Public-Government Interactivity: An Example for the Future

19 12 2009

In the midst of partisan bickering and intra-party squabbling over major policy issues such as health care reform and the federal budget, it isn’t surprising some people are deeply upset over the current direction –or lack there of– of the United States government. However, I will not be weighing in on either of these political hot potato issues.

Instead, attention should be paid to an encouraging sign of the government actively soliciting public insights for greater transparency and interactivity. Luckily, I came across this awesome endeavor and felt it very worthy of passing along.

Following the lead of President Obama’s initiative for greater government transparency with the release of the Memorandum for the Heads of Executive Departments and Agencies earlier this year, work is underway to increase public input on Data.gov’s future growth. For those unfamiliar with Data.gov, this website serves as a central nerve center of sorts for accessing a plethora of government information presented in one place online. The idea behind such a website is a strong one but it is clear that work remains to make the site more user friendly.

A promising step towards this feat comes through a collaborative effort between the Chief Information Officers Council and several other government groups to shape Data.gov based upon user suggestions. This attempt is being carried out now at the Evolving Data.gov With You website. Here, users can propose ideas for greater government transparency and efficiency that are then viewed by other visitors who can vote in favor of ideas they find most beneficial. The voting concept demonstrated here is very similar to the type of social ranking systems utilized by popular websites like Digg.com that rely upon user input to determine the popularity of user submitted stories.

You may be wondering:

  • Why is this important?
  • Why should I care that about this?
  • What’s in it for me?

For one, the idea that the government is actively working to make an easily accessible platform for visitors to shape how the future of Data.gov evolves is a rather new concept. This is especially relevant when considering it is not just a concept, it is actually being undertaken through actions.

Secondly, as citizens complain about the government turning a deaf ear towards what the people want this should serve as a demonstration of a changing mindset it Washington, D.C. President Obama proposed rather sweeping changes through the aforementioned Memorandum earlier this year to force government entities to tackle ways of making government more responsive to the people it is meant to serve.

Thirdly, the open forum for idea sharing and user contributions at Data.gov provides a free idea generator to the government. By soliciting insights from visitors who perhaps come from a wide range of professional backgrounds, the government can benefit greatly through the variety of different perspectives towards usability these citizens provide.

Along those lines, the website interface of the voting platform used with Data.gov is easy on the eyes and easy to navigate. The structure of each page on the site is consistent so as to limit the chances of a visitor getting lost with no way to retrace their steps. Also, the information presented is clearly separated into different categories allowing users to access the material they are most interested in without wadding through pages of unrelated material.

I have already voted for the ideas which I feel would be most beneficial to citizens trying to access and use information provided from the government. There are many ideas presently waiting for your vote. If you want government to be more responsive, you have to speak up. Here is a great opportunity to do just that. Encourage these initiatives to assist the government in order to help us. I did my part today in this process. Question is, will you do yours?





Technology + interactivity in multiple forms

9 11 2009

Today marked the end of an……experience. Era would not work in this sense, so experience it will be. What I am referring to is Face-2-Face Fridays. This experience served as a useful means of sharing some of the latest and greatest interactive media events, tools and resources among our fellow peers, through 90-second presentations each week. Although today is a Monday, since last Friday had scheduling conflicts, it was the last set of weekly presentations. It is fitting therefore to highlight some of the wide-ranging topics that were presented. The following list is not an exhaustive one and is presented in no particular order. Here it goes….

> Twitter Peek
Serving as the first Twitter dedicated mobile device, this is for people who feel the need to Tweet regularly throughout the day or need to monitor other peoples Tweet postings. Although the same can be accomplished via a smart phone, the Twitter Peek enables those without smartphones to actively participate in Twitter from a handheld, mobile platform.

> Rent The Runway (RTR)
Combining the worlds of online commerce and fashion, this site has taken looking good to a new and practical level. Basically, members search through designer dresses, find several they like the have them shipped to be worn for a special event. Afterwards, just return the dresses in a prepaid package to RTR and that is it. It seems pretty painless and offers an alternative to buying something expensive which would otherwise be used online a couple of times.

> “Secret Girlfriend” on Comedy Central
Further proof that television is moving towards greater interactivity comes in the form of a show that is filmed from you the viewer’s perspective. Furthermore, the viewer gets to decide from a series of clips which paths the storyline will take, giving you the viewer some critical decisions to make.

Google Squared
Google is a dominant force online. Ironically, there are features associated with Google that are not well known. One such example is Google Squared. Instead of doing a typical search for user specified information and presenting results in list form, Google Squared presents relevant information in chart form. Though limited in the information it can present, since the topic requires many entries, it serves as one example of presenting information in a unique way that some users may find more appealing for their purposes.

Recyclable Laptops
Many people have laptops these days and many people wear them out, require the purchase of a new one. However, when that happens, where does the old laptop end up? Many times, it goes into landfills. Attempts to remedy this problem have resulted in a type of recyclable laptop. The idea is based upon a laptop being constructed in layers, each layer composed of paper pulp and other recycled material. If one layer wears out, it can be replaced instead of tossing the whole computer. Looking towards the future, it will be interesting to see if more people take note of this possibility and begin combining environmental factors into their computing needs.

