A social debating platform that encourages the spreading of more diverse viewpoints through text, video, and live debates, community-sourced prompts, and data visualizations of changes in opinions over time.
ui/ux design, ux research, project management
team (4 others & me), class project
7 weeks (apr. 2022 - jun. 2022)
Set the scene: You and your friend are discussing the results of the latest election.
…and you both disagree with each other. Vehemently. Later that evening, you wish to continue the discussion, but your friend doesn’t want to hear you out and have an open-minded conversation. You feel defeated and isolated with no one to safely and openly talk to about this topic, but also find that you can’t seem to understand others’ viewpoints of the results.
ONLINE LITERATURE RESEARCH
Curated or polarized social media feeds?
For all our online literature research insights, click here.
In Is Social Media Threat to Democracy?, Deb and his peers found that “increased personalization means users are more likely to see (and believe) what their peers share than what news publishers curate, making them less likely to encounter multi-faceted or counter-attitudinal views.” A study on the echo chamber effect in social media platforms by Matteo Cinelli showed that topics like vaccines and abortion, on Facebook and Twitter, respectively, showed a strong correlation between the opinion of a user and the average opinions of their nearest followers/following list. Every retweet, every like you see is from someone who the algorithm thinks you might agree with, and extreme opinions are more likely to influence algorithms due to more extreme reactions. Over time, this develops into echo chambers.
But why does this matter for social media and online communities specifically?
Sharma et al. (2017) found that polarization may not always be because of a disagreement over a specific topic, but actually simply that “different sets of information were intaken and people inherently care about different things.” And what influences the information people receive and what topics people care about? Social media.
USER RESEARCH & INSIGHTS
"Almost always, someone gets personally offended. It's like talking to a brick wall."
— Participant 1, age 18-35
To understand individuals’ personal experiences with debates, discussions, and how ideological conflicts are navigated, I created and distributed a survey to academic, extracurricular, and hobby-based online communities. 29 total responses were received, approximately 75% of which fell into our targeted age range of 18-35 years old.
Data from users' responses to survey.
In the survey, many respondents felt that debates were a dead end; they so often turned personal and offensive. Although many respondents expressed openness towards continuing a debate with someone who has an opposing viewpoint, many also said that they would rather agree to disagree, since they didn’t believe that people typically want to change their minds.
Qualitative coding of user responses in a spreadsheet.
Red indicates a dislike or pain point, green indicates a like, and blue indicates a trend.
Affinity map of users' survey responses based on likes, pain points, trends, and how people interact with opposing viewpoints.
AND SO WE ASK...
How might we create more more supportive online discussion environments in order to encourage empathy and the spreading of more diverse viewpoints among young adults aged 18-35?
Introducing DebateTable, your debate platform for all the latest topics.
Recall the aforementioned scenario, where you struggled with finding a tolerant environment to express your views and with empathizing with others’ opinions.
Now, you remember that you recently downloaded the DebateTable app, where thousands of users come together to learn and dialogue on matters important or interesting to them. You log in and create a live room called ‘Election results: What do we think and what does it all mean?” Soon, other users flood into the room and some request a seat at the table to debate with you. You begin to understand and empathize with others’ perspectives while safely sharing yours. Now, whenever you’re feeling the urge to speak on a topic and hear what others think, you know to hop onto DebateTable!
PROTOTYPING, ROUND 1
Experience prototyping: DebateTable through Discord
To experience prototype DebateTable’s core features, we turned to Discord. This first round focused on two main features: text-based debates and video-based debates. Video-based debates allow debaters to debate their stance in a video call while audience members comment on them in the chat, while text-based debates are guided by question prompts that debaters answer and audience members comment on. In both types of debates, polls will appear every once in a while to ask audience members about their stance, thoughts, and otherwise.
Click through to see the flow of the first experience prototyping session conducted on Discord.
“Talking through chat or voice about cereal and soup wasn't as bad as I thought.”
In our first prototyping session, key insights showed our main obstacle to be getting participants comfortable with speaking up.
Key points identified from the post-prototyping survey for Round 1.
PROTOTYPING, ROUND 2
DebateTable through Discord, user flow edition
Our first round showed us some main points to improve on. For Round 2, then, we addressed the following:
How might we make debates and discussions less daunting for those who do not partake in them usually? Use smaller metrics like polls and daily questions to get them engaged.
How might we emphasize the relevance and impact of the debate topic for those who do not find relevance or value currently? Show impact through quantitative statistics; mainly, show the differences in opinion before and after a debate. Show relevance by asking participants to reflect on similar experiences/opinions in poll prompts.
In this prototyping round, we also streamlined our focus down to creating a clear user flow and enriching the video-based debate experience. To simulate the audience experience, participants watched a clip of a debate, during which they could answer real-time poll questions and make comments in a peripheral chat, and then have the opportunity to form their own opinions and debate afterwards.