Why design such ways?
The details of the UX in Reflection Space are designed to ask the user to make a distinction between their identity, their psyche, and their social relationships. Asking how the user would like to call themselves, instead of asking for a user name, brings attention to the gap between the self and the identity that exists by others and institutions. The relationship with the self points to the gap between the Self and the Self Concept, in other words, how one currently views and feels about oneself does not define who they are and their potentials. However, the gap between individuals and their committed relationships furthers the idea that one’s self is not limited by social relations and attached identities. This is important as the current UX mainly focuses on a person’s single identity and streamlines user experience based on the assumption of such identity. With these attempts to structure a proper mental space between the identity, the self, and the social, ReUnion tries to explore a UX that supports one’s plural and non-linear evolving beings.
There is also a distinction between Relationships and Activities. This is to underscore that, in practice, a relationship is often expressed through the exchanges of activities, while the sum of all activities does not equate to a relationship. On the other hand, a user can create a Relationship unilaterally but cannot do the same in Activity (except for the Activities in the Self-Relationship), as the latter requires correspondences between two people. This also points to the phantasmal element of a relationship in which people cooperate part of their fantasy into their projection of their partner - but this fantasy and distortion do not need to share, nor deny. Rather, it is important to have the gray space in which people can exercise their (shadow) Self through (half-) fantasized relationships before entering a committed one, which addressed through activities.
These layers create an enriched mental space for the Self of the users, allowing them to navigate their ongoing individuation process. These steps are essential for the users to balance their life and with the help of others, and that they can be a more realized person to connect and help others in a sustainable way.
Hence, the user journey of ReUnion Network begins and ends with a Reflection Space in which users’ internal well-being is in the center of their attention. Insofar the Space is constructed with two dimensions, time, and emotions, to respond to the societal syndromes we mentioned which take effects on the individual’s psyche and helping people to resist those influences.
With the three types of time, we want to challenge the idea that time is solely linear, confined to set spaces, and in which it can be measured as a one-dimensional unit. Particularly in immaterial, emotional and care labor, which is often ambiguous in our personal, work, and non-work spheres, time is difficult to account for. The multiplicity of timelines in the app is intended to foster discussions about the quality of the use of time and the quality of our relationships: how can we better attribute wages in an era when an increasing amount of labor is cognitive and emotional.
We emphasize the importance of non-work, non-waged - unquantifiable - time and support users to create more of it for themselves, within their relationships, and with the social support of their networks and the supporting institutional bodies.
We move away from emojis and Like buttons that are designed for the automation of emotional labor and user data collection.
The color marking is a method we borrow from clinical psychiatry treatment and is a form of art therapy. When a person is very analytical and is alienated from their emotions, they can be asked to use colors to describe how they feel. In doing so, they are able to identify and understand what the feeling is. By being able to identify their feelings, which are the body’s reaction to information, they can begin to build intimacy with their experience in the world, without over-identifying with the information they are confronted with – one premise of anxiety. Instead, they can act autonomously, rather than in a reactionary state of anxiety often encouraged by the demands of most social media and systems of precariousness today.
Color marking has many advantages.
First, it aims to create an intimate illustration of the user's state of mind so that they can be more attentive to their needs, as opposed to a system using a universal measurement to judge whether a user is healthy or not. In this way, we return the power of judgment to users.
Second, color marking helps foster a more caring and open attitude between users during the negotiation process. This is because there is not an immediately legible translation of the base information of the contract - the feelings as color (as opposed to, 5-stars or a thumbs up). Prompting a discussion to listen and learn from each other, the relationship starts from open questions and potentially avoids quick judgments and assumptions.
Third, it supports exploration of a different kind of "encryption" by subjective dataset, in which the data does not have a common key in the backend- i.e., each color has a different meaning to each user. This meaning is not defined by the user in the app. The inconsistent index for the signifier and the signified ([color: yellow] = [any feeling]) makes it impossible for the system to use the data for judgment or prediction. As well, it is a highly inefficient dataset for surveillance. Therefore, theoretically, such a system produces bad data for machines but good data for humans.
ReUnion encourages color marking as an ongoing practice of self-awareness and emotional intimacy by user accounts only being able to be made through the creation of a relationship with oneself in the form of a contract - the base unit for all users and system design.
With these two axes of our first design iteration, we attempt to challenge the simplified and linear view of the current social media platforms, regarding our relationships. We attempt to design different points of abstraction, i.e. asking for subjective and temporal data that only communicates within the present relationship (such as subjective color marks and self-estimated time measurement), as opposed to collecting universal behavioral data from the users. By doing so, we hope to create a digital environment that views interpersonal relationships as fluid, multifaceted and subjective.