Information Access Seminar

Intimate and Accountable Reconfigurations of Social Platforms

Friday, October 25, 2019
3:10 pm to 5:00 pm
Niloufar Salehi

As online social spaces have evolved so have their problems. I will discuss how online spaces may be reconfigured to address those challenges. I will focus on two problems:

First, social pressure to perform perfection and second, online harassment and abuse. Our research shows that one way that young people deal with mounting social pressures is by reconfiguring online platforms and changing their purposes, norms, expectations, and currencies. For instance, a finsta (fake+Instagram account) provides an outlet to share emotional, low-quality, or indecorous content. Carving out smaller spaces accessible only to close friends allows finsta users the opportunity for a more unguarded, vulnerable, and unserious performance. Drawing on feminist theory, we have termed this process: intimate reconfiguration. Through this reconfiguration finsta users repurpose an existing and widely-used social platform to create opportunities for more meaningful and reciprocal forms of social support.

Second, I will discuss how we might reconfigure online social spaces to deal more effectively with online harm by relying on theories of restorative and transformative justice. I will present a fictional platform, The Internet’s Good Place (TIGP), that we have developed through participatory design with online moderators and transformative and restorative justice practitioners. TIGP questions dominant approaches to moderation online that focus on what “content” is not allowed and presents paths to alternative approaches that rely on community accountability.

Niloufar Salehi is an assistant professor in the School of Information. Her research interests are in social computing, technologically mediated collective action, digital labor, and more broadly, human-computer-interaction (HCI). Her work has been published and received awards in premier venues in HCI including CHI and CSCW. Through building computational social systems in collaboration with existing communities, controlled experiments, and ethnographic fieldwork, her research contributes the design of alternative social configurations online.

Last updated:

January 23, 2020