Art and Persuasion
May 13, 2012, 10:43 pm
Filed under: Editorializing, Ideas, Research

In 1995, the new mayor of Bogota, Colombia, set out to address the gridlock and jaywalking that were bringing his city’s streets to a standstill. His solution didn’t involve police or fines, yet it worked so well it was emulated in five other Latin American countries. What did this mayor know about changing behavior that we don’t?

Our usual approaches to changing people’s minds – quoting facts, yelling louder, calling in mom/the police/the military,  and ganging up/getting out the vote – are of limited effectiveness. Even if you get your way today, the cost and effort of keeping the unconvinced on your side can be substantial. So if not by force or facts, how do you win over hearts and minds?

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Games with a point
May 13, 2012, 2:13 am
Filed under: Ideas

Serious games (aka games for change, persuasive games, games for good) are all the rage [at least on my facebook wall thanks to the fact that Games for Change posts new stuff every couple minutes and I haven’t yet decided to block them]. What are they? Games (actual games, often video games) that have some sort of social benefit, whether it’s motivating kids to learn math, helping people understand the government budget process, challenging our perception of news events, imagining an eco-apocalyptic future, or pulling together a community for a shared task like evaluating Parliament expenses.

The book Newsgames has a great rundown of a bunch of types of games that editorialize and inform, which are the games that are most of interest to me personally. I remain skeptical about the power of serious games to institute social change, honestly. They seem a bit like salads at McDonald’s at the moment. I’m not convinced they’re necessarily better for us than the conventional fare (e.g. do we have results showing that the programs are effective and the effects lasting?), and they’re drastically outnumbered by the conventional fare, irrelevant at best and a gateway drug at worst. Plus, if a game has a social message, it probably will only be played by people who already agree with that message.

But the idea is still inspiring. Wouldn’t it be great if games could be a source of social change? Voluntary. Viral. And more effective than less interactive media, e.g. powerpoint presentations of statistics. Here are some games I would like to see — Continue reading

Millennium Village USA?
April 18, 2011, 12:50 am
Filed under: Ideas

The Millennium Villages project is a cool idea — coordinate development interventions in African villages to reach a tipping point beyond which development becomes self-sustaining, removing any excuses that a development intervention would have worked if only some other factor had been present, if some other chicken had laid some other egg, prior to your figurative development chicken laying its egg, so those eggs could grow up to make sweet economic love. Are you following me?

It doesn’t really matter, because I don’t want to talk about the Millennium Villages anyhow. I want to talk about the US of A. And maybe Europe and China, but mainly the US of A because that’s what I (sorta) know. Continue reading

An idea I’ve been pushing for a while
February 19, 2011, 12:26 am
Filed under: Ideas

Google recommends websites; Netflix recommends movies; Amazon recommends books; Pandora recommends music; eHarmony recommends life partners. These recommendations are based on preferences both stated and revealed, tons of data, mined, recombined, and made more useful for our benefit.

Please, oh please, can’t someone start recommending jobs? Continue reading