Finished Extension

 

[REVISED] Short Proposal: The Facebook Filter browser extension is an interactive artwork, which shows you a parallel version of your Facebook feed. In an attempt to highlight Facebook’s business model, not their mission statement to “bring the world closer together”. You see less content and more advertisements when facebook’s losing money (when their stock market value is decreasing).

[REVISED] Long Proposal: The Facebook Filter browser extension for Google Chrome is an interactive artwork, which when installed and running in a web browser, presents the user with a redacted version of their existing Facebook feed. It distorts the images on their Facebook feed through pixelation, the severity of the pixelation is determined by a live data feed of Facebook’s current percentage change in stock market value. The aim of the Facebook Filter was to accentuate and exemplify to the user of the filter, Facebook’s business interests through literally offering up a more unpleasant experience when Facebook’s shares depreciate in value. Depending on the level of the drop in the price, the Facebook Filter will pixelate content accordingly. If Facebook’s stock is flatlining or dropping slightly, there will be a slight decrease in the level of usability. However, if there is a major drop in Facebook stock like they saw recently during the ‘Cambridge Analytica’ data breach scandal, where their stock dropped by almost 7%, the pixelation value will increase dramatically to the point where Facebook will be unusable as all media content will be completely indecipherable. When Facebook’s stock is increasing in value, the filter will not affect the content of the user’s news feed and there will be no distortion or pixelation to the images as a result of Facebook’s profits.

The Facebook Filter attempts to highlight Facebook’s business model, and make a political and ironic comment about how Facebook really feels about its users when directly compared with its shareholders, in a playful and mildly irritating way. According to Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, the site thrives by giving its users the “power to share and make the world more open and connected”, in fact, their mission statement is to “bring the world closer together”. The Facebook Filter questions this mission statement, questions what their true mission statement could be and who Facebook is really serving. The Facebook business model relies on the network effect, the more users that Facebook has (the more users data Facebook has), the more likely businesses will be attracted to advertising on the platform, and the more money Facebook can charge them to advertise on Facebook. This is how Facebook is able to offer the service to users free of charge, because, you become the target of advertisers and advertisements as a condition of using the service. There is no opt-out option, you are also obligated to give away your data and privacy as a result of using the platform because as a prerequisite to signing up to Facebook, you agree to their privacy policy. Mark Zuckerberg is quoted as saying “Privacy is no longer a social norm”. A lot of users of Facebook are not aware of what they are agreeing to when they sign up to use Facebook because most users do not read the privacy policy agreement, nor do they understand facebooks business model. Hito Steyerl in her essay, ‘A Sea of Data: Apophenia and Pattern (Mis-)Recognition’ states, “Analysts are chocking on intercepted communication. They need to unscramble, filter, decrypt, refine, and process ‘truckloads of data.’…Even WikiLeaks Julian Assange states: “We are drowning in material.” I feel a similar way about Facebook, it is just a dumping ground for internet diarrhoea, this was another motive for filtering it, to make a statement and question its importance, its purpose in society and how much we rely on it and check it on a weekly, daily, hourly basis. I like the idea of people using Facebook less as a result of the Facebook Filter, and if I could improve it, I would add a feature which showed the user how much time they’ve saved as a result of using the Facebook Filter. It would concatenate the amount of time when the pixelation was severely distorting the content on the news feed, to the point where it was unusable and then storing that data and presenting it in the extension panel, to show the user how much time they’ve saved not looking at or using Facebook.

The initial idea of the Facebook Filter was to pixelate, distort and redact all the user based content for example; photos and videos of friends and family, birthdays, status updates and relationship announcements, but leave all the paid sponsored posts and advertisements untouched and unaffected by the filter. However, there was no way of clearly identifying the difference between this content, because it’s so integrated with all the personal content on the news feed, and it isn’t labeled or tagged as an advertisement in the code. Therefore, it would be almost impossible to large-scale pixelate personal content and not the advertisements. In an attempt to isolate the user and make them focus on ‘the business’ side of Facebook and illustrate their business model to the average Facebook user, through directly showing the user what Facebook wants you to see when they want you to see it.

TESTING PROTOTYPES: Due to the complex nature of this project, it required us to produce and test several prototypes for each element of the extensions functionality. This initially involved familiarising ourselves with producing simple Chrome extensions that carried out a simple function like changing the background colour of a webpage. Then producing a chrome extension that injected a fixed div over the top of a webpage, that would become the Facebook Filter panel. I then integrated the live stock market API feed into the extension through the manifest.json file and displayed that inside the div panel. We then produced an extension that replaced all the images on a webpage to pictures of kittens, because we needed to target all of the img tags on the Facebook news feed so that we could add HTML 5 canvas onto image tag, then pixelate the image accordingly.

CHROME EXTENSION TESTS:

 

HTML 5 CANVAS TESTS:

Above: Shows my workings attempting to determine how the percentage change in Facebook’s stock would translate into a pixelation value of the HTML 5 canvas, I needed to produce a maths formula that the Percentage Change in FB stock (x) would be fed into and it would spit out the corresponding level of pixelation. To do this, I experimented with the HTML 5 canvas pixelation test (see above), and changed the pixelation value. I then wrote a list from -1% to -10% I decided that -10% is the very worst Facebook stock could fall, as during the ‘Cambridge Analytica’scandall it fell by 7% and that was possibly the worst PR facebook has ever received. I then accompanied the pixelation percentage with a pixelate value and requested the assistance the help from a friend who studies Mechanical engineering, he took the corresponding values I showed him and produced the formula:

0.11+(x/100)

which I then used in an IF statement in the code for my HTML canvas.

 

WEBSITE: Below you can see screenshots of the website I built to accompany the chrome extension, using Hype and a Bootstrap framework. I wanted to link to the website from the Facebook Filter extension panel. Check out the live version of the website here.

FINAL FINISHED EXTENSION:

Click here to download the ‘Facebook Filter’ Chrome Extension now!

Below: Shows an animated GIF of the ‘Facebook Filter’ being installed, turned on and working, by filtering the image content on the Facebook feed.

Below: Shows a visualisation I made of how I envisage a more final polished version of the extension panel to look if I had more time to spend on the project. You can see from the visualisation it is pixelating the images on the news feed in relation to the stock prices.

Click here to download the ‘Facebook Filter’ Chrome Extension now!

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