image by Xiaofeng Dai
image by Xiaofeng Dai

TCA LAB | ALTERNATE DIALOGUES : XIAOFENG DAI

An interviews about his Commentary Informed initiative

Through TCA LAB Alternative Dialogues initiative, The Common Affairs has selected four promising projects to support in their production. We would like to introduce you to Xiaofeng Dai who explains you about Commentary Informed, an investigative research on the value of the comment space in the post-truth age.


Can you tell us who you are, and what are you currently working on?

My name is Xiaofeng Dai (Hangzhou, China). I graduated from Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) in 2016 with an MA in Information Design. The initial design training during the two-year study at DAE led me to embark (after graduation) on a period of self-learning, investigating especially the role of design in political criticism and today’s media landscape, and the role of the designer in interdisciplinary collaboration. I also fantasise that my current self-initiated project can become more than a classic intervention project or artistic project, and which inform new focus in design.



What drew you to apply to The Common Affairs Open Call?

A friend working in journalism sent me the open call text which I thought was aligned with my self-initiated project plan. I think that The Common Affairs is a brilliant platform bridging the creative field with the journalistic field and exploring new formats of collaboration - the working model is fascinating. For me, TCA is also an exciting platform that provides various input or support for self-initiated projects, as well as connecting the projects with potential partners.


It is a crazy world. In this ‘crazy’ world, mostly in the digital realm, we no longer have principled and informed arguments. On the other hand, there is an awareness of ‘bubbles’, the ‘bubblism’, regardless of analogue or digital realms.



What is your project about?

The project’s goal is the creation of a prototype of a critical tool to show the value of the comment space in the post-truth age. The ultimate goal is to conceptualise information accessibility and allow the public to access ‘high-quality’ information in a broad spectrum of political news. The project will result in a conceptual model, design methodology as well as a prototypical tool that seeks to reduce ‘digital vulnerability’ to misinformation. Its immediate impact is to demo a ‘parallel method’ to counter echo chambers and the influence of fake news, contributing in the longer term to the study of how one may train citizen content (in the comment space and beyond) to combat the new online anxieties concerning the quality of information.



Why did you choose this particular subject / approach? What is the urgency in it for you?

It is a crazy world. In this ‘crazy’ world, mostly in the digital realm, we no longer have principled and informed arguments. On the other hand, there is an awareness of ‘bubbles’, the ‘bubblism’, regardless of analogue or digital realms.



Imagine with us: do you see the possibility of incorporating this project into a journalistic context? What kind of value will the work bring to the news organization and its broad public audience?

‘Commentary Informed’ is conceived to respond to shifting power dynamics in politics and media. The project explores the external contexts which determine how these new power dynamics are mediated, disseminated and received. It proposes an innovative model for news access that analyses and repurposes comment spaces corresponding to news articles, from the perspective of information accessibility in the ‘post-truth’ age. As the state of post-truth is gradually hyper-normalised, fact-checking is often presented as one way to counter fake news, but fact-checking alone is usually not enough in today’s media landscape, and investigative journalism is very expensive. This project adds an alternative form of “fact-checking”.

It is of interest to media companies, foundations, internet technologists, designers, journalists and politicians who are interested in the development of more critical and ethical approaches to news production and dissemination, as well as to comment space moderation. The project is also of interest to the large number of individuals who increasingly use social media as the entrypoint into news consumption and want to be politically well-informed. The project opens up a new way to enter the news with greater awareness and empowerment of readers in understanding and shaping their media environment in ways that privilege quality information.