An online tool to help users to understand political issues for both sides of the debate
This project was designed for the RSA Student Design Awards, which is the world’s longest-running student design competition. My group chose a prompt sponsored by Twitter to “design a digital solution to increase the quality and quantity of citizens’ participation in the democratic process”.
We conducted interviews, surveys and online research to develop our understanding of how the public interacts with political information.
90.3% of participants consume their political information online
63.9% of respondents claim to discuss politics with those with opposing political views
78.9% of participants report socializing with people who have opposing political views
37.2% of participants have difficulty finding credible political information online
60.4% of participants were skeptical of the information they consume online
32.7% of participants state they engage in political discussion online
As a result of our research, we gathered four key insights that we used to guide the project:
It’s important to understand how and why people justify opposing viewpoints
Social media’s current algorithm traps people in echo chambers
There is growing concern over the accuracy of information online
Trust and transparency are important values to uphold for a solution that handles information
Throughout Western societies, there is a growing distrust of the media and confusion concerning authenticity of information. Citizens are becoming increasingly polarized in their political views and entrenched within echo chambers. Consequently, people are often unable to understand and discuss opposing perspectives on important political issues, impeding the democratic process.
We then conducted a How Might We design sprint to brainstorm solutions and narrow our focus to the most important components.
We then ran sprints to formulate early concepts of what the could be. Some of the many concepts we considered were: a chrome extension that identifies fallacies and misleading information, a blockchain database that accounts for versioning, and a feed algorithm (similar to Facebook) that displays opposing topics, meant to combat echo chambers.
After weeks of piecing together elements and experimenting with concepts a solution began to emerge.
Poliloq - a tool to help people understand both sides of the political debate.
Poliloq's core attributes:
After we had selected our concept and direction, we began the prototype phase. We kicked off this phase with a timed design sprint using pen and paper to draw possible ways that the product could flow. After pitching our ideas to each other and dot voting on the best components, we began wire-framing and rapid prototyping different options.
Emphasis was put on information architecture and hierarchy to create the most natural and fluid experience for users. Over the following week, the prototype came together.
When our prototype was sufficient for testing, we set up in a high traffic area and asked people to test the prototype.
We tested with 5 users, first providing them with an overview of the project, then giving them several core tasks to complete, and finally asking them their thoughts.
With the user feedback we were able to modify the interface to address user feedback.
Our solution is a decentralized online tool made to analyze political issues from multiple viewpoints using crowd sourced verified information as support. Users are then able to use the platform to engage in fact-based discussions. The problem is solved by fostering mutual understanding between people on different sides of an issue.
Every issue starts with a brief summary of the issue along with an overview of how people on each side view the issue. Most importantly the mutual goals section highlights the shared goals of people on both sides of the issue.
Information is sorted into one of three categories, verified, unverified and verified false. By selecting one of the items user can view the claim, vote on the validity of the claim and comment. Additionally users can view the source of the claim and the edit history.
Moreover, there is a general discussion section at the bottom of each page for people to discuss the topic.
Each editable element of the page has an edit history, allowing people to view and revert edits.
Poliloq’s final design is a result of research, insights, design thinking, and iterations. User experience was a priority when designing the platform. We focused on producing a lean product, creating the most essential elements.
The final product doesn't dictate what people should or should not believe to be the truth; instead we are helping people present their beliefs more strongly so that productive debate can ensue, thereby improving the quality of the democratic process.
Twitter reached out to our team after the design awards with a personal note to congratulate us on a strong project, an incredible amount of work, and great research. They also expressed interest in using our project in an upcoming blog post.