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Designing Socially Impactful Digital Experiences

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@cattsmall@cattsmall
Designing Socially Impactful
Digital Experiences
Beyond Tellerrand Düsseldorf 2016
Catt Small

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@cattsmall@cattsmall
◇Product Designer, SoundCloud
◇Co-founder, Brooklyn Gamery
◇Co-founder, Code Liberation
◇Maker of var...

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@cattsmall@cattsmall
Technology, culture, design, and
improving society.
Today we’ll discuss:

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Designing Socially Impactful Digital Experiences

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Countless people in technology want to use their skills to help others. However, creating a digital product that improves society is harder than it sounds. The successful use of technology in new contexts requires more research, testing, and time than most would like to admit. Countless social good hackathons have been organized, yet many products created during these events fail to become anything more than a mention in a recap article.

In this talk, I described my process of creating SenseU, a mobile sex education game that utilizes a popular form of communication: instant messaging. Using my project as a case study, I highlighted ways that the current state of designing for social good can be improved. Attendees learned ways that technology can successfully help others as well as tips for launching an interactive experience created for social good.

Countless people in technology want to use their skills to help others. However, creating a digital product that improves society is harder than it sounds. The successful use of technology in new contexts requires more research, testing, and time than most would like to admit. Countless social good hackathons have been organized, yet many products created during these events fail to become anything more than a mention in a recap article.

In this talk, I described my process of creating SenseU, a mobile sex education game that utilizes a popular form of communication: instant messaging. Using my project as a case study, I highlighted ways that the current state of designing for social good can be improved. Attendees learned ways that technology can successfully help others as well as tips for launching an interactive experience created for social good.

