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Firing the imagination – for action

Combining innovative Web sites, mobile media, and TV can offer exciting new opportunities for getting people more involved in areas such as national politics and local government – as projects coordinated by the University of Art and Design Helsinki show.
University of Art and Design Helsinki

Election Star – A Comedy of Elections is a good example of what the Crucible Studio at the University of Art and Design Helsinki is doing to combine new technology and innovative ways of thinking.

Election Star mixes political entertainment and digital, modern-day Commedia dell’Arte characters with educational and informative input to help make the political process more understandable and encourage people to vote.

Like a number of other projects at the Crucible Studio, Election Star uses self-organising maps (SOM), based on the theory of self-organisation, associative memories, neural networks, and pattern recognition developed by Academician Teuvo Kohonen.

The Crucible Studio is focusing on achieving a deeper level of emotional involvement in interactive media.

A cross-media concept, Election Star combines a TV show, a Web site, and a mobile media site driven by a common database. This enables candidates’ political SOM maps to be shown on screen during a pre-election TV debate, for example, and updated live as the debate progresses. The digital characters representing characters are also updated in real time to reflect their opinions. The same characters are featured as chatterbots on the Web site, where voters can interact with them.

The concept was successfully piloted in Finland in conjunction with the parliamentary and municipal elections in 2004, and highlighted the opportunities this type of application can offer for enhancing communal and national decision-making.

Tell us what you think

A similar cross-media approach was adopted as part of the IntelCities project, in which the Crucible Studio team generated an entertaining community input tool for the residents of the new Arabianranta district of Helsinki (In the Hood in Arabianranta), and the Arkkikone Web application for the city of Tampere.

In the Hood in Arabianranta encourages users to provide input that can be used to map residents’ views and community development needs; while Arkkikone promotes a participative role for local people in city planning through city modelling, predictive planning, and advanced visualisation technologies.

> Outi Raatikainen
(Published in High Technology Finland )