Workshop 2: Desirable social media futures

In this blogpost series, we discuss our 3 participatory design workshops about social media. The first instalment of the series provides an overview of the workshops. The second instalment talks about workshop 1. In this third post in the series, we will tell you about workshop 2.  

While workshop 1 was mostly about the present of social media, workshop 2 jumped into the far future. We wanted to speculate freely about what social media could become, without concerning ourselves with what is possible. We were more interested in what is desirable: how social media should be and the values it should be built upon.

To help us discuss desirable futures for social media without being encumbered by its present, we used something we called “special features”.  

Harnessing the ridiculous for design purposes 

Our special features were inspired by a design technique known as questionable concepts. Questionable concepts harness the ridiculous for design purposes. They aim to stimulate critique by proposing ideas that are impractical, provocative and, frankly, rather objectionable.  

The questionable concepts technique was in turn inspired by a practice called Chindogu. Chindogu is about “inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem to be ideal solutions to particular problems, but which may cause more problems than they solve.” To get a sense of what this actually means – and for a bit of a laugh – check out this collection of 14 Chindogu inventions.  

If you managed to avoid the hilarious Chindogu rabbit hole and are back here, you can keep reading to see our special features.  

The special features 

The researchers put their heads together to come up with a whole bunch of questionable concepts. We then chose our 6 favourite concepts and turned them into special features to be used during the second workshop.  

Each special feature was made of 2 things: 

  1. An explanatory card, and 
  2. A demonstration app.  

To access the demonstration apps on your computer, click on the links you will find further down with each special feature. To access the demonstration apps on your mobile phone, you can also scan the QR codes you will find in the explanatory cards. 

And now, without further ado, here come the 6 special features. 

Special feature 1: The Masking Badge  

This is a social media badge that can be used by neurodiverse and neurotypical people, although we are not sure what for to be honest.  

Try the Masking Badge at or scan the QR code on the explanatory card below. 

The explanatory card says: The Masking Badge, For neurodiverse and neurotypicals alike. A badge anyone can proudly sport in their social media profiles. Are they an autistic supporter? A parent of an autistic child? An inclusivity champion? Something else? Help us figure it out!

Special feature 2: The Post Filters

These are a bit like the filters you can apply to photographs, but for social media posts. For example, you can make a post cold, warm, funny, colourful or troll-like. 

Try the Post Filters at or scan the QR code on the explanatory card below. 

The explanatory card says: Post Filters, Do you know those filters you can apply to photographs? Well: same thing, but for your social media posts. Choose between 'cold', 'warm', 'funny', 'coloured' and 'troll' filters.

Special feature 3: The Small-Talkifier

A utility that automatically adds the small talk bits to your social media posts, to make them more palatable to neurotypical sensitivities. A huge time saver! 

Try the Small-Talkifier at or scan the QR code on the explanatory card below. 

The explanatory card says: The Small-Talkifier, Add the useless niceties to your social media posts, and make them more palatable to neurotypical sensitivities. Don't waste time and effort! Let The Small-Talkifier do the heavy lifting.

Special feature 4: The Spoons Indicator

A way to show others the effort and thought that goes into interacting with them through social media. 

Try the Spoons Indicator at or scan the QR code on the explanatory card below

The explanatory card says: Spoons Indicator. Tell your NT friends and followers how many spoons you have used writing that post, or replying to theirs. Show them how much effort goes into communicating with them!

Special feature 5: The Trans-NT-lator

The Trans-NT-lator removes all the clutter from social media threads and shows you only what is worth knowing. For example, in the demonstration app, we have a long thread about bikes and vans on the road. The thread is full of GIFs and emojis and images and stuff. If we trans-nt-late it, we will see a text-only summary, and at the end the interesting information included in the thread. 

Try the Trans-NT-lator at or scan the QR code on the explanatory card below. 

The explanatory card says: The Trans-NT-lator, Removes neurotypical noise from social media threads. No emojis, no GIFs, no rudeness, no smartypants comments: just the facts.

Special Feature 6: Yr-Π

You read this one as “your PI”: your very own private investigator for the social media world. It gives you information about the people you are interacting with and classifies them on a scale from “nice” to “troll”. 

Try Yr-Π at or scan the QR code on the explanatory card below. 

The explanatory card says: Yr-Π. Read as 'Your PI', your private investigator. Get a full report on who you are talking to on social media: where they live, what they do, and what they are interested in. Plus prior histories of trolling, harassment, deceit or just general assholeness. Includes handy classification of people from 'Nice' to 'Troll'.

Matching social media anecdotes to special features 

During the workshop, we asked participants to think of a personal story or anecdote: something that had happened to them on social media. Then, we asked them to pick one of the special features that was somehow connected to that anecdote. 

For example, one of our participants told us about someone giving him a nasty reply on a Facebook group in response to some factual information he had posted. This participant chose the Trans-NT-lator as his special feature, because when using social media he is mainly interested in facts and useful information. As a result, he would like to filter out ironic, sarcastic and rude comments; as well as posts and photographs about people’s personal lives. 

People’s favourite special features 

16 of our 20 participants chose one of the special features. These were the scores:  

Which special feature would you choose? Tell us by leaving a reply. 

2 thoughts on “Workshop 2: Desirable social media futures

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