More Related Content

Designing Socially Impactful Digital Experiences

  1. 1. @cattsmall@cattsmall Designing Socially Impactful Digital Experiences Beyond Tellerrand Düsseldorf 2016 Catt Small
  2. 2. @cattsmall@cattsmall ◇Product Designer, SoundCloud ◇Co-founder, Brooklyn Gamery ◇Co-founder, Code Liberation ◇Maker of various things! A little about me:
  3. 3. @cattsmall@cattsmall Technology, culture, design, and improving society. Today we’ll discuss:
  4. 4. @cattsmall@cattsmall Technology: the silver bullet?
  5. 5. @cattsmall@cattsmall Technology has improved quickly in the past century.
  6. 6. @cattsmall@cattsmall 8GB now vs. 5MB in 1956
  7. 7. @cattsmall@cattsmall Technology changed many things for us.
  8. 8. @cattsmall@cattsmall Travel Credit: Paul Prescott via Shutterstock
  9. 9. @cattsmall@cattsmall Communication Credit: blog.mysms.com
  10. 10. @cattsmall@cattsmall Healthcare & abilities brykmantra on Flickr sherpaa.com
  11. 11. @cattsmall@cattsmall Can it solve every problem?
  12. 12. @cattsmall@cattsmall ...Not really.
  13. 13. @cattsmall@cattsmall It doesn’t work alone.
  14. 14. @cattsmall@cattsmall People
  15. 15. @cattsmall@cattsmall Why?
  16. 16. @cattsmall@cattsmall We are problem solvers.
  17. 17. @cattsmall@cattsmall Makers //random integer method. Lorem.prototype.randomInt = function (min, max) { return Math.floor(Math.random() * (max - min + 1)) + min; }; //text creator method with parameters: how many, what Lorem.prototype.createText = function(count, type) { switch (type) { //paragraphs are loads of sentences. case Lorem.TYPE.PARAGRAPH: var paragraphs = new Array; for (var i = 0; i < count; i++) { var paragraphLength =
  18. 18. @cattsmall@cattsmall Platitudes The smartest in the world! The best work of our lives! The power to change!
  19. 19. @cattsmall@cattsmall Ego++
  20. 20. @cattsmall@cattsmall Instant gratification Now That's What I Call Music LLP
  21. 21. @cattsmall@cattsmall Privilege Yay!
  22. 22. @cattsmall@cattsmall This is a bad combination.
  23. 23. @cattsmall@cattsmall Social media Twitter #OccupyWallStreet #BlackLivesMatter
  24. 24. @cattsmall@cattsmall Project Loon
  25. 25. @cattsmall@cattsmall Healthkit Apple
  26. 26. @cattsmall@cattsmall Homeless Wifi hotspots www.dailymail.co.uk
  27. 27. @cattsmall@cattsmall Siri Apple
  28. 28. @cattsmall@cattsmall We all love technology and we all believe in its power. But we are reminded by Putin’s domestic crackdown, the annexation of Crimea and the perpetual horrors in Syria, that technology is not a silver bullet answer to the world’s problems. It generates awareness, it gives us visibility, it offers enormous opportunity – but at the end of the day, the world is still run by states and their military apparatus. - Jared Cohen
  29. 29. @cattsmall@cattsmall We must modify the way we think about tech.
  30. 30. @cattsmall@cattsmall “change” “augment”
  31. 31. @cattsmall@cattsmall “edge case” “failsafe”
  32. 32. @cattsmall@cattsmall Designing for social good
  33. 33. @cattsmall@cattsmall The task Create a project that affects the way people think about and discuss an important societal issue.
  34. 34. @cattsmall@cattsmall Mean Girls (2004) US sex ed
  35. 35. @cattsmall@cattsmall The question How can I give people comprehensive sex education outside the school system?
  36. 36. @cattsmall@cattsmall Books & curricula
  37. 37. @cattsmall@cattsmall What I learned Sex has many benefits – possibly more than we know about right now. The state of sex education was caused by various influences over centuries.
  38. 38. @cattsmall@cattsmall Survey
  39. 39. @cattsmall@cattsmall “Christian/Western guilt was an issue.” Survey respondent
  40. 40. @cattsmall@cattsmall “I learned most things from the internet.” Survey respondent
  41. 41. @cattsmall@cattsmall “Sex ed was a joke in public school” Survey respondent
  42. 42. @cattsmall@cattsmall Goals ◇Reach people in college between ages 18 and 25 ◇Allow audience to learn and experiment without real consequences
  43. 43. @cattsmall@cattsmall Mobile sex ed game ◇Phones are used for everything ◇Only source of internet access for some ◇Less likely that families will interfere
  44. 44. @cattsmall@cattsmall Competitive research HappyPlayTime, Show Me Yours, and Sex Positive
  45. 45. @cattsmall@cattsmall Curriculum
  46. 46. @cattsmall@cattsmall Ideation
  47. 47. @cattsmall@cattsmall Prototyping
  48. 48. @cattsmall@cattsmall Story
  49. 49. @cattsmall@cattsmall I did even more research.
  50. 50. @cattsmall@cattsmall Resident assistant survey
  51. 51. @cattsmall@cattsmall
  52. 52. @cattsmall@cattsmall I started building.
  53. 53. @cattsmall@cattsmall Design goals ◇Friendly colors ◇App-like feeling ◇Realistic interaction design
  54. 54. @cattsmall@cattsmall The result SenseU, senseugame.com
  55. 55. @cattsmall@cattsmall Testing
  56. 56. @cattsmall@cattsmall “I like the texting interface. It’s super cool and new!” Playtester
  57. 57. @cattsmall@cattsmall “The color scheme is very soothing.” Playtester
  58. 58. @cattsmall@cattsmall “It felt like I was actually interacting with someone.” Playtester
  59. 59. @cattsmall@cattsmall What’s next for SenseU ◇Continue building ◇More testing ◇Partnerships
  60. 60. @cattsmall@cattsmall What I learned
  61. 61. @cattsmall@cattsmall Be humble.
  62. 62. @cattsmall@cattsmall Assume nothing.
  63. 63. @cattsmall@cattsmall Do your research.
  64. 64. @cattsmall@cattsmall Design using data.
  65. 65. @cattsmall@cattsmall Embed yourself.
  66. 66. @cattsmall@cattsmall Listen to others.
  67. 67. @cattsmall@cattsmall Ask for help.
  68. 68. @cattsmall@cattsmall Test often.
  69. 69. @cattsmall@cattsmall Focus on augmentation.
  70. 70. @cattsmall@cattsmall Accept the slower pace.
  71. 71. @cattsmall@cattsmall Wrap-up
  72. 72. @cattsmall@cattsmall ◇Tech can help, but it can't solve problems by itself. ◇If a solution isn’t solved well, it can have negative effects. ◇Privilege affects technology. In summary:
  73. 73. @cattsmall@cattsmall ◇Do an ample amount of research before, during, and afterward. ◇Embed yourself to gain context. ◇Listen to your target audience. ◇Accept that social change is slow. Advice:
  74. 74. @cattsmall@cattsmall Thank you. Questions? Tweet @cattsmall Email catt@cattsmall.com

