The Journalism + Interaction Design (J+IxD) course ran at the University of Queensland between 2013 and 2015.
The 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.
The course was based on the idea that design offers a way for journalists to address some of the complex problems they face, such new technologies and challenging business conditions, among others.
Design methods are suited to tackling such issues because they allow you to imagine new things, try them out, and iterate. And there is a big focus on the user.
During the three years that the course ran the students came up with a range of projects: news games; non-linear stories; verification tools; movie reviews based on sentiment; augmented reality apps; field reporting tools; reward systems for creating and/or sharing content.
Some were clearly innovative, others were new examples of existing technologies, but all were revealing in what they showed us about how young people perceive the media. A few trends were evident: a desire to flatten the news production process and involve readers; an interest in verifying journalists; and the notion of reward for engagement.
Cheryl Carpenter, the managing editor of the Charlotte Observer observed the course in 2013. She was visiting the University of Queensland during the week that the projects were marked and attended the student presentations. The projects, she said, “made for fascinating listening for any news organisation attempting to capture younger readers. Their demands for access, their recognition of the flattening news hierarchies and their desire to vet established journalists all emerged as intriguing themes.
“The results evoked both alarm and excitement: Alarm because news leaders should be listening and observing more of these endeavours; excitement because we might still have time to learn from and hire the students who are participants in these classes.”
The key driver of these results was design. The students needed to identify a problem and use design approaches to address it. This involved phases of paper prototyping, user testing, and in some cases user interviews. Then there was development: writing the code to create the digital prototype. Those teams that engaged most fully with the design process were the most successful, particularly those that tackled the problem from the user perspective.
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