There you have it, a snapshot of some topics that were presented earlier today. There were many more but for the sake of brevity, I will spare covering every single one. Just as I learned interesting bits of information on technology and interactivity, hopefully this post will guide others to explore the possibilities that currently exist and those on the horizon.





Unified Concepts of Interactivity through a Toolbox

6 11 2009

How would you conceptualize interactivity as it relates to theory and audiences? That is a question that may seem difficult to answer. Granted, it should be. There is no definitive right answer.

Presented with this challenge of conceptualizing interactivity, I worked alongside several of my peers to devise a means of knowledge conveyance regarding the overarching topic. After some initial brainstorming, we realized that visualizing information was a necessity. However, how could be show the relationships that are woven together that make interactive media work? We literally and figuratively grabbed a toolbox to complete the task.

A toolbox represents many components that parallel the most important ones pertaining to interactive media. A prosumer approach further guided our efforts in that a prosumer is characterized by a producer and audience combined. Hence, making something while absorbing influences from others. A toolbox relates to all of these relationships. Below are some examples:

Choice – user chooses tool to use

Control – user decides on content that is paired with the decided upon tool

Feedback – depending on tool chosen and how it is applied, the response will vary, varied outcome results from these factors

Design and Function – every tool specified for a use or types of uses and must maintain purpose

Trust and Value – needs to be a discernible outcome from a tools use, clear sign that task was accomplished by relying upon chosen tool

Connectivity – each tool plays a role towards the greater function of the toolbox, remove one and everything else can be affected

Time – some tools allow more efficient task completion than others, just as some websites make task completion easier than others

Usability – tool should be structured for wide appeal and application towards chosen task otherwise user will not rely upon it for subsequent uses

Optimization – since some tools apply more easier to specified uses than others, key is for user to realize this and make appropriate decision ahead of time to optimize their experience

Why Factor – many reasons contribute to user decisions but each one contributes to a degree towards why one approach was chosen over another

Learning Curve – learning is ongoing which is why using simpler tools first allows more intricate tools to be used later

I found it really interesting to view a standard toolbox and all its accoutrements in this manner. The similarities of such a non-digital medium with the workings of an electronic medium like the Internet is striking. That is just the point. As humans we have had quite a few of these concepts already working in our daily lives, yet, many people do not realize just how applicable they are in the age of interactive media. Hopefully this little explanation of our group’s efforts help to showcase the connection between a good old toolbox and the interactive media of here and now and beyond.





Crafting of influential interactivity

12 10 2009

Based upon my studies thus far as a Masters student in Interactive Media, one key insight I have noted is that old fashioned, traditional media is largely static. Before you newspaper lovers jump all over this post, I am not saying that is always bad. However, static content only goes so far, it is rather limited in regards to spreadability. People do not want to interact with content that just stares back at them. On the contrary, growing number of people want to experience content that responds to their own input, allows a degree of relationship to be established between the user and the content even if for a fleeting moment.

It was along these lines that I participated in a group activity to devise a list of the most important characteristics that make interactive video content influential. We ranked characteristics from 1 to 7, where 1 is most influential. Just because something incorporates interactivity does not mean it carries much or any influence. Therefore, without further anon, check out the list and brief explications of our thought processes below:

1) Relevance
Video spreads because audiences can establish some sort of connection to what they watch. Main subcategories of relevance include Audience, Demographics and Culture.

2) Emotional Response
Humans are emotional creatures, though to what degree varies depending on whom you ask. Playing on this emotional bond, we subcategorized two areas:
-Human interest: something humanizes the video
-Identifiable: viewers see relation to what they are watching

3) Innovation
The video has to have a purpose to make it influential; otherwise it is just taking up space on a server somewhere. The idea behind the video motivates the content to an extent where it moves others to act or respond. Breaking this down further we settled upon these subcategories:
-Content is fresh
-Presents new perspective(s)

4) Timeliness
This is all about the tick-tock around the clock, timing. When the video is posted can play a significant role on the influence that the video establishes or maintains.

5) Quality
There has to be demonstration of effort in the final product to the minimal extent that the viewer can see and hear the material, otherwise, it isn’t going to influence a soul!

6) Length of Video
Many people, either by realizing it or not, have grown impatient with material online. They expect something now, not in 3 minutes. Generally, the longer a video becomes the influence it exudes decreases. I stress the word generally.

7) Multiplatform Accessibility
For material to become “viral”, it has to cross borders. In this case, borders are media platforms. Influence is build by having the content easily available in the manner that the user is most comfortable. If the content forces people to change their habits just to experience it, I would bet the material would not reach its full potential.

There you have it. Is it perfect; no. Are there relevant points addressed in this list, yes. You are free to disagree but we feel this does a nice job of encapsulating the core components of differentiating the influential videos in cyberspace.