Getting started with my finals project: Democracy in Bergen

Power depends on knowledge, and Democracy means power belongs to the people – so whether or not a regime is democratic depends on the knowledge of the people. That’s the basis for my finals project in Visual Communication at the Bergen National Academy of Art.

In my home town of Bergen, newspapers are, for most people, the main source of information about politics. The local newspapers provide excellent day-by-day coverage of local politics, but it’s the wrong place to go for the basics, or for getting an overview over an issue you haven’t been paying attention to. My idea is basically to make a website that compliments the role of the newspapers, by providing wider information and analysis, and definitions and explanations of terms often used in the politics of Bergen.

Content

What’s clear, and reasonably easy, is:

  • It’ll be a website.
  • The website will have information about the official positions of political parties on issues.
  • There will be neutral information about the same issues. Pie charts!
  • It’ll also be linking to editorials, op-eds, blog posts et.c. on these issues.
  • There will also be neutral information about the political parties.

Less clear and more difficult. The site could contain:

  • Timelines containing links to news articles.
  • Information and encouragement for people to use the options available to them to make a difference.
  • Information about comparable issues in other countries.
  • The voting history of a given party on an issue. This sounds like an easy thing to track automatically. It isn’t.
  • Information on the system and it’s philosophical basis, including arguments for and against. This also includes information about what decisions are taken at the municipal, county and state level.
  • Anonymous demographic statistics about the politicians. Where they live, how much they earn, what kind of work they have et.c.
  • The site will probably have to be organized somehow using tags, and everyone could be given permission to add tags.

Fun or more creative ideas:

  • A common misconceptions page, because we all like feeling superior
  • Official opinions of the different parties about each other.
  • An interactive budget calculator, where you can post your budget to Facebook.
  • The entire site could work like a game, with basic information available right away, while deeper information requires unlocking. This could potentially be a great way of presenting the content in a way that isn’t overwhelming to the user, while providing motivation for them to dig deeper.

Requirements

  • Authority and neutrality: an important part of the way the site would be used is to inform debates on blogs and elsewhere.
  • Accessibility: the language needs to be simple enough to be understood by a high-school pupil with below average language skills. The site needs to be available in English in addition to Norwegian, at the very least – and as much as possible of the information should be available in audio format.

I’ve been talking to a fair amount of people about the site. I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t think it’s a good idea – then again, in the real world, the idea would be more concrete, and it would have a price tag.

I’m blogging about the project here: http://grunnlag.no/

Posted in Design, illustrasjon og trykk, Pedagogikk, filosofi og politikk and tagged , , , .