Crank, Shake, and Tilt: Transforming Social Media Interfaces with Embodied Constraints

June 12, 2021

My research during grad school at UC Berkeley culminated in my Master's Thesis published in 2021, Crank, Shake, and Tilt: Transforming Social Media Interfaces with Embodied Constraints. Within the space of Human-Computer Interaction, my research explored the relationship of users, social media, and physical activity using techniques of critical design, tangible user interfaces, and embodied interaction. I built four devices that required continuous participation from users to engage with social media, ran user studies with the devices, collected quantitative and qualitative data, and synthesized my findings.

Check out this teaser video for a short paper titled Crank That Feed: A Physical Intervention for Active Twitter Users, which my colleagues and I published in CHI 2021 as a precursor to my thesis:


Using social media is engaging, enthralling, and stimulating but simultaneously routine and habitual. In this thesis, I explore a series of critical designs that transform digital social media experiences into physically interactive experiences, to provoke users to interrogate their motivations for using social media. I present four social media intervention systems with embodied constraints requiring continuous physical participation: the Crank Box, the Cranker, the Shaker, and the Tilter. In a study with twelve social media users, I identify that exclusively accessing social media through these critical designs caused temporary or persistent decreases in social media usage for all participants. Through analysis of daily diary studies, qualitative interviews, and social media usage metrics, I uncovered how users changed their behaviors and values around social media as a result of the interventions. Users devoted their time to different social media content and activities, demonstrated novel collaborative ways to operate social media, and increased their awareness about the role of social media in their lives. Based on the intervention designs that produced these outcomes, I present seven design factors to consider for future social media interventions. I further propose design speculations about sensory, spatial, and distorted interactions for future critical exploration of social media interfaces beyond digital surfaces.

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Katherine Song, Lynn Yeom, Niloufar Salehi, Eric Paulos

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