Humblebrag: A Game of Influence

A game that uses satire to draw attention to narcissistic behavior in the digital age and invite self-reflection.

Kathy Mueller
Assistant Professor
Temple University

A national study found loneliness to have reached epidemic levels in the United States, and found Generation Z to be the most vulnerable. While built with an intention of creating meaningful connections, social media may accomplish the opposite. Studies have found it increases social comparison and envy. It is especially pertinent for young people, entrenched in behavioral norms of the digital age, to think critically about how they contribute to culture. Humblebrag is a game that uses satire to draw attention to narcissistic behavior in the digital age and invite self-reflection.

In this easy-to-learn strategy card game, 4–6 players compete to earn the most social influence. Players collect influence with point value cards such as “check-in at the gym” and “craft the perfect effortless look.” To get ahead, players must keep others down through the use of action cards, such as “Backhanded compliment,” that steal influence from other players. Five cards in a bank closes the round, and the player with the highest influence wins.

The game uses entertainment to engage with themes of narcissism, selfishness, envy, self-esteem, and empathy. Presenting the behaviors outside of their native digital context exposes frivolous aspects of influencer culture. The presentation will discuss the work-in-progress, spark critical conversation, and examine outcomes—such as a potential shift in awareness, measured in a survey before and after Humblebrag game play.

How important is it for an author to have a significant social media presence and to demonstrate that to the publisher?

Questions: How important is it for an author to have a significant social media presence and to demonstrate that to the publisher? –SR 

Answer: Generally a social media presence is less important in academic publishing than in trade publishing (which are books for the general reader).

But obviously being able to utilise your contacts for promotion of the book is certainly a plus and may well reach people we wouldn’t naturally get to with our own marketing. 

It wouldn’t be a sticking point really though on whether a project was signed up – there are plenty of hugely successful academic authors who barely touch social media.

Your background, the project and the reviews are the most significant aspects for us.  It’s nice to be able to say when presenting a new book idea to our committee that an author has 10,000+ followers, and we would certainly exploit that with the author’s help, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the book will sell any better than one which relies on our own marketing contacts. 

With fairly limited marketing budgets across academic publishing, having a pro-active author, whether on social media or through other channels, is a big help in reaching the right people.

Louise Baird-Smith
Commissioning Editor – Design and Photography
Bloomsbury Visual Arts

“Ask the Editor” is a Design Incubation series, where design academics, researchers, and practitioners pose their questions to editors of books, journals, conferences and other academic and design trade publishing organizations. If you would like your questions answered by publishing professionals, send your questions to Design Incubation via the “Ask the Editor” form on our website.

Making Small Things: Robots, Cracks, and Hamburgers

Whether exploring meditations on a single theme, embracing new materials or studying the affects of repetition and reproduction, designer Chris St. Cyr’s work exploits both the familiar and the unknown.

Chris St.Cyr
Assistant Professor of Graphic Design
The College of Saint Rose

cracksMake some thing. Somewhere between morning routines, client projects and preparing for a class there is time to create something… a small something. Over time, these creations may evolve into larger projects or they can remain a collection of random ideas waiting for connections to given them form. The trick is to think small— a two-minute sketch, a single bullet item, one typeface, one principle, two constraints, no command z, a page, or one post.

hamburgersOver the past five years I’ve developed a series of small personal projects that continue to evolve and grow. Social media is part of the production process. It is used to start conversations and provides a place for my creations to exist on their own and to engage with a globally networked community. One project, an investigation of the efficiency of modular design systems and has evolved from building 3D Lego structures to using Lego block printing to create a system of robot symbols for use on T-shirts, stickers, and in augmented reality. In another project (perhaps a reaction against the Lego project) old rub down press type is used as a catalyst for the investigation of randomness, reaction, and flow. Here there is very little control and rubbing cracked letterforms onto sketchbook paper gives form to the compositions which are then scanned, manipulated and printed, all of which adds another layer of uncertainty to the outcome. robotsA third, and more recent project, is a meditation on the mobile menu symbol—affectionately known as the “Hamburger Menu.” More specifically it involves a series of motion design experiments that explore how three horizontal lines can transition into the shape of an “X.” As the projects have changed over time one thing remains consistent—they all started as a single small exploration of a design principle, material, tool or technique.

Design Criticism in Search of a Platform

Dr. Gaia Scagnetti
Assistant Professor
Graduate Communication Design
Pratt Institute

By definition criticism presents negative connotations. In philosophical terms, criticism is not an action but a method of systematic analysis of a written, oral and visual discourse. It involves merit recognition and it means a methodical practice of doubt. Design criticism has had a short life story and never reached the popularity of Architecture or Art criticism, Film or Literary criticism. Probing design work is perceived as a threat, especially in a time when liking is the expected way of supporting peers both within and outside of social networks. To like and express appreciation for the work of others is a consolidated strategy to get noticed and welcomed in a community of practice, especially among the young generation.

Support is rarely shown through critical encouragement and is mostly communicated through unconditional recommendations; endorsement is seen as a currency to be exchanged regardless of the intrinsic value of a certain production. The problem gets exacerbated by the platforms we use to contribute to disciplinary conversations: symposia, conferences, talks are now always recorded and publicly streamed. This public exposure does not support attempts to make critical analyses; streaming is an opportunity for advertising others or yourself, your connections and your relevancy. Public speeches are opportunities to create connections the so called shoutout to other projects, friends or celebrities. In a time where positivity is the currency nobody wants to practice doubt.

We can consider the process of criticism to be equivalent to making strategic decisions it is a part of how we govern ourselves. Strategies are rarely discussed out in the public, but within a dedicated environment where the social rules of conduct are made explicit and intentions are shared. Similarly, design criticism should be fostered and cultivated within purposebuilt platforms. Design criticism needs a home more than ever. Analysing, considering or dissecting design discourse is a contribution to the politics of truth and criticism is the art of not being governed quite so much.

The Design and Branding of a Project

Anita Giraldo
Assistant Professor
Communication Design
New York City College of Technology, CUNY

Steel Ice & Stone is an interactive installation consisting of nine 3 x 4” backlit photographic images, each equipped with a dedicated sensor-driven sound unit which play back nine sound compositions. It was first exhibited in December 2013 at ArtWorks Trenton, followed by its Brooklyn exhibition at the Gowanus Ballroom in June 2014.

The work employed various forms of social media for its promotion and funding, most notably a successful Kickstarter. Attaining this form of funding was a complex task requiring agile strategies across a system of social media outlets, all designed to further the brand of the work.

The ultimate goal was to build the most appropriate target audience—a fan base—who would identify so strongly with the project that they would fund it, attend its exhibitions and buy an artwork from the installation.