A postcard featuring the Michigan logo that reads "We invite you to participate"

Citizen Interaction Design Foundational Research

Overview

Goal: Investigate pain points between the city of Jackson, Michigan and its citizens especially as pertained to information technologies. This was to serve as initial user research for the students in the forthcoming Citizen Interaction Design class.

Dates: May 2013 – September 2013 (4 months)

Target Audiences: Citizens of Jackson, MI; future Citizen Interaction Design students

My Roles: Research Assistant, Graphic Designer, Social Media Manager

Outcomes

  • Successfully managed client relationship with the city that was able to continue into the future. This is no small thing as the discovery process with the citizenry involved them being exposed to a lot of criticism and harsh truths.
  • Mailed a paper survey to over 2000 households in Jackson, MI and got a 17%+ response rate, more than enough for statistically valid sampling.
  • Working with Professor Lampe, developed a novel questionnaire protocol for assessing social media engagement and savviness.
  • Achieved the goal of letting the students stand on the shoulders of giants and jump into design work faster. The projects section of this page is a window into the breadth of projects this research supported, particularly the projects labeled (W14).
  • This initial research kickstarted a program that was a finalist for the Michigan Municipal League’s Community Excellence Award in 2015.

Process

Long weeks of meetings, working with the city of Jackson to get to know the city officials and their expectations for the project.

A picture of the front of the Jackson, MI city hall, focusing on the seal of the city which is a man riding a horse that is rearing up on its hind legs and circumnavigated by the text "City of Jackson - Michigan"

 

Meanwhile, I started a Tumblr that collected examples of other urban interaction design projects throughout the world. The purpose was to inspire the Jackson city leadership as well as give the students a treasure trove of initial ideas to spark their imaginations. Much to my surprise, it’s still being updated!

A screenshot of a blog showing urban interaction design projects

 

Under the direction of Associate Professor Clifford Lampe, I iterated on the content of a mailed questionnaire. The wording and presentation of information was crucial so the intended audience could follow along and would actually finish the questionnaire. Another consideration was precedent set by past research literature. This was research being done by a university, after all. Papers were going to be written about this. Some questions had to be written in a way that would allow the data to be comparable to data collected by other sociologists and Internet researchers. The City of Jackson had input on question wording as well. An early draft of the questionnaire is available for the interested.

Edits being made on a Google Doc, complete with some comments

 

We tested questions we’re unsure of using Mechanical Turk (yup, people still use that). After we were sure of the content, it was time to design the presentation of the questionnaire. Below are the cover and a sample inner page of the final product that was mailed to 2,000 addresses in Jackson, MI. IT was delivered as a half-size booklet, which made it challenging to design. All the questions and other information had to fit on exactly 16 half-sized pages; a 4-page full-color booklet was the largest one we could afford to print and mail without going over budget.

Cover page of the Jackson Citizen Interaction Survey, featuring the michigan block m logo and some explanatory iconography (chat bubble, person, government building, smartphone)

Survey questions