Research

Assist. Prof. Sosa-Tzec discussed digital wellbeing design at semiotics conference

The 46th Annual Conference of the Semiotic Society of America took place this October 12–16. Assistant Professor Omar Sosa-Tzec participated in this virtual conference with the paper "Digital Well-being Technology through a Social Semiotic Multimodal Lens: A Case Study,"  where he applied social semiotics and multimodality to analyze the presentation and design of Little Signals a set of digital well-being objects created by Google. 

The interest in digital wellbeing–that is, attaining a balanced relationship with technology–has gained momentum as the detrimental effects of excessive screen time have become evident. Identifying resources designers apply to create effective and delightful digital well-being solutions is a central task in Dr. Sosa-Tzec's research project "Speculative Designs for Digital Well-being," which he initiated this Fall 2022 with the support of the Marcus Early Career Research Award. The paper presented at this semiotics conference results from this task and Sosa-Tzec's efforts to bring semiotics, rhetoric, and aesthetics together as critical and productive frameworks in design–communication design, industrial design, and user experience design. 

Abstract

The detrimental effects caused by uncontrolled technology usage and screen time have motivated designers in academia and industry to explore solutions that promote digital well-being. This paper draws on the social semiotic approach to multimodality to examine the semiotic resources applied in designing and presenting one case study concerning such solutions—Little Signals, six artifacts commissioned by Google. An analysis was performed on the project’s website’s content, paying careful attention to an introductory video and artifact gallery. Proximity, distance, focus, and analogy appear as distinctive video storytelling choices. These convey unobtrusiveness, invisibility, ephemerality, intimacy, control, and familiarity. The resources of size, shape, material, color, and motion applied to define the artifacts’ appearance, behavior, and data presentation also help reinforce it. Besides examining the relationship between these meaning potentials, resources, and digital well-being artifacts, this paper also discusses the apparent attempt to give smart-home devices a benign character.

System network diagram of identified resources to design for digital wellbeing by Omar Sosa-Tzec (2022)

Assist. Prof. Sosa-Tzec member of the AIGA DEC Design + Writing Fellowship 2022

The AIGA Design Educators Community (DEC) introduced a new design and writing fellowship for 2022. Assistant Professor Omar Sosa-Tzec was selected along with another 15 design faculty across the United States to form this fellowship's first cohort. From January to June, these design faculty worked individually and collaboratively to discuss and investigate the visual essay. Dr. Sosa-Tzec utilized sketchnoting to reflect on the nature of visual essays and explore theoretical approaches that could facilitate their production and peer-review––namely, poetics, semiotics, rhetoric, and aesthetics. 

Posters showcasing the fellows' projects will be exhibited at Surface––the AIGA DEC Mini-Conference––which takes place during the events of the 2022 AIGA Design Conference. Below is Prof. Sosa-Tzec's poster.

 

Poster by Omar Sosa-Tzec to be presented in the AIGA DEC Conference

Assist. Professor Oma Sosa-Tzec receives Marcus Early Career Research Award.

The Marcus Early Career Research Award supports LCA faculty to work on research or creative work that addresses social issues in the U.S. and abroad. Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design Omar Sosa-Tzec is one of the recipients of this award for 2022. This award releases faculty from instructional and service responsibilities for one semester in order to support their research. Sosa-Tzec's project is concerned with designing for digital wellbeing—the notion of having a balanced relationship with everyday technology.

Research shows that uncontrolled use of technology and screen time can undermine people's wellbeing by causing anxiety, depression, sleep deprivation, and productivity loss, among other unfavorable effects. This situation has motivated designers in academia and industry to explore tools and solutions that promote digital wellbeing. For this project, Dr. Sosa-Tzec will engage in social semiotic multimodal analysis and design activities, including sketching and prototyping, to investigate speculative, metaphorical, delightful ways to display screen time and digital wellbeing-related information on mobile screens. By doing so, Sosa-Tzec seeks to illustrate the generative application of (metaphorical) design tension—a concept explored in his analytical research—in UI/UX design. Additionally, he urges UI/UX designers to explore deviation from conventional design patterns as a tactic to develop "design imagination" and new possibilities for mobile screen design.