Self Assessment

I've included my original self-assessment below, but I decided to write my final one separately, because my thought process has changed significantly since I first wrote it. Now, when I think about the questions I'm attempting to answer with my final prototype, I've realized it's not about "Good" vs. "Evil" or "Democrat" vs. "Republican". While I still 100% care about fighting for the transparency of government and business relations, my attention has really drifted towards the issue of SuperPACs. A lot of these companies that I showcase on my website have very similar contribution amounts to both Democrats and Republicans. The real issue is with the extent to which they contribute and the extent to which they lobby. Some of these companies are lobbying bills that are completely unrelated to their business. It is not the place of big business to attempt to influence our government. It is a terrifying thought that companies with so much money can and do influence the decisions of our lawmakers. So, how can I make it apparent to the average person why this is bad? How can I get them angry about the passing of the 2010 law that "Businesses are people too?" How can I distinguish bills of special interest that certain companies are lobbying? How can I educate, as well as create a sense of togetherness on this one topic, regardless of whether users are Democrat or Republican? I don't think anyone wants to have their country run behind-the-scenes by big telecomm companies who were never elected, and are just looking to gain as much power and influence as possible.

The strengths of my project continue to be in the UI/UX design. As was confirmed by my crits on Wednesday, the website is easy to navigate, easy to understand, and nice to look at. It targets the important information that gets lost in the flood of details provided to you by OpenSecrets and LittleSis.org. However, what David Carroll pointed out about the fact that this information is still abstract is definitely true. I still need to put it in a clearer context to really make a difference, which ties into Jeanne Kelly's idea of including notifications of some sort that inform the user when they have just given money to a specific candidate they hate or a cause they don't support by spending money on a certain product. 

I certainly need to include popular opinion, people need to be aware of the number of other people who have already Blacklisted a certain company. In a small way, my website has this with shares after you've already clicked the Blacklist! button. You can see how many people have shared their reasons for Blacklisting the company due to the Facebook share API, but I can certainly improve upon that and include a counter next to the Blacklist! button itself.

I think my favorite suggestion was from Jeanne Kelly about informing the companies every time a new user has blacklisted them. I think that could become an incredibly effective way to create real change, since sharing and informing others can only do so much. I was also thinking about Ben Norskov's suggestion about groups. Perhaps this could be a lot more social. When you blacklist a company, you are included in a community of all the other people who have blacklisted it. You can share information, stories, and ideas.

This was very clearly a huge undertaking. I feel good about sticking to my design values and achieving a simple and consistent web design, but this project has a long way to go. There are many features that need to be added, but I didn't feel it made sense to add them just yet, with only a small data set. I wanted to create a stable state for this website, so that I could get it on the server and see if my user-base found it understandable and useful in it's current iteration. There is a huge amount of information I need to be able to manipulate, and a lot more I would need to gather in order for this to be truly effective. It's not really a job for one person, I need a lot of help with data collection.

That's why although I understand the criticism I got for my Millennial audience, I would just argue that it makes more sense for me to build my first iteration for a smaller audience and get feedback before expanding out. I do understand and agree with the idea that I should not have made it clear to the user who exactly my audience was. I could have designed for Millennials without actually pointing it out to them, because that is very exclusionary. Of course I want anyone to be able to use the website, but for the purposes of this project and the fact that I used the Top 50 Millennial brands in order to work with less data, I felt that I needed to address my reasoning for that. 

Overall, I'm very happy with how much I learned this semester, especially in these last 6 weeks. I improved my understanding of both front-end web and mobile development immensely, which is definitely my concentration here at DT. I learned a new language (PHP) and seriously improved on my understanding of both JavaScript and Swift. I got my first website up on a server, and I achieved my design goals. This project has a long way to go, and I am certainly not done with it, because I truly believe it could make a difference.

a. What are the specific questions you are attempting to answer in your prototypes?

