phone camera to re-present our lived realities; 2) precedent studies into emerging trends of how cultural, retail, and tourist attractions are appealing to social media users; 3) a design proposal that translates the research findings into a satirical pop-up experience hyper optimized for creating appealing social media content.
12 weeks / thesis / research, experience design, speculative spatial design
01_social media research
social media is a game of hyper curated images. through careful cropping, filters, and curation, we can use our posts and profiles to re-design ourselves into anyone, some times to the point where our online persona and real self don't match.
the research phase takes a deep dive into the "target user", to build empathy for the motivations, tools, and needs of the lifestyle influencer. through informal interviews, literature reviews, and a lot of instagram stalking (analysis), an understanding of the process behind building a post and profile was gained.
02_precedent and space research
having explored how an online persona is curated, the next step was to look at the spaces their personas exist in. of special interest was the pop-up instagram museum. i conducted observational research into these "artistic experiences", and discovered that while the location tagged pics looked nice, the actual experience felt like walking through a series of cheap stage sets in a warehouse. each set has "art", with one specific photo moment made to be photographed with a subject (person). only what was in the "picture moment" needed to look good - outside of that, there were exposed construction materials, unfinished walls and ceilings, and generally a back of house feel.
60 hudson, a monolithic data center and office building in tribeca was selected as the location for the speculative pop-up. the building is centrally located in a neighbourhood known for its influencers, has warehouse like floorplates available for rent, and is a global telecommunications hub, upon which social media networks depend on to work.
the pop-up occupies available for rent spaces across 12 floors in 60 hudson and gives lifestyle influencers a series of optimized stage-set like backdrops to generate content. think taking a bath in the penthouse of 432 park ave, candids at the mainstage of coachella, and dancing at the art basel afterparty. lighting, distances and angles are all precisely calculated based on ideal distances and fov of the iphone camera. simultaneously, curious observers are given an opportunity to watch the process unfold - able to spectate both physically, and when they open their feeds, digitally.
ultimately, for both the influencer and their audience, this pop-up is a satirical experience about and for social media, revealing the inconsistencies between our lived lives, and our self-designed online persona.
04_roles & responsibilities
this project was independently conceptualized, researched, and designed as a thesis while a student at cornell university, and was part of a body of work that was awarded the michael rapuano award for distinction in design.