The prevalence of social media and digital content has created physical distance between individuals, resulting in less authentic human connections despite the benefits of increased convenience.
*Inspired by the documentary the Social Dilemma, we want to explore how technology has impacted human connection either intentionally or unintentionally. We want to see how design can be used in this situation.
Secondary Research
To contextualize, we conducted literature reviews regarding social changes in modern society and how technology is impacting socialization.

A general direction points to socialization problems among younger adults. We suspect that older adults developed social ability with little interference from technologies, such as social media, while new technologies prevail during the social development of people aged 18 – 24. Such technologies are designed to be addictive without considerations of physical connection.
to ignore (a person or one's surroundings) when in a social situation by busying oneself with a phone or other mobile device.
“College students said they need to socialize in order to thrive academically and that not having connections in their classes made it harder to reach out for help.
Strangers are not interested in spontaneous conversation.

Partly because people are skeptical of their ability to maintain these conversations.
*A recent study from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
Primary Research
Understanding the need to help younger adults socialize in person, we first conducted 9 semi-structured interviews with participants of various age ranges 18 – 56 years old. We want to understand how socialization strategies differentiate and if we could learn from more effective paradigms.

While most of the effective social strategies involve simply putting yourself out there, we received various responses on the other side. To understand more about this, we decided to conduct an Instagram story poll. We designed the questions to evaluate both the willingness to talk to strangers and what drives a successful casual conversation.

*People are much more willing to participate in online activities, we received 75 responses within the first 24 hours of publishing the questions.
“If the person is by themselves and looks like they’d appreciate some company, I would go up and talk to them.”
*We received 75 responses from Instagram Story questions.
Young adults aging 18 to 24 have a stronger need for aid in social connection, whereas the majority of older people have already established a supportive community.

It’s more satisfying when people feel like they can contribute to the conversation.
*We conducted interviews with 9 participants.
Based on analyzing the qualitative data we gathered in primary research, the social context we came up with these insights.
Crimes of Technology
Inadvertently, technology combined with disproportionally advancement in education has caused immense social problems.

human connections are no longer authentic for the younger generations.
Less in Depth but Authentic
To create less in depth but authentic in person connections can be as simple as sharing interests.

Not all connections have to be of high value.
What is Proximity
Proximity conventionally conveys difference in physical position, however, feeling close to someone can be more than just being in the same place.
How might we enhance authentic connection in close proximity?
*We decided to set our targeted users to new college students, because they have most need for some help to connect in person.
Clink. is a physical social app that promotes genuine, in-person connections through novel phone stacking interaction.
clink in Real Life
From our research, we found that people always need an excuse to start a conversation even when they are willing to. Clink. physicalizes such intention through the stacking of the phones.
*This is my first time planning, recruiting, shooting, and editing an ad video with scene designs, script, and actors. Even though it's only a two-minute video, all the work that led to the shooting day was insane. I am glad we pulled through ; )
Phone Stacking
To encourage authentic connections, we want our users to put away their phones during the conversations. Thus comes the stacked interactions.

In this experience, users’ phones are stacked to make a centerpiece of the group. This renders the phone unusable, so all attention is put into the conversation. We want to reduce “phubbing” situations as much as possible.
*Coincidentally, Apple released similar contact cards sharing interaction between strangers three months after the completion of the clink. It felt kinda funny to watch WWDC of iOS 17 and prepare clink. for my graduation show.
Algorithm Against Phubbing
After a stack is made, phones in the stack communicate with each other via NFC connection to combine all interests from the group. These interests are then analyzed and taken into consideration along with other factors, such as time, date, and broad location, to create a conversation prompt.The prompt stickiness is then measured to coach the algorithm to pick out a more interesting prompt for the group.
What if you don't have a group?
*clink also provide the chance to explore nearby clinkers of similar interests safely.
What if you can turn mindlessly scrolling of your phones into another fun encounter?
Island Searching
In scenarios of users out alone, we don't want them to be stranded without any options. We added explore nearby feature as an active gesture.

On the home screen, users can initiate a search. Islands(stacks or individual persons) of similar interests will populate the screen. Users can then select interested ones to request clinking.
Safety Settings
From our research, a big concern in creating connections with strangers is privacy and safety. We want to give people the choice of whether to be discovered on clink. Thus we created the privacy setting screen. Users can customize precisely how far and whether they want to be seen.
*Considering our targeted audience and identity authorizations, we require user authenticate with university emails to ensure physical safety.
Setting the project apart from conventional social media apps, we want to break free from the modern rigid look of the UI. Instead, we wanted our interface to be organic and welcoming. Considering college life, or work life, is already stressful, we plan to make Clink an application of laid-back vibes.

What if the app is like a reminder of retreat? I took inspiration from photos I took earlier on a trip to Hawaii and created island visuals representing individuals. We like the idea of individual users having their own island, so they can do island hopping. When two islands decide to connect, clink is the tectonic force that brings people together.
Treating this project like a business pitch made me take much more responsibility than simply trying to complete a school project. A sense of goal and wanting to see the results propelled me through many difficulties.

Having to pitch to our VC (the professor) our slides has trained me confidence in speech and familiarized myself with how to convey ideas intriguingly.

As the PM of the project, I practiced a lot on dissecting complex goals into individually achievable tasks, and understanding the scope of the project, especially when certain things are needed to be done. I also learned a lot about managing workload across people and how to deal with problems when they arise.
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