Designing for trust in news media: Encouraging digital literacy through product design

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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New Media Design and Production
Fake news, or false information in the media, is likely as old as legitimate news, but gained newfound attention in the months before and after the 2016 United States presidential election. The prominence of widespread false content in the media has converged with existing critiques of the media industry related to biased and misleading content, in an environment marked by the notable decline of trust in the industry. This represents a shift in media industry dynamics which negatively impact media consumers, who rely on information in the media to form and adapt their individual worldview. Due to advances in technology, consumption of news media is rapidly shifting to mobile device-based experiences, which are primarily the domain of digital product designers. These designers are responsible for the user experience (UX) on mobile devices. Thus, they are tasked with ensuring consumers are able to access reliable news media content and build a better understanding of this media content through improved media and digital literacy. To do so, digital product designers need resources and framing to support them to this end. Through the lens of design inquiry, this research-based thesis explores themes related to media industry dynamics, critical thinking, and the future of false information. This enables the creation of a research base and development of a preliminary set of product design guidance to support designers in building better media consumption experiences for people. A literature review is conducted to understand the media industry trends that have led to the current situation. Models and visual schemas are constructed to aid designers in comprehension of this situation. These models show how false information and digital product design affect consumers’ ability to form an accurate worldview. The projected evolution of false information and its impact are assessed. To understand different methods of addressing the trend of false information from a product design perspective, existing implementations developed by technology platforms are reviewed. The culmination of this research is future-oriented product design guidance which emphasizes presenting consumers with accessible, effective contextual information and encouraging critical thinking capabilities while consuming media content. The guidance provides practical, adaptable recommendations for designers along with the research foundations, and should serve as an effective resource for digital product designers to enhance and augment the user’s experience consuming media.
Leinonen, Teemu
Thesis advisor
Leinonen, Teemu
Koponen, Jarno
product design, news media, information disorder, user experience, design guidance, digital literacy
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