I am attempting to answer the question of why millennials tend not to make informed decisions about where they shop in terms of politics even though studies show that they really care about empathy and social responsibility from businesses. To me, this correlates with an interest in giving money to “good” over “evil” corporations. I think the reason that they are not making those informed decisions they want to make is because the sources available to them to become informed are too cluttered and complicated to understand, therefore I am making a simplified and easy-to-use version that appeals to millennials.

b. What the five strengths of your project?

One strength is that I have been working with the same idea since I first pitched it which has really given me the time to build out a lot of it. Second, I think my website is very clean and easy to navigate/understand. Third, I think the mobile component, though not very functional yet, has a very exciting candidates page. Fourth, I think my concept really has the ability to gain following in the context of the upcoming elections. Fifth, I think my idea could potentially make a big impact in the way this country is run, if it turns out to be effective.

c. What are the five most critical issues for your project?

One big issue is my lack of coding skill. I’m pretty much learning as I make and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I’ve incorporated JavaScript and PHP. I am very beginner with JavaScript, and I just started learning PHP a couple days ago. This makes building the search and getting the API to work especially difficult. Second, since I have also decided to build out a mobile component, I am having trouble with the code for that as well but also making the layout of the website match that of the mobile component to an extent. In terms of branding, they look very different right now and I’m not sure how to merge them. Third, this is a huge undertaking with a lot of different components to think about and I’ve make a lot of little changes to the way I want to represent the information exactly which information I want to show many times (I believe I have settled on providing information on how much money was given to democrats and republicans, plus showing which bills were lobbied). Fourth, I’m having trouble deciding on what kind of information to include in the “Learn the Basics” portion of my website. I know I want to explain the idea of PACs and superPACs, but I’m not sure what else. Fifth, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to test this out with other people since it is such a big project and potentially won’t be done in time to give it a “test flight”

d. What can you do to address these issues, and to solidify the strengths?

Get help from people who I know are good at code (Saman Tehrani, probably), potentially focus more of my attention on the website and worry less about the mobile component for now, attempt to test out what I have so far after the prototype 2 is complete. Get some input about what to put in “learn the basics” from my international friends who don’t know much amount american politics and business.

e. Can you intuitively ask some new questions?

I can ask: What are the main points about american politics and business that should be pointed out to someone who is unfamiliar? Which component will millennials be more likely to use? mobile or web? Will this have an effect on their decisions in any way?

f. What questions need to be answered in order to create a proof of concept prototype?

How do I use PHP with my API to create a search function? How can I make this more social and have it go viral?

g. Are you on the right path or do you need to change direction, and if so, how will you do that?

I’m definitely on the right path, I just need more time.

Design Values

Theme
What is the piece about? How does the the piece present this to the audience? Through a story? Metaphor? Model of a larger system?

Blacklisted is about informing the Millennial consumer/voter about the bridge between business and politics in the United States. It does so in the form of an interactive website (Model of a larger system, aka OpenSecrets, OntheIssues) that allows users to dig into details about a specific candidate or company. They can choose to blacklist a company and share their reasons for doing so on Facebook in order to spread the word. 

Reflection
What concepts, perspectives or experiences might the player encounter during play? How are these delivered? Through story? Systems modeling? Metaphor?

They can see the amount of money given to each party, as well as the bills they lobbied in 2014. each bill links to the bill's summary page on www.congress.gov. The information about bills lobbied and parties contributed to comes from OpenSecrets.org. Information about the stances of each candidate comes from a collaboration between OntheIssues.org and Graphiq. This website is in essence a mashup of the important information young people should know before making a decision this coming November on a candidate, as well as information about the top 50 brands they spend most of their money at, so they know where their consumer dollars are going and they can make a decision about whether they are okay with that or not.

Point of view
What does the user see? Through what kind of perspective? From what cultural reference point or political position?

My user sees information relevant to their interests and related to the context of the upcoming elections in a way that appeals to them with the use of a clean and simple interface as well as some humor in the form of funny GIFs of the candidates. My generation appreciates and expects simple, aesthetically pleasing, and easy to navigate websites. I think the perspective uses a culture reference point of Millennial culture to create an interest in a political position, if one does not already exist. 

