Sunday 17 April 2011

Choose your own Democracy?

I don't know if it's true in the States, but over here, when I was a child, some books in a series called Choose your own Adventure were absolutely massive. Huge, in fact. They were bartered and traded with mass excitement, boys faces shiny with enthusiasm and determination to get hold of the missing book for their collection.

They were books which told stories but in a slightly different way. You started on page 1, but at the end of the first few pages you'd be asked to make a decision on behalf of the characters, and depending on which choice you made, you'd be sent either to page x or page y and from there asked to make yet another decision, resulting in the reader skipping all over the place in order to chase down the books ending. I never had the patience to read through every single choice to make sure I'd read the entire book, but I suspect there were those who did.

So, during Local by Social Blackburn, while talking to Gav Redhead about making democracy more accessible to young people, something pinged, and I wondered, why on earth not?

Because you see, there's a precedence here. Shakespeare manga style anyone? SQL taught via manga, anyone? So why not create a website where you become an adventurer through local or central democracy - in each case becoming a hero - either an MP or a Councillor (yes, yes, the word hero will cause some raised eyebrows but I do know some who are, so there) who has to navigate through the average week or month in that job role - and at every decision, the reader is sent to the correct outcome so that they can see the consequences, for example, of okaying that planning application for a travellers site down the road, or for that extension to number 33.

I suspect, in the process, a nice tool for explaining what exactly it is we all do all day might emerge, but also something to be used to explain all our different job roles to those poor sods who think a career in local or central government will be showered in glory (I'm joking, I love it but gloried it aint).

Illustrations could be line cartoon style with lots of humour. If a website the coding should be relatively simple, because of course you don't have to fit all the options within the constraints of a bound book, there would be no print or publication costs, just the coding of the site and the content writing.

If gamification is the future - well isn't the most obvious target market for that the people who are spending probably the most time gaming? We should be smarter about this, using where the eyeballs already are and understanding that maybe not only the way we work needs to change, with games masking our work giving us incentives to be more productive, but also acknowledging that it's about using communication channels differently to educate and explain things like the importance of voting, of explaining what it is exactly the people they're voting for do all day, making democracy more accessible. goes some way to doing that, but it's hardly a website aimed at the under 18's, now, is it?

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