Aside from user research, there are other useful tools to help us to design for participation, particularly when thinking about collective participation. I’ve been looking at Forrester’s Engagement Pyramid (Charlene Li, 2009), Bloom’s Taxonomy (1956), Arnstein’s Ladder of Participation (1969) and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (1943). Each model comes from a different discipline – media, education, civic planning and psychology respectively. Maslow’s model has been critiqued for only looking at a biased sample and not taking into account how needs change with age, gender or within specific contexts, but also falsely states that lower needs must be satisfied before a person can achieve their potential and self-actualise, this is documented elsewhere.
These models, in particular Arnstein’s Ladder, might be useful in thinking about public service broadcasting as a platform in terms of how much power its audiences are given. We might ask ourselves, how and in what ways does broadcast give power to its audiences? Arnstein was deliberate in making the model provocative.
Can we design experiences that give an opportunity for all types of audiences in the Engagement Pyramid?
How might we engage the 90%? How might we make contributing zero effort? Can Bloom’s Taxonomy help?
The 90-10-1 Principle is just a rule of thumb. I was initially surprised to find out that its at its most extreme ratio with sites like Wikipedia, however, that might not be such a bad thing – it could mean that Wikipedia is inherently useful for a very large audience, keeping in mind, entry to being a ‘author’ on Wikipedia is more difficult than, say, participating by voting with stars.
So perhaps levels of participation, rather than power, might be more appropriate for a public broadcaster? Reflecting on a recent participatory broadcast project that I worked on, Get Playing, which invited audiences, through a call to action, to learn to play a piece of music, film themselves playing their part and uploading their video for a collective performance as a virtual orchestra, for Last Night of the Proms. Over 1200 people participated, playing 50 instruments at different levels of ability.
What’s interesting here is how we started with getting a high and creative level of participation from individuals and moved towards the goal of audiences watching a collective performance. Is what’s motivating individual participation, the prospect of being part of something bigger, that then becomes a shared cultural experience?
It’s important to explore what motivates or drives individuals to contribute creatively. Dan Pink explains it best…
Building on this and going back to the idea of universal needs, Self-Determination Theory (STD) (2000) first developed by Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan, considers ‘conditions’ that enable specific needs to be met, and the presence or absence of these conditions in a social setting are crucial.
‘Conditions supporting the individual’s experience of autonomy, competence, and relatedness are argued to foster the most volitional and high quality forms of motivation and engagement for activities, including enhanced performance, persistence, and creativity. In addition, Self-Determination Theory, proposes that the degree to which any of these three psychological needs is unsupported or thwarted within a social context will have a robust detrimental impact on wellness in that setting.’
So, if we get it right and tap into intrinsically motivated people, who are creatively expressing themselves, how do we turn the experience of watching TV/content into a platform for shaping people’s lives and interactions for the better?
There are examples of TV/content viewing being extended to a shared collective experience with friends by creating viewing parties – Netflix Party and Showgoers – both use Google Chrome extensions to share (stream) the same content with viewers in different locations. A chat box in a corner of the screen allows people to comment and chat as the content is viewed. But ‘online chat’ (discussion), is low down on the engagement triangle in terms of getting active participation going.
A limiting factor in terms of participation is only having one remote control, controlled by one person, but several social television projects have introduced multiple remote controls through objects (e.g. a cushion), gesture detection and mobile phones acting as remote controls, opening up options to gamify every households living room.
Building on the idea of gestures, its worth considering self-organised learning (SOLE), where, to complete a complex goal and learn skills, encouragement seems to be the key: children are able to teach themselves computing, english and even science with encouragement from a peer or a nurturing adult, like a grandmother. Could this mechanism be utilised for participation in adults online?
Bringing this back to user experience, some design questions that could be explored in future…
How might we design to enable mass participation that expand content experiences?
How might we encourage audience exploration?
How might storytelling fulfil these drivers?
To research some of these questions further, I wondered where live, immersive events such as Secret Cinema or a Punch Drunk immersive theatre experience might shed some light. Having participated in several Punch Drunk experiences and recommended them to others, it was interesting to come across R&D that PunchDrunk did in collaboration with MIT Media Lab, to explore ways in which online might connect with the live immersive experience. To try and achieve this they used storytelling and created a new storyline within an existing immersive experience. From the case study, it appears there were many lessons learned but the endeavour failed to make create a shared experience driven by participation. The main challenge seemed to be the failure of overly complex technology or lack of time to test the technology.
Looking at the experience of live cinema, where cinema screenings might be expanded to encourage participation, it seems that the most successful live cinema experiences are those where the audience knows and loves, e.g. Star Wars, The Rocky Horror Show, and has nostalgia for the story, to the extent that they know the words, can sing along to the music, have learned a dance that features in the film. It appeals to their fandom as well as expanding from their knowledge of the narrative – designing competence and some autonomy into the experience . And they can get lost in a ‘hyperreality’.
This leads me closer to the idea that having a story that is known and loved by the audience encourages people to express themselves. Perhaps there is an element of fulfilling a need for relatedness here – the audience knows the character so well that they relate. I wonder then, if there is scope to encourage people to go further in their explorations and participations by breaking up the story and encouraging that people search for known elements of it? This is something that Punch Drunk do quite effectively – in Sleep No More – you are thrown into an abandoned hotel and go around exploring the building and expect at some point to come across a scene from Macbeth. I found this experience absolutely thrilling and one of the best experiences from my adult life.
Or, another example could be that the general [younger] population are aware of Afghanistan because of the recent war, so Adam Curtis can capitalise and build on that knowledge to show us something (possibly) unknown or unimagined within our own understanding of history.
A key question or few might then be…
How might we trigger participation through a desire to see more of memorable story?
How might we use anticipation to drive participation?
How might we use audience’s knowledge to divert their viewpoint? The familiar unveiled?
Creating and interactive storytelling experience has its problems, and I think the solution is in the experience design of the piece.
These are questions to which storytelling holds the key… and, its all about knowing your audience.