Professional Exploration #2
I was never very politically involved before the 2016 election. I wasn’t even that interested in the news, outside of grand-scale events. But during, and after, the election that changed.
Looking back on it now, I can’t remember if it was a gradual change or if there were a few events that caused a siesmic shift within me. However it happened, I was a different person by the end of 2016. I was participating in a number of high-volume/low-impact activism efforts, where you do small things everyday like call your congress person. I also had started an activism blog with the goal of educating and inspiring people into action.
During that time, the single most successful tool that came along was a messaging bot called Resistbot. You could send it a text or Facebook message, and it would send that message to your congress person as a fax. It would also prompt you to participate each day. The tech almost entirely removed the barrier to entry, and helped inspire people to do something who would otherwise stay on the sidelines.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Resistbot was part of a growing field called Civic Tech. I honestly wish I had known about it then, because I would have wanted to get involved. This professional exploration is my chance to learn as much as possible about a field that is new, groundbreaking, and actually impactful.
How Civic Tech will impact me as a designer
This field will impact me as a designer in two ways.
1) It will help me get more insight into people. Learning more about what motivates people and what is important to them is always valuable to a designer
2) It will help me advance a particular set of skills that are central to this discipline. Specifically, getting a chance to learn and practice data visualization and behavioral change design.
How forwarding this topic will support improved design in the world
One of the key values of design is to be curious and constantly be learning. Forwarding this project is a chance to inform designers of an entire new field of design. The more designers that know about it, the more that can contribute to it and the faster it will develop.
How the topic impacts society
This topic might have one of the most dramatic impacts on society possible. It’s purpose is to increase civil engagement through informing voters and actually getting them to vote. If this impact is positive or negative depends entirely on how the tool is wielded. It could be the final piece necessary to create a fully actualized republic, or it could become an unparalleled method to misinform and manipulate the public.
It’s our jobs as designers to try and prevent the latter.