Final Project Proposal
March 24, 2014
The idea I have for my social justice app, is to design an app for children. The app is to be interactive and allows children to input their personal feelings and get feedback from the app. In terms of design I have figured out a few things and in terms of interaction as well. Prompted by my observation on how children between the ages of 7-12 use their cellular phones, and other behavioral observations gathered, that reflect children’s self-esteem.
There are a few components that I think are necessary to make the app successful in terms of getting children to use it, providing them with a safe/anonymous and kid friendly environment, and design. I visualize an app where children create an avatar that they can manipulate and simulate situations that are common to their age group. To promote daily use I think creating a tier-like pattern, similar to that of Lumosity or Pokemon, where certain aspects have to be explored, before graduating to the next level or aspect of the app. To me these components are endearing and prompt children to consistently go to the app, where hopefully they are learning and growing more confident.
I would like the app to be a diary of sorts where the child can write how they feel and why while feeling safe and without insecurity. I remember when the Giga Pets came out and how everyone cared so much about the well-being of the digital pet. I recall the popularity of the Sims series as well. These two apps or gaming worlds make me confident that a child would check in on their avatar’s “health.” This in turn means that they are also checking in on themselves.
In terms of function and design I would put categories in place for children to explore, find affirmations, and project their experiences toward. For example I’d have categories like, “Bullying,” “When I Look in the Mirror,” “Random Acts of Kindness,” and so on. Upon entering these categories children and their avatars can explore these experiences. The app with contain exercises that the child would have to do in order to build the avatar’s character and self-esteem. The hope here is that values are created or enforced that are applicable to the child in their real life situations.
So let’s flesh out a scenario. Say they chose the “Mirror,” section. If a child thinks that they are unattractive, they have the option of choosing, “I feel ugly,” or “I’m not pretty enough,” and in turn the avatar will reflect physically, digitally rather, a person who feels that way. The goal is to make the avatar happy. So children can explore more options to boost the avatars self-esteem. The app will prompt a child to write three things that are beautiful about the avatar physically, or personality wise. (Since a lot of the issues that they deal with are really up for definition because who’s to ever say what is truly beautiful, I want to cover the different readily identifiable characteristics of human beings.)
These sorts of exercises are given assuming that children will be honest about what the “avatar,” is experiencing. That’s a pretty large assumption especially because my experience with children and in media studies, even in my own behavior, has proven that when given the chance to create a being similar to one’s self, they often project what they wish they were, not how they actually are. I figure to add as many options in avatar building as possible. If the options are multi-cultural in terms of location, dress options, and even language, then my guess is that the odds of the child creating an avatar specific to their lifestyle or look, increases.
Another feature I’d like to install in the app is a response log or journal feature that children can fill out and re-visit. I get more and more excited about the potential the app has to encourage young children. I think if it can gain popularity then it is likely to sustain a large number of children. I’ve watched them in terms of what type of apps are popular among their demographic. I thought of creating a mini social network within the app, but I’m not sure I trust that dimension.
When I thought of the feature, I imagined the avatar being able to access the social media. It would be like Instagram or twitter where positive affirmations are shared within the double network of avatars and their creators. This way the child can have a stream of positive memes flowing between one another, and that weird thing that makes children mean, may subside because they are used to functioning in a positive social interaction through these avatars. As an app, that might be pretty useful because it would increase the amount of users that I have. It demonstrates my understanding of the current culture climate in terms of digital and social media.
So I’m definitely working out the kinks in terms of practicality, design, and development. I think as long as the avatar’s worlds can create a sense of truth to the children’s physical locations, physical representations, and actual experiences, that the app can be successful. I think a great deal depends on how creative the child can be when designing their avatar’s personality and physicality. So I’m still brainstorming on how to represent blind and deaf users as well. I think this space is necessary because it deals directly with children’s esteem in a space that they use constantly anyway, though possibly not as beneficial to producing positive actions and reactions among that age group.