Making A Positive Impact With Digital

by Ewa Piotrowska

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The theme of this year’s Dutch Digital Day was ‘With great power comes great responsibility’. As digital products shape the world more and more, everyone working in digital design has the responsibility to steer it in the right direction. Talks by Christiaan Triebert, Yu-Kai Chou and Deborah Acosta showed three different ways of using the power of digital to create a positive impact.

The power of collaboration

Many say we live in a post-truth era, with recent events involving fake news making a lot of people lose trust in the media. According to Christiaan Triebert from Bellingcat, we no longer have to rely on media to find the truth — we can do it ourselves.

Bellingcat is an investigative search network doing research using only open source information. By bringing together contributors from all over the world they managed to find out about an US airstrike in Syria gone wrong, and who was responsible for the MH17 plane crash. And what’s even more amazing is that they did it only using things like openly available satellite images, pictures found on social media, geolocations, and some logical thinking.

As Triebert said, it’s regular citizens doing these investigations, and it could be any one of us making a big impact. As a result of the digital revolution we can cooperate everywhere around the globe to challenge larger powers. If a lot of people each solve just a tiny bit of the puzzle, together all of these small pieces can form something big. Bellingcats’s decentralized, open source investigations are proof of how much power there is in collaboration.

It’s all about balance

Games know how to drive the motivation and engagement of users. In his talk, Yu-Kai Chou talked about the human-focused design of games, which means it’s all about optimizing for human motivation instead of designing for efficiency.

In his opinion, products that include aspects of gamification should not only engage the users but also make them feel good. The right use of gamification means creating balance between implementing ‘white hat’ features related to creativity and social aspects and ‘black hat’ features associated with logical thinking and ownership. It all comes down to making users motivated, but not addicted.

Gamification is much more than adding features like points or badges to products. It’s also important to remember that slapping some game mechanics on an existing product won’t necessarily solve the problem. Creating engaging products requires lots of research, analysis, testing, and iteration.

New ways of storytelling

Last but definitely not least, my personal favorite: the talk by Deborah Acosta, who produces interactive videos for the New York Times. Using only her phone and the Live video function on Facebook she told stories of undocumented immigrants, the victims of the Orlando shooting, and people living in a refugee camp.

Free of working with camera crews and production teams, she can publish her stories faster and with more transparency than most media outlets. It’s an interesting form of storytelling, because her subjects can go into detail without much interference, but also because it’s interactive — she can take questions from the audience and answer them in real-time, making the people who are watching co-creators of the story and often helping her make unexpected connections.

This method of storytelling is definitely something more companies should look into. The unedited videos build trust and show authenticity while allowing followers to interact and participate.

Dutch Digital Day proved to be inspirational once again. The talks mentioned above were my three highlights, although I would also like to give a special shoutout to Mitch Altman for being such an invested builder of hackerspaces and his contagious enthusiasm. It was refreshing to see a group of speakers from such different disciplines share their perspectives on how digital can have a positive impact on the world. I’m already excited for the next edition!

Photo by Dutch Digital Day.

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