Editor's Notes

  • Thanks
  • SoundCloud
    Create products that help people share sounds across the world
    I focus on monetization design – things like the payment experience and ad products
    (sorry, SoundCloud users in the audience)
    We’re hiring for lots of positions in Berlin and New York, so HMU!
    Brooklyn Gamery
    Design and ship usable games for different platforms
    Our most recent game was a mobile action game called Prism Shell
    Now working on new games for computers
    Code Liberation
    A group that teaches women to program video games
    NYC-based
    New London branch
    Maker of things
    Random websites
    Social Sayings, an insprational photo generator
    Gaming tournament
    Games by myself
    Zines
  • First I wanted to explore technology
    Discuss how we think about it and the way it affects our lives
  • Technology has impacted our lives a lot, especially in the last century
  • Just look at 8 GB now versus 5MB in 1956
    It’s mind-blowing to think about the fact that they had to airlift these things
    Computers were HUGE
  • More examples of how tech has helped change things for us include...
  • Bullet trains are amazingly fast
    Subway stations (at least in NYC) have internet!
    In-flight entertainment makes 8-hour flights go by in a breeze
    Self-driving cars are changing the way we think about being on the road
  • Look how tiny and smart portable phones are these days!
    We can communicate with text messages, send emails from our phones, and more
    You can share pictures from these devices
    People my age hardly use the “phone” function anymore
  • Heart rate monitors and other technology help track the status of patients
    People can manage their healthcare online
    Consult a doctor without going into the office
    We’re helping amputees do more with bionic hands
  • Because it helped so much, people began to see it as a solve for all
  • However, this doesnt always end so well
  • Tech can help but it can't solve problems by itself
  • Technology, especially the social good variety, relies on human interaction to work
    Whether that means relying on people to form habits
    Or getting people to help each other
    It needs people to work
  • Why do we think about tech as a silver bullet
    even when its repeatedly proven to not be a solution for everything?
    I’d like to focus on the silver bullet mentality
    Discuss how it happened
    Examples of how it fails us
    And how to design technology that helps people
  • Many people naturally want to help others
    We see problems happening to ourselves that we want to solve
    We see problems happening to others too
    As designers and product creators, this is what we do
    We build things that solve a need
    This makes us think technology can be applied to anything, regardless of the context
  • A creative group of makers
    We use the skills we have
    This is usually a combination of design, development, and task management
  • Many say that people in tech are some of the smartest people in the world
    We’re also told quite often that we’re doing the best work of our lives
    That we’re changing the world
    And that we have the power to make change happen
    This combination leads to...
  • The inflation of egos
  • Since the rise of fast internet, we’ve come to expect things to change instantly
    We think that technology can make anything happen
    And that it can happen NOW
    That is because of how we interact with technology
    This thought process is fueled by
  • We forget that people don’t always have equal access to tech
    We forget that some people have different relationships with tech
    We forget that things don’t always go right
    That’s because the people who make these technologies have privilege
    They are idealistic
    They forget that things can go wrong
    Sometimes, they lack the context to help new technologies get adopted by their target audience
    In the USA, tech is majorly white and male
    This means solutions mostly solve white, male problems
  • This combination of
    problem solvers
    Ego
    instant gratification
    And privilege
    Can have harmful consequences
    Here are a few examples of when tech was expected to deliver
    And didn’t do the best job
  • Social media networks connect people
    When they catch on and become a habit, they affect people’s lives greatly
    Twitter and Facebook are two of the most popular networks
    Hashtag activism is great for awareness, not great for solving problems
    In the USA, Occupy Wall Street and other movements like Black Lives Matter started and lived on social media at first
    Other movements have also started online, and many groups use social media to plan gatherings
    Although these movements started online, they are now mostly organized in person
    Many fault the groups (especially OWS) for not having tangible change
    (again, instant gratification)
