Providing transparency for many audiences

Apr 03 2014

Technology is always with us – whether we are sweating through a workout with our phones or sipping coffee while reading the New York Times on our iPads. Over the past decade this advancement has become an irrefutable component of the average American’s daily life. Now, this technology is affecting the democratic process.

Many believe that the integration of technology into politics was expedited by the successful use of social media in Barack Obama’s first presidential race. Since then, thousands of applications have been generated for politics. These platforms promote transparency and accessibility to the general public through timely and accurate news.

This semester, each team at the Reese News Lab had to brainstorm ideas for media products related to North Carolina politics and weather. The task was difficult because of the sheer number of existing applications and startups founded on these ideas. One person would offer up an idea, for example “Nate Silvering” the weather. Then someone would point out that the Dark Sky app already aggregates local weather information.

To find our best ideas, we had to target unique markets. We tried to get inside the minds of people who disregard run-of-the-mill weather report or standard political press releases.

We quickly latched onto the idea of creating a game that simulated real political hierarchy. In one team’s product, Capitol Quest, you can pass bills, make deals, gain political capital points, and move your way to the top. The political strategy game is based on events in the North Carolina General Assembly. Capitol Quest would be marketed to all ages of political junkies for the purpose of education and enjoyment.

We were also intrigued by the idea of a lawyer database that could be used by anyone in the state. This idea gave birth to my group’s product, Bench. Bench is an online database that aggregates information on North Carolina judges from appellate court and public records. The information is stored within the judge’s profile on our site. Bunch would be sold on a monthly subscription basis to judges, law firms, law schools and media outlets.

Both of these products target a specific group of people, an idea that is atypical to much of what the news does today. But that is exactly why we think our products will work. Tied up in their personalized technological devices, our audience has been shattered into pieces. To adjust for this fragmentation we cannot just provide comprehensive applications on Congress or the White House, we must provide personalized reactive design, whether that is in the form of a massively multiplayer online role-playing game or a database.

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