Challenge
If the piece is meant to provoke or challenge: Is it critical? Speculative? Pushing the boundaries of form? If it’s something meant to accomplish a goal and solve a challenge: What kind of challenges does the piece resolve? Mental challenge? Physical challenge?

It is certainly trying to accomplish a mental challenge. As of right now, Millennials wield 1.3 trillion dollars in buying power in this country, but only 21.3% of us voted in the last round of elections. This is a gap I am trying to fill. My goal is to help create more conscious buying and voting within my generation by informing them of their immense power to bring about change in this country, as well as presenting the facts in an appealing and simple way.

Perception
How is the piece and the information within it represented? What visual and aural styles will be used? Why?

The information is presented on the website in a way that does not look overcrowded, ugly, or overwhelming as all of my precedents do. In the case of the candidates, users are presented with a manageable list of stances for each candidate and more information is presented once they decide to click. My thought is that if you try to force information on people by making everything visible at once, it will most definitely drive them away. There is a need for providing options. The user will click on what appeals to them and they are more likely to get something out of that information.

Decision-making
How and where do users make decisions? How are decisions presented? Is the information space perfect or imperfect?

They make a decision on the company profile pages with the use of a "Blacklist" button. They can choose to blacklist a company and once they make that decision they are presented with the option of making another decision: whether to share their first decision on Facebook and whether they want to explain the reasons for their decision in order to educate others as well and spread the word. The information space is certainly imperfect as the bills lobbied section requires digging deeper, which unfortunately users tend not to enjoy doing. They can click on a bill to receive a summary about it, but that tends to be a lot of work and ideally I would know how to give the cliff-notes-easy-to-understand version of each and point out which bills might be of particular interest to users, especially in the cases where some companies have lobbied many bills.

Context
Who is the audience? Where are they encountering the piece and how did they find out about it? When are they interacting with it? Why are they interacting with it?

The audience are American Millennial voters and consumers in charge of their own finances who already feel a certain, small sense of responsibility and interest in the government, which I believe many do. They are interacting with it in the context of the upcoming 2016 election cycle in order to gain the knowledge to make the right decisions for them in terms of both voting and buying.

Emotions
What emotions are you hoping to generate in your audience?

I am hoping to generate anger, shock, a sense of responsibility, and an understanding of the large influence Millennials have. 

Domains Assignment

Create a visual representation of the domains and fields embodied in your project and how they relate to your project and to one another. This can include scholarly and/or scientific disciplines, mediums, technologies, subject matter, styles, communities of practice, social/governmental/political infrastructures, etc.

Write a brief summary for each domain and field embodied in your project. As part of this summary, explain how and why it is important for your thesis project.

DOMAINS:

THE INTERSECTIONS OF POLITICS AND BUSINESS: Within this domain, I have researched the concept of SuperPACs and lobbying.

SuperPACS are independent political committees that support a candidate with unlimited, often anonymous, donations from COMPANIES, unions, or individuals. The groups cannot contribute directly to a candidate, but they can run favorable ads about a candidate, or negative ones about their favored candidate's opponent. They arose following the July 2010 federal court decision in a case known as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. The reasoning was that political spending is protected under the First Amendment, so corporations and unions are allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political activities as long as they don't contribute directly to a political party or candidate.

In a nutshell, this gives companies the power to give as much money as they like anonymously to the candidate of their choosing. I consider this a problem that we should fight back against and I want to inform my target audience about this issue through my website.

Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in a government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. My website shows the bills lobbied by each brand in 2014 as a way to illuminate what these companies are trying to control within the US government.      

