how should we be interacting with our faces?

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To make my nose smaller (and whiter)

Instagram beauty filters today all push for the same effects: a smaller nose, bigger eyes, and clearer skin. 

By pushing these Eurocentric beauty standards, these filters are erasing many forms of beauty. Not to mention, many of these filters look ridiculous when used by a user with a darker complexion or larger lips. It is important to recognize that these days, these filters serve as the mirror embedded in our hands. I found myself wondering, how should I look at my face? Should I look into the mirror that is my screen and see pore less skin. Should I be angling my face so my eyes look bigger and hide the bump on my nose?

How should we view our faces through filters?

I explored two avenues when unpacking the interactions of face filters- the digital level of the interaction and the physical.

1. The filter's effects themselves

2. The way someone holds the camera when taking a selfie

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research

I started my research by exploring works of art that highlights noses. My mother is a Rajasthani artist and I was always fascinated how in her traditional works, the nose was extremely highlighted. I became curious how I could get people to highlight their nose in a similar way.

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prototyping + iterating

prototype 1

The obvious way was for people to turn their faces when working with the filter. This would highlight their mature bone structure and unique features. So I played around with creating a filter that had a flower blossom from the side of the nose to incentive users to turn their heads.

prototype 1

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my AR filter

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The second way was to create some effect that emphasized the nose rather than de-emphasizing it. This change was a lot less invasive in the interaction.

I choose to use daisies going down the sides of the nose. Usually, this a place that is minimized by most filters. I wonder if people could still feel beauty if bright highlighting white flowers were placed on such an area?

Referring back to the traditional Indian art I mentioned earlier, I took inspiration from traditional bindi work for this design. While bindis do not go down the sides of noses, I look how they highlighted features and wanted to incorporate that structure.

traditional bindi design

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testing

Testing revealed some interesting thing about coded interactions. 

After having a few people try out the interaction that promoted turning the head, I discovered that users felt that the angle felt "old". That sharp angle was associated with the "mom angle" and after a few searches, I discovered that kind of angle was a meme.

Luckily, the more subtle change in interaction (the second design) was far more successful. 

While most people just found the filter fun to use, many people noted that they loved how it did not minimize the details of their face or promote Eurocentric standards. This obviously met my metrics of success!

Emerging technologies have to strive to be anti-racist

Before I end this, I want to note that I do not think the Instagram "baddie" face filter creators mean to create things that enforce racist ideologies. I just think that this is an example of how when we work we emerging technologies we need to really think before we make. It is so exciting to make a filter that makes people feel less insecure, but it is also important to remember who is on the other side. It is small kids feeling like their bumped noses and skin complexion are not worthy or likes. 

I think there is a lot of discussion on how filters are not healthy, but I do not think we should remove them. I just think we should make ones that are healthy and anti-racist, and this project serves as a good example of that.