spiral of being silenced

Concept | virtual reality experience

An interactive environment that metaphorically shows the effects of our online social behavior, inspired on the Spiral of Silence theory.

Willem de Kooning Academie, 2021


The Spiral of Silence Theory by Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann. The theory focuses on the fear of those in minority to speak out. Often their fear of speaking out stems from majority opinions, mainly in media.
The comment section on social media is an example of those with minority opinions who get silenced by a majority; an overload of responses in the form of comments and emojis. Social media becomes an environment with no room for an open conversation. People are only "sending" and responding without actually listening.

top of the spiral

The place where you enter the experience. The top of the spiral represents a safe space for conversation and freedom of speech.

Schermafbeelding 2021-10-25 om 13.37.51

the experience

You enter the spiral with the idea of entering an exhibition. The more you go downstairs, the more you see stuff happening around the work of art.

Elements from social media are put out of its general context. The participants get to experience what it feels to, at a certain point, be overloaded by the majority and how this effects your freedom of speech.
Because this is being placed in an interactive environment where you can digitally meet other people, this creates a conversation starter about this subject.

Comments of participants:

“All those comments and emotions creates assumptions about the subject.”
“Now I don’t feel the need to also voice my opinion. I feel like, I want to get outta here.”
Man, 26 years old

“The pressure increases, it feels like bullying.”
“I like to go back upstairs now, I just want to speak out freely.”
Woman, 58 years old

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an educational ending

The spiral ends with a few messages that function as another conversation starter and to trigger self awareness. After experiencing how it feels to be in minority and how this represents the way we interact online. You get more aware of the importance of not only “sending” and responding, but to be in balance with listening as well.

Schermafbeelding 2021-03-27 om 18.04.27

Chrome Extension

In addition to the experience and the messages at the end, that is more focused on opening a conversation, we’ll now put it into practice by means of an Google Chrome extension.
After downloading, this extension learns from your online behavior and when you’re placing a certain comment on social media, you get a notification after 30 min. The notification shows the comment you’ve placed and provides you the possibility to reconsider your comment and delete it if you’re not supporting it anymore.

Because it’s okay if you respond in the heat of the moment, but there should always be room to reconsider this afterwards, to keep it in balance.

Click here to visit the VR Experience

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