Storyline: Rethinking The News

From Time Studio 2: Behavior at California College of the Arts
Instructor:
Haakon Faste
Fall 2015, 2 week project

Brief
Design a new app that combines two non-obviously related micro-interactions in existing apps in a way that increases people’s time, efficiency, and/or understanding of their behaviors.

“…Brainstorming is more than the pooling of “invented” ideas, it involves the sharing and interpretation of concepts in unintended and (ideally) unanticipated ways.” — Faste et al

Process

The Mashup
I began by curating diverse and unique micro-interactions from unrelated apps. Taking cues from hereditary biology, I crossed each micro-interaction “parent” with each other to create new app concept “babies.”

Micro-interaction Punnett Square

“Natural” Selection
After selecting a few app concept “babies” that felt valuable and pointed toward large problem spaces, I created interactive mockups of each concept in Principle to workshop with classmates.

3 Most Promising Concepts

Insights From Prototyping
Classmates gravitated toward “Zooming Through History,” as it would be an app they would use. Deeper discussion uncovered an insight that current news apps display the news as a stream of isolated headlines. There is no relationship between the stories — i.e. the ability to see how a story has evolved over time — a feature that we believed would make understanding the news easier, and would help users cultivate more informed opinions.

Concept Video
 In the following concept video, I explored what browsing news through time might be like.

Final Concept Video

Learnings

Class Feedback On The Final Concept
The user interface (UI) wasn’t as intuitive as it could be. This means making the UI more discoverable and learnable, or relying popular UI patterns. Either way, more UI explorations and usability tests were needed.

About My Own Process
I geek-out on ideation; I love coming up with and exploring new concepts. An opportunity in future projects is to leverage this passion; on the other hand, it is a potential pit-fall, as I tend to spend disproportionate time brainstorming or use brainstorming as a way to procrastinate.

Where This Could Go
The method, “Micro-interaction Mashup,” fits neatly within the Critical Design area of Liz Sanders’ Map of Design Practice and Research, where the designer acts as expert through design-led methodologies (i.e. create an artifact to learn). The great thing about this approach is that it allowed me to shortcut extensive ethnographic research to arrive at a core opportunity area.

Map of Design Practice and Research

If I were to move forward with the concept, there are two potential trajectories I might take. One would be into the Human-Centered Design area, focusing on usability and efficiency of the news consumption experience.

The other trajectory, which is somewhat more interesting to me, is to go down the Participatory Design area. With news readers as co-creators of the timelines, this uncovers interesting opportunities to leverage the community to solve for other fundamental issues in news consumption — positive revisionist history, fake news, and yellow-journalism come to mind — with less effort than a top-down approach.

Digitally navigating information
Despite the abundance of theory, in practice, efficient information navigation continues to be neglected in news readers. The design of news readers seems to be driven by marketing and revenue goals, as opposed to creating a high-quality product which meets human needs. The human need in this case is that for a continuous narrative which facilitates understanding and critical thought.

If you’re interested in better ways to navigate digital information, check out:

Ted Nelson: inventor of hyperlinks and outspoken opponent on their current implementation.

Are.na: a visual bookmarking site building on the ideas of Ted Nelson’s internet.

Colin Swenson’s thesis work: A fellow CCA Interaction Design grad whose work explores the need for a crowdsourced internet browser which exposes the underlying structure of the internet.

Edward Tufte’s seminal work on displaying information.


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