What can journalism learn from interaction design?

In an increasing data-filled, networked and mobile media landscape there is potential for new forms of journalistic narrative. To this end, I’m embarking on a research degree that explore the relationship between journalism and interaction design. My progress will be document on another site: NewsCubed.org, though some posts will be cross posted.

The NewsCubed project is a Master of Philosophy proposal at the University of Queensland. It is being supervised by Dr Stephen Viller at the School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, and Dr John Harrison, at the School of Journalism and Communication. Here’s the research outline:

NewsCubed: How interaction design impacts journalistic storytelling

Media companies are moving away from traditional distribution channels, such as print and broadcast, and are increasingly using websites, mobile devices, applications, games and social media to reach and engage audiences. However, much of this digital content is created according to existing frameworks such as news values, inverted pyramid structure and traditional editorial processes. It is essentially the same product on a different platform.

This research looks at how traditional approaches to story structure and production processes might change as journalism produces narratives that are tailored to interactive and social media, rather than print or broadcast media. To do this, the NewsCubed project aims to develop a template for designing interactive news for mobile and social platforms

The research will use a case study method supported by practice-led research. It will identify the strengths of a user-centred approach to news design, which will inform the development of story template. Such results are relevant to a industry that is adapting to new technologies.

Methodology

This project will adopt Daniel Fallman’s 1 holistic framework of interaction design research. Under this model knowledge can be gained from practice, where researchers are part of design teams; explorative, where researchers use self-initiated projects to show what is possible; and design studies, which focusses on building an intellectual tradition.

A key strength of the model is the ability to move between the three positions. In this context, the NewsCubed research will ‘loop’ between, design exploration and design studies. Within this framework a case study 2 approach will be the dominant methodology.

Contextual interviews, observations and surveys will be used to gather data about aspects of interaction design that might benefit journalists and how newsrooms are currently incorporating these ideas. These findings will inform the design exploration component, in which an artefact will be produced that will form the research case.

In this context, practice-led methods such as interviewing, recording and designing will be used, with the aim of identifying the processes and structures used in the creation of interaction stories for mobile and social media.

From these findings it is expected the research will be able to develop a template for designing interactive stories.

Significance

The NewsCubed project is positioned within an industry that is in flux. With the increased use of social and mobile technologies, traditional storytelling conventions need to adapt to new user habits and the technical demands of new platforms.

However, there has not yet been a fundamental shift in thinking about content and how it is delivered that will allow journalism practice to evolve and adapt to new technologies. NewsCubed aims to begin identifying ways to do this.

By shifting the emphasis from the editorial process to the end use, it is hoped that it will be possible to identify a new set of requirements for interactive stories.

Such findings are relevant to an industry that is in the process of integrating new platforms and technologies into its workflow and experimenting with business models.

It is hoped the project will:

  • Identify strengths of user-centred approach to news design
  • inform and develop a template for producing interactive stories on mobile and social media
  • Provide insights into how traditional editorial structures might change
  1. Fallman D (2008), The Interaction Design Research Triangle of Design Practice, Design Studies and Design Exploration, Design Issues 18 (3)
  2. Yin RK (2003), Case Study Research Design and Methods, Applied Social Research Methods Series, California, Sage Publications

Leave a Reply