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Commune: Combating extreme polarization through the power of personal storytelling
🚀 Concept app developed after seeing how polarization was affecting those around us
My Roles & Responsibilities
Research, Strategy,

UI Design, Prototyping

Creating the Pitchdeck
Final project under
Prof. Nathan Shedroff

Team: Me + Snehal Ladke
5 weeks
Figma, Miro, Google Suite
ℹ️ the problem
Interactions on world events can turn sour very quickly. An argument could escalate from 0 to 100 real quick, sabotaging your relationships or your mental health.
Bothered by the polarization and how it was affecting relationships around us, Commune was started as a project to understand this polarization in an attempt to reshape social interactions.
ℹ️ where is this most prevalent?
Social media has become the primary source of information consumption.
Social media has a significant impact on our news consumption habits. With the widespread use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, people now have easy access to a vast amount of news and information in real-time. However, social media's algorithmic nature and user-controlled content selection mean that users may be more likely to encounter news stories that align with their existing beliefs and biases.
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ℹ️ qualitative research
Understanding people's behaviors better
We talked to 14 different people. To start, we had 4 main research objectives to understand this space better 
  1. How people engage with social communities
  2. How often people are open to changing their viewpoint
  3. How people react to conflicting opinions
  4. How people react to crucial world events
1. People were open to changing their opinions and in a few instances, they did!
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“If the conflicting side shares stories and facts of people's pain points, it is bound to influence my opinion, either making it stronger or allowing me to see a much bigger picture.”
“I try to understand biases and preconceived perceptions and half-truths”
“Strong opinions held loosely.”
“I retain a handful of friends/follows who very publicly post opinions that are contrary to mine because I don't want to live just in an echo chamber of my own opinions.
2. People are most
impacted by 
stories and experiences
“If the conflicting side shares stories and facts of people's pain points, it is bound to influence my opinion, either making it stronger or allowing me to see a much bigger picture.”
....differing opinions have led to a change but perhaps nothing worth noting has happened digitally.
trying to understand the pain points of the affected people around me and being empathetic toward them
Yes, mostly because of my friends and audience. If tomorrow my POV were to change on the abortion issue, for example, I would probably have big hesitations about posting it online.
3. People feel most comfortable sharing their opinions with their close ones in person - without fear of judgment.
I felt it was better to be just listening most of the time unless I was around friends/peers who felt comfortable sharing some details that I was unaware of about this case.
writing anything online leaves a digital footprint. it's always better to share /easier to share thoughts in person with a loved one.
4. 77% of people don’t feel equipped
to take tangible action on discourse
on an individual level.
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👥 the current journey
When something significant happens in the world,
this is what a current emotional journey looks like. 
After talking to people, we mapped out what the journey looks like
ℹ️ secondary research
Literature gave us further insights into why polarization happens, how it affects us at an identity level, and the factors that make a productive exchange on polarizing topics possible.
👥 putting the research together
So why does social media feel so polarized?
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Information Cascade
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Echo Chambers
Each of our identities is influenced by our environment which consists of people, beliefs, experiences, and content that we consume. We each unintentionally form our own echo chambers, where we are exposed only to information and opinions that align with our existing beliefs and values. And when another opinion is expressed, we tend to take it as a threat, as it is a threat to our identity and we put up a shield.
Good news is, we aren't as polarized as we think. 
There is a huge perception gap
On average, Democrats and Republicans believe that 55 percent of their opponents' views are extreme, but in reality, only about 30 percent are. Overall, Americans' views are more similar to their political opponents' than they realize.
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While differing systematically in their moral world-views, people are actually more similar in their moral judgments than anyone thinks
Source : Research paper- ”More similar than they think”
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Research Validated our assumption that 
that people ARE willing to/ are interested in the other side of the opinion
We found that the core problem is that 
it’s our instinct to not listen to the other side in defense. Hence we are stuck in the same bias and do not challenge our opinions.
People are more open to changing viewpoints when
When there is shared respect
When there is an openness to listen
more willing to listen to personal stories and experiences
When the conversations happen in-person
💪 so that led to forming the problem statement
How Might We Instill trust and respect/safety among people with different opinions so that they have the willingness to look at different viewpoints?
👥 looking back at the opportunity space
Going back to the waveline and seeing how the ideal path would look like 
Mapping out the ideal path highlights opportunities for improving the journey. In this case, a significant opportunity was identified in the gap between people feeling the urge to express their opinion and falling into echo chambers for support, experienceing the feeling of hopelessness throughout the way.
📌 stakeholder mapping
Understanding the different stakeholders at play and the value they can bring
With the problem statement in mind, ideas were formed
Ued brainstorming techniques like crazy 8 to come up with any ideas we could based on our research and HMW.
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👁 prioritization
Placed the Ideas according to Impact & Effort, to prioritize them
The focus of this case study is the News Detail Page Sprint
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These were some of the top contenders 🥳
😶‍🌫️ oops old mental models and biases creeped in..
Upon further feedback and deliberation, we realized a lot of our solutions were encouraging this idea of there being
'2 sides'

