USING SERVICE DESIGN TO CREATE A CARD GAME TO IMPROVE CIVIC DISCOURSE SKILLS
The state of civil discourse in America is increasingly extremist and dismissive. People desire reason-based discussions about important topics, but rarely even bring up controversies in fear of sparking arguments and animosity with their family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Watch Listen Learn™ is a card game that helps groups have controversial conversations that are structured and productive.
Service Design Approach
IMPROVING USER EXPERIENCES THROUGH BIG PICTURE REDESIGNS OF SERVICES
Our design process utilized the double diamond structure combined with the various service design tools mentioned in the previous section:
PRODUCTIVE DISCOURSE IS INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT AND UNDESIRABLE TO FACILITATE
Our initial exploration was in new applications of artificial intelligence and how it might be used to combat the issue of fake news. The realization of a equally important and less technical problem in the space caused a shift in the project: having productive conversations about controversial topics is arduous.
Trends in media distribution and extremism have made these conversations difficult and even taboo in some settings like family dinners, work, and even with friends. They are often undesirable to facilitate or unlikely to be brought up because of how uncomfortable they can make people feel. Furthermore, echo chambers enabled by media algorithms and extremist beliefs set examples of discourse to be heated, argumentative, and accusatory, further pushing people away from having crucial conversations about topics that matter to their values and society.
AN ECOSYSTEM MAP OF MEDIA CREATION, CONSUMPTION AND DISTRIBUTION
To understand the current state of civil discourse, the team created an ecosystem map to identify players involved in content creation, consumption, distribution, and discourse. Each circle represents a level of connection: the first level shows communication between content providers and content consumers and the second level shows creators and software that impact the content that is consumed.
A WEAK THIRD LEG OF COMMUNICATION
We identified a gap in successful communication between content consumers. Suppliers have been able to easily push their content to all types of consumers no matter their beliefs, age, gender, location. or tech savviness. Algorithms in social media, mainstream news outlets, and word of mouth present consumers with news and opinions on a variety of topics. However, discourse between consumers is either non-existent or of low quality.
Our original hypothesis was: “People who are exposed to content or ideas that are of their opposite beliefs are more likely to have fruitful conversations with a person from an opposing standing.” We believed that exposure to only content you agree with and that dismisses the other side is a core reason for unproductive discourse. To validate this thought, the team looked into market trends and secondary research around how controversial topics are presented and spoken about.
BMC → Innovation
BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS TO INNOVATION POINTS
Considering the hypothesis mentioned in the market overview section and the secondary research in the market trends section, the team wanted to look into what solutions are available to users currently. Allsides.com stood out as a resource where users could check the level of bias of different news sources and look for how the opposing side presents the same information. This approach to providing balanced news and diverse perspectives aids in their mission to “Free people from filter bubbles so they can better understand the world — and each other.” AllSides is able to do this by following their editorial philosophy which encapsulates the display of news covered and reported from multiple perspectives.
The team created a business model canvas as seen below to better understand how Allsides operates and delivers its value proposition.
Transparent funding is important for establishing a trusting relationship with customers, but because the company wants to keep its resources free for most users, they rely heavily on donors and memberships. The team wondered if there was a solution that would be self-funding, i.e. a solution that people would be happy to buy and use.
Allsides has developed strong channels through institutions like schools and companies, but individual use of their resources still requires self-motivation to go to their website and read different articles. The team hopes to create a solution that would be more fun and motivating use, even if the person does not normally dabble much in politics.
