Social Media as Heterotopia: Applying Foucault’s Concept of Heterotopia to Analyze Interventions in Social Media as a Networked Public

Kate Sangwon Lee, Huaxin Wei

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background. The concept and principles of heterotopia, which were first introduced by Michel Foucault, analyze how public space functions in citizens’ lives. In this article, we use the concept to explore cyberspace as a public space and suggest design implications for social media interventions.

Methods. This study conducted online observation as well as exploratory analysis of social media interventions based on Foucault’s principles of heterotopia and danah boyd’s theory of networked publics.

Results. This study analyzes six heterotopian interventions in social media: Hashtag, Share, Profile, Throwback, Live, and Privacy settings. The results suggest the following design implications: (1) design both opening and closing abilities for a balanced control over information and privacy; (2) adjust the character of service design for different types of imagined audiences; (3) provide room for imagination and creation; and (4) design effective navigation and curation of accumulated content.

Conclusions. The concept of heterotopia provides a new perspective for understanding social media’s functions and affordances, from which implications are derived with respect on how to design interventions to enhance the role of social media as an engaging public space, and how to encourage users’ participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-16
Number of pages12
JournalArchives of Design Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


  • Affordance
  • Design intervention
  • Heterotopia
  • Networked public
  • Social media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design

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