Date of Award
Master of Design (MDes)
This thesis presents an exploration of the communication channel between local government and residents in Pittsburgh, PA. Taking the view that communication is essential for a healthy democracy, I argue that despite existing communication tools there is a perceived disconnect between government and residents that is detrimental to our society. In order to address this disconnect, I researched the current situation in Pittsburgh using the human-centered design approach to problem solving. Through this process I found that while people within government spend a significant amount of time communicating with a subset of residents, most typical residents have no awareness of this activity.
Based on insights from my research, I designed a new comprehensive communication system focused on telling stories and connecting individuals. The system integrates resident input and government output within an interactive interface called the PGH Hub. In order to test the ideas behind my design, I built an interactive prototype of the PGH Hub and conducted experience prototyping sessions with eight residents. Participants exhibited a positive attitude shift around the prospect of interacting and communicating with government while using my prototype. This initial success is an indication that shifting the basic framework of government-resident communication away from a customer service model toward a shared investment model results in more effective and satisfying tools for the job.
Schafer, Jessica, "Democracy in Action, Every Day: An examination of how to reinvigorate communication between people and their government" (2012). Theses. Paper 33.