Saturday, September 11, 2010

I'm currently taking Anne Balsalmo's class, Seminar in Media & Design Studies, one of the required courses for the iMAP PhD program at USC's Cinema School. This is one of the assignments she had us start out with.

My Philosophy
Often I start developing a project when an idea comes to me sparked by some issue in culture. Here are some examples from my past on that:

  • Zoey’s Room -- the AAUW report on women and girls in STEM

  • xDREAM -- the lead article in Time Magazine on youth in America as the most obese in the world

  • Learning Library – Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century white paper combined with what I learned from ZR’s Tec-Treks

  • Sk8-66 – My family’s exodus from east coast to west coast and its relation to Grapes of Wrath

Ideas that I get from reading the papers, articles, books or having experiences are further explored by me through searching and synthesizing what already exists in the areas I’m interested in. I wouldn’t say it’s purely a lit review, because I often don’t just look at articles and such, but instead look at media projects that already exist in those areas. Looking at what has come before my idea, helps me to lay out a core argument …why create this?
In designing technology, I’m constantly looking at the agency of the users and the environment to figure out how it will work within a larger ecology.

My Methodology

I take a mixed methods approach when developing technology. Having been a documentary filmmaker in my past, in my next phase, I often take the role of an ethnographer. I try to immerse myself in the subject I’m interested in exploring by observing, talking and interviewing people who are active participants in the subject. By doing this, it helps me define my scope of work and ensure I address the social need of the people.

Coming from a film / tv background, I don’t think I’ve ever worked alone. I often bring a core team together from varied disciplines and really work to have the expertise of each person create the project. The methodology at this point is to step back from talking and interacting with people and synthesize findings into a design project. This often includes combining game design with Internet-Speed Development cycle to create the storyline, world, where the content will come from, the architecture, wireframes, user-interface and use-case models. Enough is done in this phase to create a paper prototype to take back to people in the field and get their reactions and feedback.

Based on feedback, we redesign and build a prototype. If I have the funding, then Internet-Speed Development is important at this point because often I’m attracted to an immediate need in society. I believe in sharing sooner rather than later and sharing often to continue to iterate during this phase. The methodology I use is a combination of structured usability and focus groups, as well as just let them play with it and see what happens. I find the later always being the most informative.

When the technology moves into beta phase, I often am writing about the experience or about design principles that emerged in the process. I try to create all projects with a database, one that I can sift through and review often to see if what’s been created actually is effective. Because in the end, I’m an interventionist at heart, so my hope is that my work helps to improve the issue that sparked me to begin the journey.