Politics, mobile phones and paper airplanes

May 29 2012

I don’t remember the last time I played with LEGOs. Oh wait, yes I do. Our summer project began with a group exercise involving the rudimentary, but surprisingly applicable toy. We tapped into our “creative sides” and put together a plastic block landscape that somehow explained to a fifth grader why voting matters.

Fortunately, the pieces we chose from the box included a Darth Vader LEGO man, plenty of mainstream people, a chain, and a desk. Given these resources, things inevitably got a little morbid. We put Darth Vader behind the desk, decapitated the mainstreamers, and put the headless LEGO men under the chain. This represented voiceless citizens when there is a “bad guy” in power, of course.

On the other side we showed a booth with the citizens (with heads) voicing their opinion and voting. Finally, we had a bar graph showing how the guy who got the biggest block got to replace Darth Vader. Honestly, if I were a fifth grader I would probably either be really confused or completely terrified by our presentation. Regardless, it was an entertaining activity that required us to stretch our imaginations to reach a somewhat unexpected audience – something we will continue to do throughout our project.

The rest of the day (minus a quick interlude to create and fly some life-sized paper airplanes) was filled with briefing and brainstorming, briefing and brainstorming, briefing and brainstorming. We heard from specialists on North Carolina politics, interactivity and crowd sourcing. We discussed what matters, how to engage people in that topic, and how to sustain that engagement.

As we delve into the heart of North Carolina politics, we will attempt to use innovative ways to tell the story of our state’s changing scenery. While we are not limited in coverage, content or creativity, we do have one overarching constraint – designing everything first and foremost for a mobile device.

At the end of the day, we had not come up with many answers about how best to tell big stories on small screens. But we did produce some solid ideas. And, as today’s activities suggest, it’s okay to not know exactly what we’ll do, how we’ll do it, or where we’ll go. We have the opportunity to create something incredible and we have the opportunity to fail. Either way you look at it, we’re not launching rockets….just paper planes.

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