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Envisioning the Invisible:
Decoding Data Capitalism

A speculative design for an XR headset that provides an alternative to today’s economy of surveillance capitalism by giving users control over personal data commodification.

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PROJECT TYPE

Academic (UC Berkeley)

TIMELINE

4 Weeks (November 2022)

TEAM

Kabeer, Tomas, YY, Yue, Zixun

MY ROLE

Ideation, Research, Interaction Design, Prototyping

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Envisioning the Invisible:
Decoding Data Capitalism

PROJECT TYPE

Speculative Design - Academics (UC Berkeley)

TEAM

Kabeer, Tomas, YY, Yue, Zixun

MY ROLE

Ideation, Research, Interaction Design, Prototyping

TIMELINE

4 weeks (Nov - Dec 2022)

Speculative 
Narrative.

Over the course of the last decade, XR has become an inseparable part of life. Digital eyes into our lives, we see everything they see. What we don’t see is what’s happening behind the scenes with memories and moments. The companies that have created these platforms are using customer data as raw material in the creation of data empires.

Our devices – smartphones, wearables, and headsets – have ushered in an era of surveillance capitalism. While user data powers these billion-dollar economies, the user is cut out of the profit, until now.

Narrative
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Prompt.

How might we enable people to reclaim ownership of their personal information and provide an alternative business model to surveillance capitalism?

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Introducing EYE-D

A speculative design for an XR headset that provides an alternative to today’s economy of surveillance capitalism by giving users control over personal data commodification.

Design
Process.

DISCOVER

problems

DEFINE

problems to solve

RESEARCH

problems and users

PROTOTYPE

feasible

solutions

DESIGN

solutions into product

Brainstorming.

We kickstarted the process by individually answering the question, “How might we reimagine the future of _____________”. We started a 10-minute sketching exercise to pen down 100 possible ideas and “How might we” statements.

Synthesizing all our ideas and the secondary research together, we found a common thread.

 

We decided to Reimagine the future of Privacy.

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Problem Statement.

How might we make people aware of the personal information that they’re sharing and enable them to reclaim anonymity?

Synthesis & Sketching.

Having all sorts of ideas on the board, the team voted to choose the top 3 ideas. Based on that, we created one-page explanations for a session of general feedback and critique.

Research.

As part of our user interviews, we attempted to capture a wide variety of subjects on both sides of the privacy relationship – those who are surveilling and those who are being surveilled.

We found that many people worry about their privacy without realizing the extent to which their privacy is already accessible to others. So we started to build possible solutions on how might we make people aware of potential privacy leak?

Ideation Maping.

Prototyping.

We aimed for solutions that can block our identity to protect our privacy. In this process, we explored different materials or other tech tools to fool surveillance algorithms like face detection.

At the same time, we designed an algorithm to help detect the face key points like the nose tip in order to fool this software and find what visual encumbrances it might be able to overcome. We went through a variety of material tests, testing tangible materials, like accessories, jewelry, and hairstyles, and intangible materials – like light, steam, and projection.

Concept Design.

We designed physical prototypes that could be used as anti-surveillance devices. We planned on detecting the surveillance camera using a necklace camera. When the camera has been detected, an IR wearable headgear will emit a light on your face that will prevent the camera from capturing your face. In addition to the IR wearable, having materials like a muslin mask or abstract jewelry can also hoodwink the surveillance cameras.

Without IR Wearable headset

With IR Wearable headset

User
Testing.

We conducted user research and tests with more users. As we dug deeper into our user interviews, research, and ideating, we found some important commonalities across our interviews. All of the users had an awareness of the surveillance mechanisms targeting them, and a desire to do something about that surveillance, but a reticence to going out of their way. They wanted us to find a way to disrupt the cameras that were surveilling them, the systems processing the video footage, and the markets buying and selling their data.

“We live in a time of surveillance capitalism, where our information is being traded and sold for purposes that don’t benefit us.”

“I think any privacy-driven solution would have to be a fairly low barrier to entry for me to consider it. I would also want flexibility about how I could wear it.”

“[The general public] should generally understand that they give consent to video surveillance when they are walking on the street where privacy isn't expected.”

Synthesis.

We focussed on the synthesis of these insights, pairing user feedback with literature review and research. The pairing of these elements illuminated that the problems that we were targeting were larger than the solutions that we were offering. Some of the most respected heads of academia, industry, and popular culture are flagging the danger of the surveillance-driven economy that powers so many monumental platforms that we rely on. User interests highlight a major opportunity to rethink how people interact with their own data, with the systems that collect it, and with the companies that exploit it.


We went back to the drawing board, and with a new round of brainstorming. We found the solution to the concerns of our users and many others in an unanticipated speculative solution.

Redefining the Problem.

Revisiting our user interviews, research, and our objectives in reimagining the future of surveillance, we arrived at a new idea.

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Old Problem Statement

How might we make people aware of the personal information that they’re sharing and enable them to reclaim anonymity?

Redefined Problem Statement

How might we enable people to reclaim ownership of their personal information and provide an alternative business model to surveillance capitalism?

Inspiration & Moodboard

The answer was always right in front of our faces! We decided to use glasses as our medium and to collect which means headsets to see through the world.


Keywords: Institutional/Futuristic/Hacker-feeling/Empathetic/Revolutionary

Surveillance Capitalism [is] the unilateral claiming of the private human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data. These data are then computed and packaged as prediction products and sold into behavioral futures markets — business customers with a commercial interest in knowing what we will do now, soon, and later.

- Definition of Surveillance Capitalism, as defined by Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff.

Final 
Solution.

We designed a speculative solution aimed at fighting surveillance capitalism by providing users with control of their data. We will collect the behavioral data of users through the XR headset. This data will be used as prediction products and sold to behavioral futures markets. The users would have interests and rights to know how their data going to be used now, soon, and later.

User
Journey.

Deliverables.

We divided the project into 2 parts:


1. Designing an XR headset that collects data from a user
2. An interface that allows the users to sell or discard their data

Part 1 : Sensors

Prototype

For the speculative XR headset, we introduced a bunch of sensors that will capture the user data.

  • Live video with object detection

  • Eye tracking

  • Location

  • Heart Rate

  • Body Temperature

  • Step Counter

  • Outside Temperature

  • Relative humidity

  • Sound levels

Part 2: Hardware Form

Next, we began by sketching the basic form of the XR headset.

Prototype.

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Version 1

This was our first

version of our

EYE·D headset.

We tried to put

cameras on it and

sensors on the

sides. 

 

However, the design was complicated and took us a lot of time to 3D print

Version 2

The second iteration printed faster and worked well with cameras on it. But it was not ergonomic enough for people to wear it.

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Final Form

For this version, we prototyped a XR headset that is functional and aesthetically pleasing - something we might see in the year 2035.

This was later fabricated in a 3D printer. For the lens, we used a laser cutter to cut acrylic and bend it using heat gun.

Part 3: Visual Design

Wireframes

We sketched multiple screens that would define the interaction between the user and the XR headset. The first screen is the interface as seen by the user in the headset.

Part 3: Visual Design

Final
Interfaces.

The final visual prototype for Screen 1 is the view as seen by the person wearing the headset. All their data points are captured in the headset, including the object detection.

Screen 1- The XR View

Screen 2- The Dashboard

Screen 2 is the dashboard that the user can interact with in order to sell or discard their collected data. They can also view the transactions and bank account details. Moreover, it is connected to their calendar to provide them with a highlight of the upcoming tasks.

Part 3: Visual Design

The XR view as seen by the user

XR View

Functionality Video.

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