MYCO

A Creator-only platform made up of small collectives aiming to form communities that spark inspiration for Creators as they move through their tumultuous careers.

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Team


Leyla Kaplan (me)
Alexis Nicholson
Nathan Keyes

Project

Capstone

My Role (specifics)

Workspace design

Secondary research

Primary research (4 subjects)

diary study
digital ethnography
follow-up interviews

Problem


Research

Insights

Principles

Competitiors

Downselection

Final

Reflection

Problem

Creators make their income by posting content—videos, photos, etc.—on platforms such as Instagram, Tiktok, and Youtube. Initially, being a Creator was seen as a way to break away from a traditional 9-5 career and offer more creativity and flexibility. However, amongst the success stories of those making millions and headlines, lost was the story of the majority: the Micro Creator.

Micro Creators, sometimes called Micro Influencers, are people with a following count between 3,000 and 20,000 followers on their primary platform—this is generally speaking, since it varies depending on who you ask. They are more likely to put in longer working hours, do more unpaid or underpaid labor, have more job insecurity, and be marginalized than Meso (20,000-100,000) and Macro (100,000+) Creators.


Vox: Wealth inequality exists among influencers, too
Harvard Business Review: The Creator Economy Needs a Middle Class
Digital Music News: Less Than 2% of Content Creators on Patreon Earn Monthly Minimum Wage
Forbes: The Dark Side Of Working On Your Passion As A Creator
Tribe: What the Hell is a Micro Influencer?
Brooke Duffy: (Not) getting paid to do what you love: gender, social media, and aspirational work

RESEARCH

RESEARCH QUESTION

What barriers and challenges do Micro Creators face when it comes to creating content on various platforms, as well as in their day-to-day lives behind the scenes?

RESEARCH PROCESS

We spent over 12 weeks zeroing in on an area-of-focus and then deep diving into it through secondary research in the form of books, articles, research papers, youtube videos and podcasts. Afterward we spent another 6 weeks conducting primary research on our chosen area: Micro Creators.

“I think that metaphor of churning away in pursuit of the little diamond... I also think there is a larger story to this, where creative jobs are really hard to come by... we’re also in a culture, which Silicon Valley has enabled and sustained, with the myth of entrepreneurship.”

Dr. Brooke Duffy

“...the number one way that I would characterize it is this overwhelming sense of aspiration on [these] sites that [Creators] just really believe that you know ‘Okay, I'm just paying my dues...’”

Subject Matter Expert 3

“It's kind of scary again, thinking about the people that I've met through this. I do have a bit of a network. It can also feel like, when you're a Content Creator, you have no network unless you're really immersed in LA Influencer culture.”  

Tiffany Ferguson (SME)

Secondary Research

First, we started researching a wide variety of topics such as fandom culture, VR spaces, NFTs, and the gig economy. There wasn’t a great science as to why we chose these topics, they felt timely and had the potential for interesting solutions. As you can tell, Micro Creators don’t naturally fit into any one of these categories; however they are a little connected to all of them. For example, I researched about fandoms—which is a group of fans as the name suggests—a part of which included Creator’s fandoms.

As a group, we met up about twice a week to discuss our research findings. Eventually, about a month into research, we focused on Creators. From our secondary research we found out about Micro Creators. We learned that many of the problems larger Creators faced were amplified for these smaller Creators while also having their own unique challenges. Most compellingly, they also had less news coverage and information surrounding them because their names didn’t draw as much attention—so it was ripe for researching and solutions.

PRIMARY RESEARCH

For the digital ethnography, diary study and follow-up interviews, we kept the same 10 participants. They were mostly Micro Creators (30,000 > followers) with the exception of one person who actually blew up (100,000+ followers) right after we started our recruitment. We weren’t picky about their niche, platform or anything demographic. We wanted the largest swathe of people to see what patterns were consistent despite their differences. In the end, we had full time Creators, part time Creators and hobbyists. We also had people whose primary platforms varied from Instagram, Youtube, Tiktok, and Onlyfans. Some notable niches include photography, plants, knitting, lifestyle, sexwork and finance.

#1 DIGITAL ETHNOGRAPHY

#2 DIARY STUDY

#3 FOLLOW-UP INTERVIEWS

#4 SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT INTERVIEWS

#1 DIGITAL ETHNOGRAPHY

The digital ethnography lasted for 10 days, it is also important to emphasize that it lined up with the diary study’s timeline. Our group stalked their participants' social media accounts taking note of everything they posted. Our participants wrote a daily response of their day for our diary study. Every group member followed 2–4 participants during the digital ethnography. I myself kept track of 4 people.

While it varied depending on the participant, every participant had at least two platforms they posted on regularly. In the follow-up interviews we learned how important it was to have cross-platform presence. After doing more research, we learned that every algorithm favors engagement so that meant the Creators were encouraged to post a lot and be consistent. For these reasons combined, it took about two hours a day to take screenshots and track everything they posted online. In the end we visually laid out everything in a timeline for each participant (as seen above).