STRUCTURED INTERVIEWS WITH FOUR PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT POLITICAL STANCES
To start off the service design process, the team wanted to start talking to potential users. Four interviews were scheduled with people of different ages, careers, political views, and political involvement levels. The interviews consisted of 17 semistructured questions about topics pertaining to content consumption and civil discourse:
- News sources used and why they trust them
- Fact-checking habits
- Encountering and seeking out opposing content
- Having conversations with people with opposing views
- Characteristics of meaningful vs failed discussions for them
Their responses and sentiments can be summarized in the following quotes:
CHARACTERISTICS OF POTENTIAL USER GROUPS
Based on the interviews, 3 main personas were created. These represent potential users of the service and they vary based on a few key factors:
- Existing involvement in politics
- Likeliness to seek out controversial conversations
- Exposure to people of differing beliefs
CURRENT STATE OF CONTENT CONSUMPTION AND HAVING CIVIL DISCOURSE
With the personas defined, a current state journey was mapped for each of them. The journeys consisted of 6 steps from consuming content to sharing and discussing about it. Two key insights were identified: reactions to content and reactions to discussion can wildly differ. The goal of the project was then geared towards promoting a positive reaction at both those points of the journey.
REQUIREMENTS FOR OUR SERVICE
Based on the insights from the aforementioned user research and market analysis, the team created a set of requirements for the service design. Each requirement was put in a category based on how important it is for establishing our value proposition. ‘Must haves’ are core to creating a functioning system, ‘should haves’ are key value-providing features, ‘could-haves’ could possibly add more value, and ‘could do withouts’ are potentially unnecessary. These are the requirements key to the team’s ideation sessions and will be used to flesh out the final service design concept.
People are surrounded by various content but gravitate naturally and algorithmically to content they are used to and agree with. Despite all this access, they aren't always comfortable discussing difficult topics because of trends in extremism.
INITIAL CO-DESIGN BRAINSTORMING
With the opportunity defined, the team started to brainstorm ideas for the service. To be able to brainstorm more varied and interesting solutions, the 10 types of innovation were employed—forcing the team to think about the innovation potential for the configuration, offerings, and experience of the service.
Using the 10 types and the requirements from the previous stage, 11 basic concepts were generated. The team talked the different ideas through with two potential users, effectively hosting a co-design session. Together, it was decided to create a conversation-prompting card game with a supplemental website with resources. It could also potentially be a co-branded product with Allsides.
REFINEMENT SESSION USING THE 10 TYPES OF INNOVATION
During a second brainstorming session, the service concept was expanded using the 10 types of innovation. By reading through the innovation touch points, additional features were added to further strengthen the service’s value proposition. A few examples include:
- Ad-Supported — Business partnerships and website ads could decrease costs for customers
- Crowd Sourcing — Write-your-own prompt cards and potential for prompt-writing contests
- Ease of Use — QR code/NFC to access website resources easily with smartphone
- Modular Systems — Expansion packs with different themes
- On-Demand — Lite trial version of the game on the website for people to play
FULFILLING DESIGN REQUIREMENTS
For the last part of ideation, team then went through the established requirements to make sure all the bases were covered. The outlined boxes describe how the proposed system design satisfies the requirements above.
Future-State User Journey
WHAT THE IDEAL FUTURE USER JOURNEY LOOKS LIKE
The following journey map showcases the envisions ideal state for the service. This journey map was helpful in identifying additional opportunities for design over the course of the entire user interaction—not just while the user is playing the game.
VALUE PROPOSITION AND HOW THEY HELP FACILITATE HEALTHY CIVIL DISCOURSE
So how does the to-be journey map support the service’s value proposition? Below are some of the pieces of the system and how they play a part in facilitating more productive civil discourse.
COMPANY MESSAGING, LOOK, AND FEEL
Watch Listen Learn™ was chosen as the name of the game to stress three key parts of modern day discourse that are lacking. Our mission is to guide people in watching to connect, listening to trust, and learning to engage.
Because the brand should feel welcoming and accepting, bright colors and rounded edges are used. The typography consists of fun and casual sans serif fonts. SetoFont is also used for the iconography— faces made of different letters and symbols, giving a playful and welcoming visual.