THE INFLUENCE OF MILLENNIALS: Within this domain I researched how companies have attempted to market to Millennial users, how we try to get them to vote, and the statistics of how much buying power Millennials have in this country. My research led me to understand that the main way to target millennials is through digital means, often mobile but also web. I found that Millennials truly care about where they are spending their money for the following reasons: they want to see empathy and social responsibility from companies, they get most of their suggestions for where to shop from friends not ads, and they are very active on social media about expressing both negative or positive opinions about companies they've tried out. I also found that in terms of influence, they are most important in the US because they make up 1/4 of the US population (approximately 77 million), and wield $1.3 trillion in annual buying power.

THE IMPACT OF BOYCOTTING: Boycotting is defined as withdrawing from commercial or social relations as a punishment or protest. While research shows some boycotts come up short in forcing their targets to give in to the demands of protest organizers, they can have real impact in terms of lost sales and a damaged reputation. However, if you combine the influence of the Millennial generation with the possible impact of boycotting, you can achieve real change.


Prepare an annotated works cited document that includes all important books, papers, articles, projects, artworks, films, games, etc. that relate to your thesis project. For each entry, provide a short explanation of the item, and how it informs your thesis project.

ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. BuyPartisan. in Spend Consiously [database online]. 2015 Available from http://buypartisan.com/.

Precedent: BuyPartisan is a mobile application available on the iPhone which allows you to scan the label of any item and see the political leanings of it's parent company. While this is a great and convenient user experience, the app unfortunately crashes often. 

2. Citizens United. Washington, DC, 2015Available from www.citizensunited.org.

 Precedent: Citizens United is dedicated to restoring the government into the citizens' control through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization. I am also trying to restore control of the government to the people, and specifically showing millennials how powerful their actions can truly be.

3. A LABOR OF LIKE millennials 2015 favorite brands ranking report. in Moosylvania [database online]. 2015Available from http://moosylvania.com/millennials/Moosylvania_Millennial_Study_2015.pdf.

Research: This is a presentation created by the independent ad agency Moosylvania. It presents informations about the top 50 brands millennials shop at, as well as statistics for what millennials expect from brands they are loyal to.

4. Youth demographics. in CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) [database online]. 2010Available from http://www.civicyouth.org/quick-facts/youth-demographics/.

Research: This website provides information about the percentage of millennials that voted in the last election.

5. Littlesis. in Public Accountability Initiative [database online]. Available from www.littlesis.org.

Precedent: They are a website that keep tabs on different media sources to connect the dots about the connections between the world's most powerful people and organizations. 

6. Opensecrets. in Center for Responsive Politics [database online]. Available from www.opensecrets.org.

Precedent and Process: This is the source of my data. CRP is a research group that tracks money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy. They advocate for a more transparent and responsive government. OpenSecrets is their website.

7. Egan, John. 18 statistics that marketers need to know about millennials. in LeadsCon [database online]. 2015 Available from http://www.leadscon.com/18-statistics-that-marketers-need-to-know-about-millennials/.

Research: This article was useful in helping me find statistics from Nielson, the US Census Bureau, and Boston Consulting group about the median salary of millennials in the US, our population, and how much time we spend on our phones.

8. Gordon, Jesse. On the issues. Cambridge, MA, 1999 Available from www.ontheissues.org.

Process: On the Issues is a website that has compiled information about the stances of all the candidates on all the issues. I am embedding much of their information into my candidate profile pages using a tool called Graphiq and their website, InsideGov.com which created embeddable versions of the information found on On the Issues.

9. Raine, George. Farm workers union kicks off boycott of gallo wines. in SFGate [database online]. 2005 Available from http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Farm-workers-union-kicks-off-boycott-of-Gallo-2628092.php.

Precedent and Research: I'm using the Gallo boycott as a precedent for an event showing the power of boycotting. Farm workers boycotted Gallo wines in 2005 and in the past as well saying that the company exploits and mistreats their workers.

10. Rubin, Nicholas. Greenhouse. Available from http://allaregreen.us/.

Precedent: Greenhouse is a free browser extension that uses information from OpenSecrets to give you information on legislators and the role money plays in Congress. It displays information on any browser when you click on a legislator's name.