And isn't that what polarization is- what we were trying to eliminate? 🤯 So we realized
Opinions are not black and white. They are multi-faceted and multidimensional.
We didn't want to box them or label them, pertaining to the polarization we were trying to solve and the labels already out there.
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Across the spectrum
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Many Layers
📊 feedback
Talking to the experts to inform our early ideas
While brainstorming, we engaged with industry experts to obtain initial feedback on our ideas and gather additional valuable insights.
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“To Encourage a cooperative atmosphere, there needs to be set rules in place for a community to function”
- Howard Rheingold
(Howard is one of the founding members of the earliest social community THE WELL. He also coined the term 'virtual community')
🌐 storyboarding
The idea of Commune was slowly formed
Created a storyboard to understand how someone would go through commune and their emotions at every stage.
Considerations after laying down the basic flow, 1st iteration
🔬️ Start testing & iterating
🔎️ Figure out the home page - how people will explore other topics
🤔 Incorporate how people can flag certain stories
💭Reflections/ reactions to stories that will add to the algorithm
🌐 design principles
Principles kept in mind while creating the solution
Highlight context and identity to make more impact, and show people that these are real human
Make it a safe space. Design needs to echo peace and grounding
Bring all stories in the platform to the forefront, equal weightage and attention
🔄 iterations
Multiple Iterations later, from wireframes to
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🧱 entry point
Plausible future Partnering with existing Social Media platforms like Instagram, Facebook
✨ presenting Commune...
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👉 Bringing different worldviews through the medium of story-telling
👉 Stories shared by people on various topics/ world events
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👉Connecting people through higher goals:
Differing opinions/ stories but similar higher hopes for humanity
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🔎 Insight
While differing systematically in their moral world-views, people are actually more similar in their moral judgments than anyone thinks
A community needs a common goal that is bigger than the personal interests and needs of its participants
👉 Inciting impact through meaningful reactions
🔎 Insight
The goal is to create a safe space to reflect, listen and express. Rather than having polarizing emotions, the reactions encourage reflection and harmony.
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👉 Get to know the person outside their story: 
A profile, where other interests of the person are highlighted, outside their political opinions
🔎 Insight
Matching people based on nonpolitical similarity led to increased feelings of closeness toward the source of a political message and these feelings of closeness, in turn, predicted openness toward opposing views
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🔎 Insight
“To Encourage a cooperative atmosphere, there needs to be set rules in place for a community to function”
⚠️ Impact Analysis
People using this platform for malicious intent and own propaganda
👉 Ensuring users’ safety:
Strong community guidelines and grounding
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👉Ensuring users’ safety:
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Allowing people to share anonymously
⚠️ Impact Analysis
Putting people at risk by sharing their profiles
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⚠️ Impact Analysis
Stories could trigger trauma
👉 Accounting for
triggers and trauma
👉Humanizing the stories + Accessibility
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Testing the MVP with traget audience
🏆 next steps
Delve into the algorithm's impact on the selection of stories displayed on a user's feed, and elaborate on the entire user journey.
So, can we solve extreme polarization?
Maybe not.
But we CAN enable/facilitate a civil discourse.
And THAT might just make the internet a little more welcoming for all of us!
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Because after all, we are ultimately different stories, contexts, and life journeys.
💭 takeaways
Creating an experience that touches various perceptions of value: meaning, identity & emotion
Looking at the various dimensions of an experience. Through this project, I got to think about how to make Commune a better experience using all 5 senses, the duration of the experience, where an experience starts as well as the emotions that we want the experience to evoke.

The perceived value of an experience, and how to create value at the highest levels of meaning and identity. Opinions and social media have the power to evoke intense emotions and shape our sense of identity. It was intriguing to investigate ways to leverage this influence and ensure that Commune integrates these elements in a constructive manner.


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