Center for the Adv. of Applied Ethics
Usability Analysis Lead
Deliberative polls™ aim to find what an informed public would think about an issue. PICOLA (Public Informed Citizens' OnLine Assembly) creates an online community for conducting deliberative polls, both lowering the barrier to entry and reducing the cost to run a successful poll.
I started on the PICOLA project as part of a CMU class assignment. My team evaluated the PICOLA system and arrived at a Future Concept Demo.
After my initial work, I was inspired to continue working on the project, so I stayed on as a volunteer. In that time, I developed the next generation UI of PICOLA, advised another student group in the design of the Mobile PICOLA interface, and published multiple papers on my work (including the Mobile HCI 2006 Best Poster Award winner).
A Seamless Virtual Discussion
As part of our initial work on the PICOLA project, we tried to envision a way to maintain order in the discussion without requiring people to ask to speak. To this end, we placed each of the participants around a central area. As you begin to speak, your video drifts to the center.
While this doesn't prohibit multiple people talking at once, it does give visual feedback that indicates when too many people are talking at once, and overall does a lot to supplement the discussion.
The Redesigned Discussion Module
Technical restrictions with the Flash Media Server at the time prevented us from creating the UI where everyone would have a live video feed. So as part of my continuing volunteer work, I redesigned the PICOLA UI, including the discussion module, shown here.
Anatomy of a Discussion
Understanding the problem space in PICOLA was a challenge because the primary activity — the discussion — was as important as the participants. To get a clear view of the problem, I focused on the discussion roles in order to understand how the discussion functioned.
The thumbnail to the left shows an exchange between a two discussion participants where one has assumed the role of "Discussion Partner." Click on the thumbnail to see the full model.
Humanizing the Discussion
The variety in potential participants was staggering, and team members had a difficult time deciding who to design for. To help in our focus, I abstracted personas around participants I had observed in previous deliberative polls.
My passion around PICOLA drove me to share the ideas with others. During my tenure at the CAAE:
- I presented at the 2005 Online Deliberation Conference with Miso Kim
- I co-authored "Deliberative Democracy, Online Discussion, and Carnegie Mellon's Project PICOLA" with Dr. Robert Cavalier and Miso Kim. The chapter appears in "Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice."
- I co-authored "Striving for Ubiquitous Citizenship with Mobile PICOLA" with Samantha Konwinski for the 2006 Mobile HCI Conference.