    But they have created momentum and lead to the USA democratic party discussing the issues they focused on
    A lot of people use social media as a way to share awareness, but it by itself does not change society
    It also fails when countries block its citizens from accessing it
  • Project Loon by Google is a hot air balloon that provides LTE wireless internet
    It aims to help give fast internet to countries in Africa and Asia
    They can’t afford expensive underground fiber cables
    It HAS given people access to faster internet
    However, it’s crashed 8 times in the past 2 years
    There’s a whole section for it on Wikipedia
    Just Google “project loon crash” to see where it’s landed
    Did they consider other options before settling on balloons that inconvenience people when they fail?
  • Apple’s Healthkit opened doors for doctors to connect to patients in new ways
    For people to track their health data
    But it didn’t include menstruation tracking for quite a long time
    Even though a large number of people in the world have vaginas
    Is that because the dev team was mostly male?
    Who prioritized features?
    Did they ask the audience or assume?
    It lacked the context to understand that such a large audience would want this feature
    Even though there are a lot of people bleeding regularly and many menstruation tracking apps exist
  • Another internet idea, in Texas
    Pay homeless people to be wireless hotspots
    Profits went to charity
    This was a marketing stunt
    But was again used in Prague
    This time is was launched with an indiegogo - which failed
    Why would people be okay with standing around and being hotspots?
    Why would consumers feel comfortable with this?
    Did anyone ask?
  • Siri isn’t as social-good focused as the others but it is an important example
    It’s an assistant of sorts
    You could set reminders
    Look for things nearby
    When it was first released, it couldn’t help people who were suicidal
    Until recently, it couldn’t help people who were raped
    Or those who were being abused
    It had little to no failsafes built in because it was idealistic about how people would use it
    Very assumption-based
  • As Jared Cohen said in an interview with MSNBC
    We all love technology and we all believe in its power
    But technology is not a silver bullet answer to the world’s problems
    It generates awareness, it gives us visibility, it offers enormous opportunity
    But people still affect society more than technology can alone
    The goverment can make a choice that renders technology ineffective
  • We must be less idealistic and understand the place technology sits within our lives
  • Instead of thinking of technology as something that alone changes the world
    We should think of it as something that helps PEOPLE change the world
    It can’t solve our problems, but it can make the process better or faster
  • And instead of treating small possibilities as edge cases, we should include solutions for them
    Failsafes are important because things don’t always go well
  • With the idea of augmentation in mind, I decided to experiment
    See if I could create a piece of technology that aimed to augment people’s experience
    And speed up the rate of change
  • I wanted to focus on awareness and knowledge-sharing
    Technology is good for that
  • I chose sex ed
    Very specifically, sex ed in the united states
    Sex education in the USA is terrible
    Varies by state
    Some states teach abstinence, some teach comprehensive education
    Very influenced by religion, specifically christianity
    Most sex ed curricula are sex-negative, discouraging people from having sex
    But this is bad – these young people grow into adults
    If they think of sex as a bad thing, how will they do it when they’re older?
    Young people are making decisions about their bodies
    Many do it without being given comprehensive knowledge
    I wanted to help change this
  • But I didn’t want to go through schools because the education system varies
    This was my challenge
    So I immediately decided to start with research
  • I looked at various references to gain an informed opinion rather than just a hypothesis
    books about the history of sex
    research papers
    sex ed curricula
  • This is not a new problem and it probably won’t be solved immediately
  • Empirical research
    How many people use the internet to learn about sex?
    What do people want to learn about sex?
  • Based on all of my learnings, I came up with some goals
    People ages 18 to 25
    Learning about their bodies, experimenting in college
    Allow them to experiment and learn without real-world consequences
  • Young people are using mobile phones to connect with friends
    In some cases, it’s the only way they have access to the internet
    Their phones are personal
    it’s less likely that families will interfere with usage of the apps they choose to download