The brand contains many symbolic colors and design elements. Orange is the primary brand color, representing enthusiasm, creativity, expression, and fascination. The secondary colors are representative of mixing opinions and experiences since secondary colors are a mix of two primary colors. The reflections in the logo match the reflective nature of the game and the eye within it alludes to the introspective part. The grainy texture of the cards symbolize the messy and uncertain nature of the discourse topics.
SERVICE PROTOTYPE - PLAYING CARDS
Each deck contains a few different types of cards: prompt cards, special cards, reflect cards, and write your own cards.
Prompt cards come in three different intensity levels that ease people from connecting, to trusting, to engaging. The level is indicated by purple, green, and orange backgrounds and is also written on the back of the card. The prompt type lets players know the formatting of the prompt. The names of the prompt types correspond with the letters used in the face. The prompt itself is written in black and challenges the players with a conversation topic.
Special cards are used to encourage social equity. They include the Spotlight card, which lets you put another player on the spot when you want to hear them elaborate. The Shush card can be played on a player when they have been speaking too much. The Ditto card acts as positive reinforcement and can be played when one player’s argument is well crafted and executed.
The Reflect cards are used at the end of the game. They ask the players overall questions about how they felt about the game, whether it changed their opinions, etc. This allows the game to wrap up and for people to share their thoughts on the conversations.
Marketing / eCommerce
MARKETING, ECOMMERCE, AND INFORMATIONAL WEBSITE
The website serves three main functions: marketing, selling, and providing information. It would be accessible on a variety of devices and especially optimized for mobile since the resources might be good to refer to during the game.
A key aspect that sets this service apart from others is the informational resources the player is provided with. The website has a resources section created in collaboration with Allsides.com that contains articles, studies, opinion pieces, and other information that comes from all sides. For each resource, this site would show media bias ratings, factual correctness, and related resources from different points of view. All this information would be organized by topic which directly map to the topics on the cards. As mentioned earlier, the website would also be advertised in the instructions so that players are aware of it and can access it easily during the game for reference.
VALIDATION RESEARCH AND TESTING
The validation testing was performed with 3 potential users and consisted of a co-discovery learning session and a retrospective interview. The users were all Master of Industrial Design Students aged between 24 and 25 and included people of varying levels of political involvement. One user was a foreign student who was raised in a country with very different political ideology while the other students were American and Hispanic-American.
The co-discovery session had players review the service components, read the instructions, and actually play the game with some sample cards and prompts. This lasted for about an hour. The facilitator took notes on the users’ non-verbal and verbal reactions before, during, and after the game play.
The retrospective interview asked them about whether they understood the gameplay, the different cards, whether they would play again, and whether they found the game aesthetically pleasing. Overall, the feedback was positive and we saw a lot of the characteristics of productive discourse exemplified in the players’ responses, even though they weren’t prompted to give such responses by the facilitator. These included comments about self-reflection about personal opinions and knowledge.
The testing confirmed a lot of the impact and potential benefits to players of the game:
- Helping to facilitate conversations that are equitable, reasoning-based, thought-provoking, and fun and motivating
- Encouraging exposure to people with different beliefs
- Providing resources that are vetted but not biased
- Prompting reflection and introspection
Areas of potential improvement identified by the user testing include:
- Analogies as a playing tactic were understandable, but the written structure of the prompts wasn’t immediately intuitive
- Resources webpage could be more discoverable in the physical card game
- Instructions took a while to understand—maybe images or steps would make it easier to digest
ADDITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES AND RESEARCH
This project was only 16 weeks and thus left a lot to be explored. Some possible future steps are:
- Building out the website prototype functionality to include all of the intended features: the lite trial version of the game, e-commerce area for the expansion packs, resource pages, etc.
- Conducting more testing and workshops to develop even better techniques for facilitating discourse
- Obtaining feedback from people across the political spectrum, especially those on the more extreme ends since the team didn’t get to talk to anyone of those beliefs
- Imagining how this game could be curated for different countries/groups/contexts