There have been some exciting conversations in the past six months around how people engage civically. With the rise and uncertain outcomes of
Occupy Wall Street, people are questioning the effectiveness of the traditional means of expressing political voice and instigating change. This notion got my colleague PJ Onori and I thinking about what civic participation and expression could look like as the 21st century progresses. Our conclusion: take it digital, naturally.
We carry computers in our pockets, we have “face time” with people thousands of miles away, we communicate in 140 characters or less, and for many children iPads are books and magazines that don’t work. The rise of this technology and the free flow of constant information has altered the way we choose to engage with the world around us. Today, we are more likely to support a cause or make a change if it is easily accessible with a click, tap or swipe. We need to recognize these behaviors and design appropriate channels to engage with communities and governments for the smartphone age.
Why not start by giving students the opportunity to create these alternative avenues to participate civically?
Inspired by the great work that the folks at Code for America are doing, PJ and I came up with the idea of creating a university program that would get students to work together across academic disciplines (computer science, design, and liberal arts) to create software products that address real civic and social issues. We thought this kind of program would give students an educational experience rarely offered in college, while providing a different form of civic participation. It also provides an outlet for the students to work on something they help choose and own and have the opportunity to move forward after the class is over.
The structure of this class is relatively unique, and that’s why we’re so excited about it. The format is heavily influenced by how many startups work. The student team will work in a collaborative environment to turn ambiguous concepts into concrete solutions with the assistance of design professionals from Adaptive Path, Seabright Studios, and Grey Area Foundation For The Arts. The course guides students through typical stages of product design, from defining the problem space to concepting potential solutions, and ultimately prototyping, designing, and producing a finished product.
Our goal with this course is to provide the opportunity for students to gain exposure to concepts, methods, and professionals outside of their academic disciplines while getting first-hand experience creating a digital product for the purpose of serving their community.
delighted to announce this course is a reality. The professors we reached out to at the University of San Francisco were so excited about the nature and process of the course that they asked us to start right away. We are thrilled to be teaching a small class for the 2012 Spring Semester.
Stay tuned for information as the class progresses…..