Deliberative Democracy and Difference
By Mark Kann
Design by Alessandro Ceglia

Designer's Statement

Back in the Fall of 2006, Mark Kann and I met on several occasions to discuss how we might present his research on deliberative democracy.

At this point, Mark already had a working draft of the text that would ultimately be featured in the piece. He had also prepared a scripted simulation -- what I dubbed the "choose your own adventure" style simulation -- that placed the reader/user in the shoes of the facilitator moderating a deliberation.

My idea was to complement Mark's article and scripted simulation with a dynamic real-time simulation where the outcome of the deliberation would be determined by a series of algorithms.

Given the substantial amount of information that needed to be conveyed, we thought it would be best to go with a clean and simple design, a relatively large and legible typeface, and a traditional navigation system that included a table of contents site map.

For the dynamic simulation (i.e. simulation two), we created a system of interaction loosely modeled on the turn-based fighting system developed for the classic role playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. Whereas Dungeons & Dragons characters attacked and defended, our simulation participants spoke and listened to one another. Traditional Dungeons & Dragons character traits such as Dexterity, Strength, and Constitution were replaced with Flexibility, Assertiveness, and Persuasiveness. Instead of dying in battle, our participants could potentially abandon the deliberation or grow silent. We even implemented the programmatic equivalent of the classic Dungeons & Dragons multi-sided die to account for the unpredictability of real life interaction.

Before we knew it, we had defined a relatively sophisticated system of interaction. Certainly for me it was a big challenge -- not only creating the system, but also ensuring that it functioned in a manner consistent with Mark's ideas. The system had to be transparent. The algorithms had to make sense, because if they didn't, or if we didn't disclose how the simulation worked, then we really weren't making our point.

The project was designed and programmed in Flash. All content is XML-driven.