Written at 11:05, on Friday 11 May 2007. Tags: c-md .
As you might be aware, I’m currently doing a master Communication & Multimedia Design (C-MD). Coming up with a good research subject is, for most of us, one of the hardest tasks. To make it easier, we were asked to setup a blog to reflect on our interests, hobbies, experience, philosophy etc. Rather than spin off another web site, I’m going to post my thoughts here under the tag c-md.
The first phase of my design research is a discovery phase. With almost a year to spend on any subject within the context of C-MD, what should I choose? Obviously, it has be related to my previous work and interests, and should also be socially relevant. But my interests have always been rather broad, encompassing cultural trends and concepts such as new media, Web 2.0, co-creation and user-generated content, virtual communities and Open Source, to methodologies and techniques such as interaction design, gaming theory, artificial intelligence, knowledge management, accessibility and usability, and the semantic web.
What I like most, though, is to think up of creative solutions for converting traditional knowledge management problems into a web-based solution, making use of the strengths of the Internet as a new medium. My reasons for doing this master were to more fully educate myself on the medium-specific strengths and weaknesses of the Internet, and its related creative professions. There is a lot of potential on the Web due to its hypertextual, multi-media nature, but most of it is untapped or undiscovered. But unlike photography, radio, television or film, the Web is a fully interactive medium with lots of social potential. Only now, with the trends and techniques that are developed under the Web 2.0 umbrella, are we untapping some of that potential. So that’s an area I’d like to work on: the medium-specific strengths of the Internet and its social and interactive potentials. But obviously, that’s still way too broad for a specific research subject.
A while ago, I stumbled upon the website politieonderzoeken.nl. This website represents the first humble babysteps of the Dutch Police to use the Web for engaging the public in solving police cases. I really like this concept, although I hate the execution of the website. On the most basic level, the site is technically built in invalid and inaccessible XHTML, thus failing to comply with the Dutch Web guidelines, which are mandatory for all governement websites. And to add insult to injury, all basic and mostly textual information is encoded in Flash, thus rendering it completely inaccessible for search engines, not to mention that its a proprietary technology, not an open standard.
Technical problems aside, I think the concept of the police and the public interacting in a meaningful way to solve crimes is essential for a more efficient and engaging use of the Web. And while I can see that the police has to censor comments on the site so they won’t hamper with the investigation, by what other means can people on the Web be used as a collective intellgence? And in what ways can these solutions be abstracted or standardized, sort of like design patterns for harnessing human intelligence? The Amazon Mechanical Turk can be seen as a first commercial exploitation of this idea.
My research proposal (at least for now), would thus be to investigate and experiment with interaction patterns in order to utilize their collective knowledge and potential. This goes further then setting up a virtual community, although that would be one of the first steps. One of the areas that I’d love to look into is the Alternate Reality Game, which uses game design theory to mobilize individuals and groups into solving certain puzzles:
“An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.”
While they’re pioneered and most often used for marketing purposes (an early example was the ARG around the movie A.I.), they’re also used to explore future trends and ideas. For example, the ARG World Without Oil uses a simple future doom scenario (“what if the oil supply of the world would run out?”) to engage users into creating video’s, blogs, photo’s, stories, and discussions which revolve around this concept (see for more discussion the blog post World without oil: Democratic Imagination?):
The potential for ARG’s as real-world collaborative problem-solving platforms is enormous, especially when mixing in real-world problems, such as the questions raised by the police in their website. The ARG could be an encompassing genre within which to create puzzles, challenges and question for users to solve. I’d love to explore their potential as part of my research next year.
Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms? Please provide your feedback in the comments!
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