We weren’t just posting screenshots to the timelines but we also wrote notes to give context. We also wrote down any questions we had along the way to be asked in the follow up interview. We ended up using Miro for storing our timeline data.

#2 DIARY STUDY

The diary study lined up with the digital ethnography, so we added in each participant’s entries to their timeline as well.

Each morning we sent them their daily prompt through text or email, depending on their preference. They answered a total of 5 questions.

#3 Follow-up interview

After completing our joint diary study/digital ethnography, we planned 45–60 minute interviews with all our participants over Zoom. Each group member was in charge of interviewing the people they followed during the diary study/digital ethnography. This way, they’d have the best background to ask relevant questions. We also made sure to have at least one other group member in the Zoom room taking notes.

I interviewed the four people I tracked during the digital ethnography. From the digital ethnography, I had a pretty good idea of their day-to-day Creator-related work and their posting schedule. From their diary study responses, I knew what their biggest pain points were.

One of my participants was a full time Creator/Artist and was basically on every platform. For this reason, I had tons of data on them. I was able to ask very specific questions regarding their posting frequency. Another Creator only really worked as a hobbyist and therefore had less posting consistency. Having this wide swathe of Creators helped us determine how their own experiences may have led to them getting burnt out—an area which we were most interested in learning more about.

#4 Subject matter expert interview

Lastly, we conducted subject matter expert interviews. We had six experts total who ranged from those in academia studying Creators (three total), people with their own platform (two) and Creators (one). We were conducting our interviews during the research process, but with each interview, it helped us hone in on a specific area of focus since we were still quite broad. For example, during our diary study, through online research and follow-up interviews, we learned that the algorithm had a massive impact on Creators’ sense of wellbeing. But one of our subject matter experts told us that it wouldn’t be a good area for us to focus on since there was so little concrete information available about algorithms. Short of designing a platform without an algorithm, there wasn’t much we could do.
This was something we were very cognizant of as a group from the beginning of our project: we did not want to design the next Twitter, Instagram or Tiktok. 

**as a note there was overlap in two of the categories with one individual.

INSIGHTS

1

Platforms force Creators onto a “single path” towards success

2

Creators tend not to view their larger audiences as individuals

3

Creators recognize that platforms and even their careers are temporary

4

A Creator’s evolution is necessary for their well-being but risky for their career

5

Platforms are designed for consumers and not for fostering Creator-to-Creator relationships

We not only had 5 insights, but each of those insights had an observation, between 1-2 subfindings and finally a “hunch”—which is just a fancy way to say what potential impact we saw the insight having. I’m not going to show every observation, subfinding and hunch, since the quantity would make them meaningless, but here are all our primary insights...

downselection

Once we grouped our concepts together, we decided to choose one cluster or concept which appealed to us the most. Initially, we scored clusters based on scaled criteria but most of our downselecting was done through long conversations.

To make the decision, we went back to the Insights we formed during our primary research and one stood out: Platforms are designed for consumers and not for fostering Creator-to-Creator relationships.

To achieve the end of fostering relationships we chose to focus on Creator Houses as our final concept—at this point, we thought the most fitting metaphor was a Creator collective. Initially, we thought of combining the idea of collectives with a subscription service. Creators would join a Collective with shared content, values, or location and they'd use that group as a locus for chatting, setting up collaborations, planning meetups, and selling things. Unlike Patreon, where a subscription/tipping would be given to one Creator, it would be shared amongst the group. Lastly, there would be an exclusive feed for the fans or people who pay the subscription fee to view exclusive content and get access to events put on by the collective.

We didn’t end up sticking with this specific idea because we axed the concept of subscriptions and the private audience feed. We decided to do away with audiences altogether. We wanted it to be a space for Creators only.

Alternate Income

Creator Houses

Mood Tracking

Gallery Spaces

Dystopian

FINAL

Search Function

The MYCO Library—or the explore page—is a repository of Creator generated information, resources, and ideas populated through jam sessions (to be explained later) and projects as well as individual Creator's content within MYCO.

Search

Creators are able write in the search bar—and by way of tags—are able to find collectives that have those tags associated with them.
There is also a dropdown where they can specify if they prefer to search by Collective, Creator or Project.

Clusters

Instead of a grid-view, we opted to have discover items—in this case Collectives—displayed in clusters. Each Collective cluster is a taster showing its members, projects, collaborations and more.


After a Creator finds a Collective that looks interesting to them, they can click on it to get into "Focus View" which visually organizes the content being displayed for easier viewing. They can also click on "View" to be taken to that Collective's homepage.

COLLECTIVE
HOMEPAGE

When a Creator is invited to a Collective, they are first prompted with the option to customize their own space and or sync their existing MYCO profile. In this way, every member affects the aesthetic of the Collective upon joining it.

We wanted to design something that was informative but unique to the Collective itself. Although this Collective is showcasing their Creators, a Collective could easily showcase a current session or a past project as their hero image. We wanted to make sure that they had control over how they presented themselves.

Sessions

After joining a Collective, if a member wanted to join a Session—also called Jam Session—they would access it through their collective’s homepage.

