April 13, 2015 | Contributor Articles

Online Activities for Complex Social Change: a summary

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In the first two years, the scope of content published on the Complex Social Change website has grown significantly. Numerous contributors, a.k.a. changemakers, have added valuable insight and material, like Dodo Lab’s The Anatomy and Etiquette of Social Change or Emily Luce’s interviews with activist luminaries Dr. Judith Sayers, Steven McCarthy, and Peter Hall. New media formats have also been successfully integrated throughout, including audio recordings, video interviews, and slideshows. As the project progresses and the changemaking network continues to grow, the website shows promise in delivering rich documentation and incorporating more opportunities for community dialogue.

Challenges and Strategies for Online Objectives:

Objectives Highlight connections across disciplines Create online dialogue and conversation Marry education and activism
Challenges Designing a navigation system that allows the user to quickly access desired content, while also encouraging exploration of ‘other’ disciplines, discovering the connections between all five – or more.

Risk contradiction of cross-disciplinary activity by dividing the site into sections by disciplines.

Struggling to establish two-way conversations on the website with visitors.

Is this due to the lack of an online campus forum at the U of L, breeding a student body that is unfamiliar, unconfident, or apathetic towards opinionated online discourse and debate?

Is it unrealistic to expect visitors to actively engage on a new platform?

Break educational website stereotypes (conservative; corporate; institutional), while maintaining professionalism and academic credibility.

Overcoming communication barriers in how academic research is presented to the public.

Design Strategies Categories for ‘types’ of content common to all disciplines become a form of navigation. Articles and posts can then be tagged with multiple disciplines.

The navigation design emulates the style of website maps, displaying all of the main sections and how they link together.

Exploration is further encouraged by including stories in the sidebar of each page that link to related content from other disciplines.

Social media channels are being used to converse with the community and activate the group’s ideas in these communal realms. Here there is not only opportunity to publicize open access to research, but also to learn from and participate in the rich discourse already taking place in these community spaces.

Management of social media remains difficult. It requires consistent commitment, a unified voice, and contributors who are confident in speaking for the group, their ideas, and their multiple perspectives.

In its best form, the material on the site would be well chosen by informed activist educators.

Deliver content through common and approachable media formats: videos, mixed media, Soundcloud, Slideshare, etc.

Design aesthetic emulates the punk and grunge design movements from the 80-90s (photocopy; black & white; loud). These movements represent the need to communicate ideas with urgency and limited means – for the people by the people.

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