The following is a recap of PDN's Sept 26 Pro-Social event with Ravi Iyer...
On September 26th, we sat down with Ravi Iyer for our first Pro-Social, one of a series of online meet-ups where researchers and practitioners gather to connect, build understanding, and share knowledge regarding prosocial design.
Iyer has spent years connecting researchers to prosocial practices, including at CivilPolitics, Meta, and now at the University of Southern California’s Neely Center. He joined us to talk about the Neely Center's new Design Code for Social Media, a set of standards and practices to ensure social media platforms are healthful for both individuals and society.
"In many ways,” says Iyer, “the Code is an embodiment of best practices that have been shown to have a [prosocial] impact, aggregated into more concrete principles that we’re hopeful designers will add to their toolbox”.
If you missed the Pro-Social, then you can catch the interview with Iyer below. During our talk, we dug into our favorite — and perhaps most challenging — recommendation, which advises platforms to rank content in accordance with "user-perceived quality". While we didn't record the post-interview discussion, you can see participants’ questions with Iyer’s paraphrased answers below.
We also encourage you to check out The Code itself, and to let us know what you think on Slack, and if you're not already a member, apply to join here.
Q: Is there any research showing that these prosocial design features are also in the long term interest of the platform?
A: Many platforms have evidence that while prosocial design features may lead to drops in short term engagement KPI (“key performance indicators”), they can improve long term KPI.
Q: Is it possible to reconcile these codes with ad-based revenue models?
A: There may be revenue models that the codes are better suited for, for example subscription models. But even ad-based models— to harken back to the previous question—can differentiate themselves and build a user base by emphasizing that they offer prosocial design.
Q: What design codes didn’t make the cut and why?
A: It’s not always possible to get diverse groups in the field to agree - for example some groups will prioritize protection over free speech. This code represents where there is broad consensus.
Q: Are there any design features you would want platforms to focus on?
A: It would be interesting to experiment with the reaction sets that users are offered, for example using a "informative" button. Setting rate limits could also improve prosocial outcomes, given that sensitive topics (like politics) tend to be dominated by a few who over-engage.
Q: What’s next for the Code?
A: Eventually, the Neely Center hopes to put the code in the hands of policy makers. But there are also other uses aside from the regulatory route, for example finding a way to acknowledge platforms for following the code and doing the right thing.
Q: If platforms implement these codes will they be prosocial or, in effect, only slightly less anti-social?
A: We can't be sure of this hypothetical, since no platform has ever done all these things to the extent possible...but if they did these things to the greatest extent possible - maximizing the ability of users to achieve their aspirational goals - then yes, I think it's likely.
The Prosocial Design Network researches and promotes prosocial design: evidence-based design practices that bring out the best in human nature online. Learn more at prosocialdesign.org.
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