11. Schawbel, Dan. 10 new findings about the millennial consumer. in Forbes [database online]. 2015 Available from http://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2015/01/20/10-new-findings-about-the-millennial-consumer/.

Research: This Forbes article provided me with some more information about how millennials think about brands and proved my idea that we care about where our money is going.

12. "Sunlight Foundation," accessed December 13, 2015, http://www.sunlightfoundation.com.

Process: I used the Sunlight Foundation's API for finding your representatives to make put change at my user's fingertips on the about page. Sunlight foundation works to make government and politics more accountable and transparent.                            

13. Swartz, Aaron. Aaron Swartz's The Programmable Web: An Unfinished Work. Morgan and Claypool Publishers 2013 ebook pg.6

Research and Process: In this book, Swartz talks about the fact that the OpenSecrets API specifically, has data that is difficult to manipulate, and that if you really want true access to it, you need access to the bulk data. This information is what helped my come to the decisions that I needed to pivot my project to using only the top 50 millennial brands according to Moosylvania.

Prototype 2

So it's inevitably become the time to pivot. It was smooth sailing with my idea for too long, so something was bound to go wrong. I have to pivot my process in order to preserve my concept. As it turns out, the all-powerful OpenSecrets API gives no wiggle room for manipulating the data provided with their calls. Looking back, this makes a lot of sense as I look at all the precedence I have that have made mashup websites with OpenSecrets and I wondered why all of their data is in the same ugly, boring format. The API doesn't allow for that to change. 

For this reason, I have decided not to use the API. This may seem like a rash decision, but the truth is I think that using it would completely go against my concept statement. My goal here is to create a website that presents the data in a better way than OpenSecrets does. In a way that creates actual traction for the upcoming elections with millennials. If I do use the API, I am just another one of the many mashups that already exist and don't make enough of an impact. 

Instead, I will be manipulating the bulk data. The issue here is that OpenSecrets does not have up-to-date bulk data downloads for the 2016 candidates or ANY bulk data download option for all the organizations. Huge problem. Therefore, I have to manually grab that information from the website. I am cutting out an immense amount of the information currently shown in organization profile pages and only include the amount of money given to each political party plus the bills each company has lobbied for in 2014. I think some of those bills are incredibly fascinating to discover. 

So, what does this mean? Clearly I can no longer have a full 200,000 organization search with beautiful and accurate profile pages for each. I have started including the data manually in the top 50 brands where Millennials spend the most money. What I've realized is that this is actually a gigantic undertaking that requires the years and years of work that OpenSecrets itself put into it's website, to basically create my own, more simplified version. I think for the purposes of this final and getting the website published soon, I can just finish the profiles for all the candidates and the top 50 brands, implement parse with the blacklisted button, and leave a note explaining to users that this project is a work in progress.

I will be keeping the google custom search at the bottom of every page which only searches OpenSecrets and LittleSis for those looking for other brands or more information.

What I still need to work on: finding a way to make my tables fit in better with my current web design, implementing Parse.

Here is my second prototype:


Concept, Proposal, Research, & Prototype 1

CONCEPT 

 I am creating a web and iOS app for American millennial voters/consumers in charge of their own finances (approximately ages 23-34) to become more knowledgable about where they spend their money, and evoke feelings of responsibility and empowerment and thoughts about how they can bring about change in today's world by wielding their monetary influence in the context of the upcoming 2016 Presidential Elections.

Who is it for?

American millennial voters/consumers in charge of their own finances (approximately ages 23-34)

Where do they encounter it?

web and iOS mobile devices in the US

When do they experience it?

In the time when people are thinking about upcoming Presidential elections, when they are taking into consideration their ability to bring about change. This country is capitalist, and therefore it in a way runs on consumer behavior. People have many different opinions, but if enough people are informed about a specific topic and want to bring about change, the power to bring it is in the numbers. 

What are they doing while experiencing it?  

