Moi Helsinki: Design for Public Use & Localisation of Social Media.
School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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AbstractSocial and technological developments, in particular, large data aggregation and collection initiatives are shifting power structures in western societies creating new opportunities for social change. However, there is inequality in the way these opportunities are distributed. The most advance methods of data processing and knowledge extraction are employed mostly by state authorities and corporate businesses; while general audiences are being passively observed and measured by them. This is evident in the ways that social media services like Facebook and Twitter store and accumulate information about individuals. The public has access to some of these data through e.g. open application programming environments (APIs). At the same time, an average citizen does not have the skills of programming, data mining, and information analysis that meaningful interaction with these services requires. This work argues that media design practices targeted at supporting civic engagement may address some of these inequalities. The thesis suggests a model of design for public use that is focused on sharing open data in between the public, the state and the market. The model is aimed at establishing a support system, which would allow active and meaningful citizen engagement with open data that is generated online. This constitutes a first proposal of what can media design for public use be. The model of media design for public use and related implications are explored through the design and development of a proof-of-concept prototype of a service called Moi Helsinki. Moi Helsinki is a location-based event calendar for Helsinki area that aggregates and visualizes public events retrieved from Facebook, using the available API, reinterpreting and visualizing this data again. The prototype website provides thus the public with an opportunity to engage with local data that, while usually stored in the Facebook database, is not currently meaningfully accessible through the standard FB interface. The interaction design solutions and the user interface have been iterated to find flexible touch points in between users (in this case Helsinki citizens) and the data. The work carried on shows that relatively inexpensive methods could indeed be employed to let the public engage in meaningful ways with data extracted from social media. The next steps in developing the concept of design for public use should also involve more active user participation in shaping shared data. Moreover to be genuinely democratic these kinds of practices will also require engagement, support and facilitation from the state. At the moment, designers can already broaden up the horizon of their practice to include a systemic vision of data circulation in the society.
Thesis advisorBotero, Andrea
media design, social media, public use, user interface design, civic engagement, communication design