The Persona Project
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Social media are powerful because humans use the same parts of the brain to interact with machines as they do to interact with humans. On social media, interactions with bots are mostly misunderstood as interactions with real people. On a platform such as Instagram, users present selectively positive versions of themselves. This in turn makes other users feel worse about themselves, because people relate to social media representations as if they were actual identities. Research has shown that people who use social media more frequently tend to show lower self-esteem, depressive symptoms, and anxiety.

A social medium is a synthetic ecosystem working according to the rules of its designers. It is a closed world of data which suggests behaviours, provides incentives and regulates interactions. It provides spaces for electronic representations to exist, and it provides the rules according to which these representations can interact. ´Liking’, ‘sharing’, ‘following´ on the click of a button are interpersonal activities which have been defined by social media.

As part of the DNA Paris Design Congress 2019, Mario Gagliardi conducted a workshop to create a different kind of social media persona. These personae are alter egos, identities with particular traits and interests, designed by their users. They do not represent real persons and do not exist outside the space of the social medium (in this case Instagram). They are agents of interaction who can play with the constraints of the social medium without being taken personal, and they can be used to navigate the social medium without revealing the actual identity of their creators. This group of personae also constitutes a micro-ecosystem within the socal medium. Depending on their intensity of interaction, they receive more or less relational feedback - "likes" and "followers" - from other electronic identities.

Created by Mario Gagliardi with Ori Elisar, Jan Nowell, Ruchita Sharma, Karen Olmer, Rom Olmer, Niels P. Flint and Charlene Lambert.
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