Looking for easy to understand information about the upcoming elections, candidates, and how they get their money. They don't want to be sifting

What does the project ask of its audience?

How are you going to take control of how this country is run?

What do you want the audience to take away from their experience?

I want them to feel like they've learned a great deal about where there money is going and incite a need to take action in the form of how they consume.

What are some adjectives around how the project will make its audience feel? 

angry, empowered, useful, surprised

PROPOSAL

Domains

politics, business, the influence of millennials, and the impact of boycotting

Precedents

Websites:  

OpenSecrets: CRP is a research group that tracks money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy. They advocate for a more transparent and responsive government. OpenSecrets is their website.

LittleSis is a website that keep tabs on different media sources to connect the dots about the connections between the world's most powerful people and organizations. 

Citizens United is dedicated to restoring the government into the citizens' control through a combination of education, advocacy, and grass roots organization. I am also trying to restore control of the government to the people, and specifically showing millennials how powerful their actions can truly be.

Mobile Applications: 

Dollocracy: CRP is a research group that tracks money in US politics and its effect on elections and public policy. They advocate for a more transparent and responsive government. Dollocracy is their mobile app. It is basically the OpenSecrets website on a phone, with terrible usability. 

BuyPartisan is a mobile application available on the iPhone which allows you to scan the label of any item and see the political leanings of it's parent company. While this is a great and convenient user experience, the app unfortunately crashes often. 

Browser Extension: 

Greenhouse is a free browser extension that uses information from OpenSecrets to give you information on legislators and the role money plays in Congress. It displays information on any browser when you click on a legislator's name.

Events: 

I'm using the Gallo boycott as a precedent for an event showing the power of boycotting. Farm workers boycotted Gallo wines in 2005 and in the past as well saying that the company exploits and mistreats their workers.

Audiences + Contexts

American millennial voters/consumers in charge of their own finances (approximately ages 23-34) in the context of the upcoming elections. Digital means were used because research has shown that is the best way to influence this age group.

Process

In terms of research, I studied extensively on millennials and their importance to brands, corporations, and the political system. I also studied a lot about different existing organizations that are working to teach people about the government and how powerful people are connected to each other. I studied each of the candidates for this year's election very closely as well. I learned about PACs and Super PACs and plan on explaining all of this information to users in a 'learn the basics' section of both my web and mobile apps.

In terms of technology, I will be using the OpenSecrets API to create a website that uses HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP languages to allow users to search companies and see who they gave most of their money to in the last round of elections. In the context of this round, They will be able to click on a current candidate and view their top 20 contributors. With this information, they can choose to blacklist certain companies and receive alternative choices. I will also be embedding information about the presidential candidate's stances on the issues with information from OnTheIssues.org which has been made embeddable by InsideGov.com.  I will also be using Swift to create a mobile version for iOS. 

In terms of design, I am creating something minimal with better a better interface than of those that currently exist within this domain. I plan to attempt to target important information without being too wordy and present that information in an easy to understand and visually appealing way. I also plan on creating more interactivity and ability to take action by adding the blacklist button and the recommended options.

Research Question

How can American millennial voters/consumers who are in charge of their own finances (ages 23-34) gain a greater interest in making informed decisions about where they spend their money?

Click through the screens: Research

 

Web Prototype

Questions I've answered with this prototype: Who are the candidates? What are their stances? What companies do millennials give most of their money to? Who are the top contributors to each candidate?

Mobile Prototype

Questions I've answered with this prototype: What is a good interface design for the mobile aspect of blacklisted? Will the mobile component be solely informational for now? (yes)

Timeline

Week 9

Prototype 1: Interface design, layout, information about presidential candidates and their stances

Week 11

Prototype 2: Get the search brands to work using the OpenSecrets API (getOrgs call), see alternative companies at the bottom of each profile page from the getInds call which keeps information about organizations in each industry.

Week 13

Prototype 3: Add in the extra interactivity using Parse to allow users to sign up/sign in and create blacklists