    By focusing on mobile, it’s possible to reach additional audiences as well
    Teenagers
  • All of the games were short
    The first one was only about a very specific part of sex
    The middle one was more of an ad than a game
    It was also treating sex as a joke/taboo
    The third wasn’t very interactive and only talked about risks
    Aim: make something longer and more interactive
  • Combined the curricula I reviewed and sex ed survey data
    Created a curriculum for the game
    Focused on teaching all the lessons required for a comprehensive curriculum
    Also covered some things survey participants wanted to know
    For example, what other kinds of sex are there?
  • I threw together some ideas based on my research
    Created lots of possible mechanics
  • Settled on text messaging mechanic
    Hypothesis: young people communicate through text all the time
    The idea: have people “message” in-game characters
    Select from a fixed number of possible replies
    Characters react to your response
  • Based on my demographic, I created a story
    RAs advise their peers
    This, too, was a hypothesis I needed to test
  • So I went and did more empirical research
  • I asked 40 people about their experiences as a resident assistant
  • Outside of in person comms
    Over 60% communicate with residents via text or email
    text msg - 55%
    email - 67%
    Confirmed!
  • I wanted the colors to feel inviting so people would feel comfortable with the subject
    Since the mechanic is messaging, I wanted the game to feel like an app
    More immersive
    I wanted the interaction design to feel realistic
    This way, people will feel like they are talking to real humans
    (even when they’re not)
  • The result is a game that works on Android, iPhone, and beyond
    It’s called senseu, named after the word “sensuality”
    In the game, SENSE U is an acronym for the college the main character attends
    The game has two parts:
    Messaging
    Narrative
    This helps to build a feeling of immersion
  • In order to get feedback, I tested the game multiple times
    This feedback came from people within my target audience
    Their responses helped me improve the game
    Feedback included...
  • This all helped me understand that I was moving in the right direction
  • The demo is done but the work isn’t
    Continue building
    Add more interactions to make it feel interactive
    Consider adding more imagery to keep people engaged
    Modify the writing – find a balance that feels less extreme
    So players can feel more like the main character has their voice
    More testing of the game as new iterations happen
    Explore partnerships with sex education teachers, schools, and groups
  • Now that you’ve heard the process behind my project
    I’d like to share some things I learned
  • Technology is awesome, but your skillset is limited
    That’s how being human works
    There is always more you can learn
  • Acknowledge and shed your biases before beginning your project
    They will only harm you in the long term
  • Locate your target audience by digging into the data
    Do empirical research if books and studies yield nothing
  • Let the research you gather inform your decisions
    The who, what, when, where, and why will define the how
    Even consider looking outside your skillset
    Ask: does it have to be an app or a website?
    Don’t choose without questioning your gut
  • Interact with your target audience as often as possible
    Partner with those who interact with your target audience
  • Feedback is crucial, especially for projects focusing on social good
    Open your ears even more if you are designing for a different group than your own
  • Reach out when you find yourself lost
    People will support you
  • Ensure that your project is usable
    reaching the right audience
    and actually helping that audience
  • Instead of expecting your project to shift the way society works by itself, let it augment human efforts
  • We are very used to instant gratification, but social change takes time
  • To wrap up...
  • Tech requires people to work
    For example, without adoption, solutions won’t stick
    A solution isn’t always the right one, and solutions without failsafes may have disastrous effects
    Therefore, test your work often to make sure it is taking the right form
    Tech solves problems priveleged people consider important
  • Do your research
    Decide based on research
    Test as much as possible
    Embed yourself and gain context with your target audience
    Truly listen to your target audience and let their feedback affect your work
    (grain of salt, of course)
    Accept that change takes time
    Focus on assisting that process
    Use tech for its strengths, such as awareness
    Be aware of its limits
  • Thank you so much!
    If you have questions, send me a tweet or email

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