Fluid assemblage


Things are not what they used to be. Consider the difference between a walkman and the music player on your smartphone. Digital things nowadays are more like fluid assemblages than stable objects. They are composed of a variety of components and connections to various platforms and other kinds of infrastructure. They change over time in response to people’s behaviour with and around them. They collect data that they feed back into the networks of which they are a part and to other actors that extract value from all this. Can design be what it used to be? What design opportunities are offered by fluid assemblages? What they could mean for our lives with these new kinds of connected things?
This project zooms in on a specific fluid assemblage, the internet.



- "Creating a democratic internet which will optimize for user satisfaction" -


Today’s tech companies are in a race for our attention. But in this race, we are all losers. The result: addiction, social isolation, misinformation, and political polarisation. This race is driven by the business model of these companies; earning money by making us watch ads and click on links. This led to a world where companies are optimising for keeping people hooked by tricking them.


Why do we accept our internet

to be this place?

Decentralisation -> Centralisation

By making us, internet users, the middle man between advertisement and big tech we reverse the model. Instead of us being the small dots in their model we become the main stakeholders.

This could change our internet away from a cluttered space of attention-grabbing. To a place where after watching ads we can have a clean browsing experience delivering us the reason, we went online in the first place.

How can this be realized?

An option is a browser that controls the money flow between the stakholders. By centralizing watching ads money comes in which will be distributed to web companies that are backed-up by users of the browser.

Users can see what web companies have to offer to the internet and can choose to back them up. In this way, web companies will start optimizing for user satisfaction.

A possible outcome

With this new proposition, companies have to rethink their business model which can have a huge impact.

Challenges of a Democratic internet

This proposition comes with lots of challenges that require a systemic change. Who will be making the rules on the internet, politics?

My design process


To start designing for this complex environment and deal with the amount of information I had I decided to make physical explorations. This forced me to make decisions and with that a clear focus.


To get a grasp of the complexity of the issue and inspiration for design briefs I read and watched relevant works. Next to this I held multiple workshops and had talks with classmates, a Google employee and a Facebook employee.


Since this project has more of a speculative provocation nature sharing it and putting it out there is key to the success. I hope that this project can inspire other designers, technologists, policymakers, etc.

My thoughts

The things we design have changed from products into fluid assemblages, therefore, I believe we should also change our design process. To create a systemic change, which is needed in these contexts, I think we need to move away from User-Centered Design and start designing from a meta-level. Throughout this project, I have realized that taking a meta approach can lead to different perspectives that are needed to create innovation that benefits our collective wellbeing.