TransMedia or Designing Awareness

The comfort zone is a behavioral state within which a person operates in an anxiety-neutral condition, using a limited set of behaviors to deliver a steady level of performance, usually without a sense of risk (White, 2009).

It seems therefore that getting out of the comfort zone would negatively impact one’s performance. This is certainly not what we as individuals, companies or the world itself need, right?

However, rising above the societal and environmental collapse has become the main target of many already established organizations, emerging start-ups or simple people. What they are in fact trying to do is to perform a societal resurrection by awakening people to step out of their comfort zone or at least get an idea about what is really happening in the world and what actions are available for them to take.

But how? Here’s where everything becomes interesting! Energy resources are drying up, politics and interests are building up barriers affecting the transition from fossil fuel to alternative ones. They are therefore speeding up the process of reaching the peak oil. These things are happening “as we speak” and how many are aware of that? Maybe many, but are we willing to take action? Tommy Pallota together with the SubmarineChannel decided it is time to inform, engage and inspire young generations on this matter in a brilliant way: Collapsus. This trans-media project, in the format of a three-panel window, brings together video-blogging, movie making, animation, documentary film, interactive maps under the umbrella of storytelling in order to have users understand and asses information regarding energy production and risks. Ten stories of ordinary people engage the user into a personal way of experiencing environmental issues, learning and understanding about the collapse of technologies and societies but also the potential benefit of new ones emerging. The more the viewer gets engaged into the story-line, the more opportunities (maps, documentary videos, decoding cell phone texts) for him to become aware of global issues.

You’ve surely stumbled upon other examples of trans-media projects (like the GDP Project that documents the impact of the financial crisis) meant to trigger action and we’d certainly be happy to hear about them! So, what’s so special about them anyways?

Information is not necessarily persuasive, design is! Why is that? Every design owns an intent and enhances a certain kind of action or thought. Where information is dry, design transforms it in entertainment and involves the user to experience the matter. Designing settings that develop across various media allows another world to be built, a world characterized by expandability and believability where the user is invited to ask himself questions. Understanding means being directly involved, therefore, such trans-media projects represent platforms that would not also inform users about global issues but will allow them to participate at the discovery of actions they can take. Design becomes consequently a new way of engineering the world for continuation and empowers users to draw their own actions.

Bearing in mind all these novelties in design, be it in the real world or on the internet, it seems no longer dangerous to one’s performance to step out of their comfort zone, understand what’s actually happening in the world and taking actions despite the usual assumption that “what I don’t know, won’t hurt me”. Design becomes then more than just a fancy trick to an increased popularity. Design speaks out questions, issues, needs and actions. Sebastian Deterding, interface designer, explains more in his TED Talk about what the intent of design is and what it says about us. Enjoy!


Header Image(s) from Pixabay & Gratisography

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