Can we use political model for understanding participation and user interaction? I analysed interactive projects I have worked on in terms of their democratic equivilants.
Interactive design is often a simple choice between predefined categories - a kind of Singaporean sense of participation where you can be happy but silent.
But the trouble with authoritarian regimes is that their propganda is so obvious and their censorship so widespread that the public soon reject it. The rush into web 2.0 is an acceptence by brand strategist that the public is cynical of what brands say about themselves.
Increasingly I have been asked to work on projects that attempt to engineer communities in order to appear free and open and genuine. But the preasure to be 'on-brand' and the urge of clients to control content results in secret editing, censorship and even falsification behind the scenes. A little bit like British parliamentary democracy.
The illusion of ownership, and the overwhelming subordination of all voices to the brand vision, isn't just the usual and neccessary corporate fascism all designers have work with. Perhaps it stems from our very self-conception as creative people - our lust to bring our will to bear on the world.
In the last few years service design has introduced user participation as a core part of their working process. Not only does it work well for designers, who can build a deep conversation with end-users, but even in user testing I noticed how people start to feel excited and involved in making the world around them.
What models of interaction would best be comparable to a Swiss style direct democracy? I talked about my own experience of collaborative design with young people and look at the importance of a particpative design process in giving users a sense of ownership and agency.
After the talk I was approached by a creative director from a major adveritising agency who said that brands aren't democracies, they are religions. It made me think that the old ad-world was the catholic church of branding, with it's top down orthodoxy and monopoly on truth; now Amazon is Martin Luther King and the social web a catalyst for brand protestantisation.