Um, Where’s the Media?

Posted on Sunday, July 26th, 2009 at 11:23 pm by Jeremy in process, prototype | No Comments

After several rounds of testing the paper prototype for the NIMBY game, we are close to finalizing the rules of play and planning for the next iteration in the evolution of the SMSC project. Looking back on where we began earlier this year, we are excited with the development of the game and pleasantly surprised about the trajectory this project has followed. We certainly did not expect to be designing a board game when we set out to explore questions about the efficacy of social media in strengthening civil discourse in the public sphere! But, the game follows logically. In presenting real-world problems of land use and and planning in cities, it establishes a common set of problems that the players must debate and to a large degree work together to solve in order for the game to progress to the end. This is exactly the kind of scenario in which people meet, disagree or agree, debate, discuss, and form communities everyday. Can a game prepare people to better handle these conflicts and differences in their daily lives? We think so.

So, where is the media? We’re still working on “how networked technologies and social media may be used to create hybrid public spaces where civic discourse and meaningful participation are facilitated, organized, and nurtured at a grass-roots level.” The NIMBY game has given us a great deal of insight into the “networked” and “social” aspects of the public sphere; we needed to first understand fundamental ideas about how people relate to each other (offline and online) so that we can begin to develop the technology and media aspects of the project. It is unclear (to me anyway) if this compartmentalization is overly reductionist, or if our process has failed to encompass the rich subtlety of the design problem(s). What is clear is that the problem is quite large and complex (most interesting problems are!) and the limitations of our team’s capacity and resources required us to take a slower, more deliberate series of steps through the research, design, and prototyping. There’s still much to be done.

On the horizon is developing a version of the NIMBY game within the context of social media. We would like to start by mocking up a web-based, asynchronous software iteration of the game, most likely starting with an iPhone app because of its built-in interface and functional constraints. Initially, this will be pure conceptual design until we can move into phase two of the project as we secure more resources (funding and developers). I will be presenting the SMSC project at ISEA 2009 in Belfast at the end of August. Look for more refined documentation between now and then.