Current Session

If a Session is already active, then a preview of it will be available long with all the people within it.

Connections

Connections are other Collectives that regularly interact with—by either having overlapping members or shared collaborations.

Session history

Finally, all old sessions are also displayed on the homepage.

JAM
SESSIONS

MYCO's Jam Session feature are a way to foster richer relationships between Creators and facilitate collaboration. Participants from our research noted that one of the challenges they faced included a lack of collaboration and networking amongst themselves. How this differs from a traditional collaboration is that instead of Creators working on a collab project together over a long period of time, a Jam Session is meant to be short term and only focus on the ideation phase of a collab.

Invite

Collective members can join Jam Sessions, either by starting one themselves or getting an invite to one. Members can receive invites, either through email and/or phone notifications.

Session type

The Session type will be highlighted in the invite, in this case an Ideation Jam Session!

Session Cards

MYCO's Jam Session feature are a way to foster richer relationships between Creators and facilitate collaboration. Participants from our research noted that one of the challenges they faced included a lack of collaboration and networking amongst themselves. How this differs from a traditional collaboration is that instead of Creators working on a collab project together over a long period of time, a Jam Session is meant to be short term and only focus on the ideation phase of a collab.

WORK
SPACE

The Workspace is where the Jam Session takes place, all the Creators would be able to collaborate together around the chosen card topic. We needed a place for Creators to talk to one another while also being able to show their ideas in a visual way. And we also needed a way for them to document their ideation process and the changes over time for when the session gets archived in the MYCO Library.

Clusters

There are some UI elements that have a through line throughout the entire platform, one of those things is a Cluster. Clusters in the workspace work as an organizing element for either one idea, content by one of the collaborators or iterations on previous version.

When the session starts, there is a cluster in the middle which works as the starting point for the session: there is a video (the content submitted by a Creator), card topic (Show and Tell in this case) and the description.
This is a broader view of what a Jam Session would look like later into the session. There are a load of Clusters. Then there are nodes with can spawn new clusters.

Nodes

Nodes are little dots that shoot off from each Cluster.

Cluster Branch

Clusters can have branches that shoot-off into a new Cluster, which in turn can have another one. The Cluster paths are quite linear, there is a start to an idea and then an end to it. You can actually see the original file, a video, in this session has been iterated on by someone else in the session, then added back in. Each participant builds on the previous idea with either an edit to a video, a note, or a change in the script. Again, this mostly linear collaboration style helps keep the session organized and it makes it easier to look back and see a concept's evolution over time

UPLOAD

This is the traditional upload screen. In order to add content to a cluster, collaborators upload content from their computer or from a drive.

Fields

Not much to see here but some fields such as "Name Image", "Description" and "Tags". These elements help for Collective members to easily search through Jam Sessions to find that one idea they really care about. It also helps with people browsing through the MYCO Library find Sessions.

MYCO LIBRARY UPLOAD

Another source for collaborators to pull content from is the MYCO Library which can be easily accessed from the drawer button on the side of the Workspace. It works similarly to the search mechanism in the actual Library but the cards are condensed to thumbnails to visually simplify the browsing process. 

Someone working in the session would simply drag and drop a card into one of the preexisting clusters or they would add it as a new node. Our hope was that people would build off of each other’s ideas within the platform and in this way MYCO would facilitate in creating internet trends.

session end

When a session is done it displays the first version of the content submitted then the latest iteration improved upon by the group. Most likely, a final version of the content wouldn’t be produced from a Session, but it provides a strong springboard for version 2.

Fields

Again, options such as "Name Project", "Description", and "Add Tags" for ease of searching within the MYCO Library and in the Collective's Session Library.

REFLECTION

IDEAL next steps

1

Create Project Scaffolding: as mentioned before, we originally were planning for MYCO to have project scaffolding to assist in collaborations. It’s still an idea we’d wanted to include, just not for version 1.

2

Sponsored Projects: to give another opportunity for Creators to make money, we thought of including sponsored projects within MYCO so Creators can collaborate with companies.

3

Sorting out Intellectual Property: we realize that for MYCO to truly take off, there would need to be a way for people to retain ownership over their collaborations. We thought of following a model similar to Github.

4

Building Out the Rest of our Screens: we focused on our primary flows and our story (from the video) and didn’t build out every screen. For example, we’d still need to build the onboarding and perhaps a mobile version.

Takeaways from this project

1

We are the Experts: this is something we heard from instructors but after a certain point of research we had to stop relying on SMEs and research participant’s opinions and had to trust the knowledge base we cultivated to make decisions.

2

Selective Listening: You’ll notice that a lot of these are similarly themed. Again, listen to all advice but not necessarily use all the advice we get.

3

Choose What to Focus on: in the next slide, you’ll see all the things we wanted to include in version 2 of our product but we realized for our own health and wellbeing we had to leave it for version 2.

4

Trusting our Design Intuition: though we have lots and lots of research to back up many of our decisions. Some decisions we made weren't super scientifically-based but more on a hunch which I like to think we developed subconsciously while doing research.