AuthorSkye

What would the plants say?

What would the plants say? Amid global warming and environmental stress, what can plants tell us about our environment that other forms of communication can not?

Gerald is an experiment in environmental communication. We are interested in how the public might access information about other living things directly from the environment. Our aim is to design a way to give people a deeper connection with their environment and a means of understanding changing conditions free from economic or political frames. Gerald, and his sister Vera, are our concept for this. As plants, they are rooted in their surroundings and their lived experience is different to that of humans.

Gerald, an agave, and Vera, an aloe, will be rigged with sensors that capture data about nutrients, light and moisture. In the first instance we are interested in what information we can gather. The next step will be to make that information meaningful: how might we communicate with Gerald? After that, we want to explore how we might develop a network of plants that can tell a broader environmental story.

This project touches on several research themes in communication and interaction design, including the value of understanding big data in context and how to design communication for the internet of things.

We think Gerald and Vera have things to say. This project aims to give them a voice. Follow them @GeraldThePlant and @Vera_Plant

Winter research 2018

What can science fiction tell us about the future of journalism? How might we think about physical news?

As part of two winter research projects we’ll be taking inspiration from sci-fi novels and physical computing to gather inspiration for imagining journalism of the future. Over six weeks, well be looking at how writers have imagined how news and information might be communicated in the future and investigating the possibilities for physical news experiences. The aim is to create some provocation material for a design workshop later in the year.

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The JxD process

At the University of Queensland we’ve been teaching interaction design to journalism students for some time and noticed that many struggled with the uncertainty that surrounds designing. Design is about imagining possibilities and, unlike writing a news story, you often don’t know where the process will lead.

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Using design workbooks

 

Design workbooks or journals are valuable tools in generating ideas and documenting design work. They are useful throughout the Journalism Design process but particularly in the early stages of Discover and Imagine.

Design workbooks are collections of research, materials, ideas and proposals, and play an important role in helping to understand the nature of a problem and the possibilities for solving it.

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Research for design

Data from student projects, reflective essays and interviews in 2016.

The contextual phase of our research aimed to understand how the 2016 cohort of Journalism Design students imagined the future of journalism. We were interested in how they used design methods and how and when they considered journalistic values. To do this, we studied the design projects and reflective essays created by students as part of course assessment and we interviewed some about their experience. A few themes emerged from the data: that journalistic values played an important role in the design process; that journalism needed to focus more strongly on audiences and users; and that new ideas would come from thinking big.

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Prototyping the process

So far we have created two versions of the Journalism Design process. The first was developed at the end of 2016 based on data gathered from students. We presented this concept to a design workshop in early 2017 and redesigned the concept based on insights from participants.

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The project methodology

We’re using a design approach to develop the JxD process. Like most design research, the methodology involves phases of contextual research, designing, evaluating, implementation and redesign. It is a practice-led approach to research, which uses design techniques as tools for investigation.

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Tools to teach JxD

The Journalism Design project aims to develop tools to teaching design methods to journalism students in a way that equips them for future careers. Clearly, journalism is at a point of radical change and to remain viable it needs to create new news formats and experiences that are not bound by traditional newsroom practices. This means that journalism education needs strategies to teach students how to come up with novel and creative ways to use technology.

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Journalism Design at UQ

The Journalism Design course evolved from the Journalism + Interaction Design (J+IxD) course ran at the University of Queensland between 2013 and 2015.

That course was a collaboration between the School of Communication and Arts (formerly Journalism and Communication) and the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering. The course teamed final-year journalism students with final-year interaction design students with the aim of developing journalistic tech. During the 13-week course students researched, designed and prototyped a solution to a journalistic issue.

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