cover image of the project
DensityDesign FSDS 2019/2020


A project by Matteo Bettini, Teresa Cremonesi, Alexandru Enache, Giovanni Lombardi, Valentina Pagano, Pengyuan Ren

The application of algorithmic-powered modifications of faces and bodies generates new figurative practices. The users are offered with an instantaneous and almost perfect simulacrum of themselves, representations of further and past experiences, a reproduction and simulation of existences. It is possible to realize the desire (or curiosity) of imaging the transfiguration of a different self by transcending real identities into certain social desirable conditions while maintaining what it is generally hidden. Everyone now is able to access these effective technologies easily, thanks to a plethora of digital mobile applications that can make a person looks older, younger, slimmer or fatter - and more - in a blink of an eye. Moreover, the global spread of the phenomena and the ease of use of the applications in recent years have raised concerns and controversies, such as privacy matters of use of personal images, edited bodies encouraging body dysmorphia, and beauty racist bias. The project aims to provide an overview through different perspectives on the subject, ranging from the public discussion to the way face and body modification apps appear.

Research Questions

How do Americans and Russians perceive privacy and security issues differently regarding body/face modification apps?

Since its first moment of global viral spread, the Russian-based face editor FaceApp has prompted many security and privacy concerns among people, especially in the US. Since people usually shed inhibitions on Google, searching about their insecurities and fears, this analysis takes advantage of searches related to face editor apps that have similar privacy policies in order to map what people think about them.

What are the different perspectives among the tweets about the “dog filter/hoe filter” controversy?

From 2016 the Snapchat “Dog Filter” feature has been controversially dubbed “Hoe Filter” due to its apparent promiscuity and its widespread usage among young women. The aim of the research is to show how an apparently harmless feature, as a filter, could be the cause and at the same time matter of debate, revealing different sociological and gender implications. Twitter was used as the primary tool to approach the issue because it was the platform where the discussion was born and widely spread.

Which part of the body is used to promote face and body modification apps?

Face and body modification apps usually use distinctive features to depict male and female figures differently on their icon design. The icons give the users the idea of manipulating body traits through an instant modification: in this sense the Google Play store acts as a platform for body commodification. Moreover, the way an app presents itself plays a fundamental role during the app download process carried out by the user.

How much abstract or realistic are the icons of body and face modification apps?

The real and abstract representations of bodies and faces vary a lot between both face and body modification apps icons. There are in fact several uses of this visual language: shapes, forms, colors and lines to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the real world. The clusterization is based on a grade of abstraction of the representation.

What kind of apps are suggested based on face and body editor apps in Google Play Store?

App suggestions based on the search results of users usually are precise algorithmic calculations, which help users explore more alternative options based on their interests. Exploring the semantics of the categorization is relevant in the case of face and body modification apps because of their peculiar nature that stands between different borders of classification (photographic manipulation, entertainment, editing softwares).