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STORYPILOT

How might we design and build an exploratory platform using proven social science theory?

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OPPORTUNITY

Documentaries like Gasland and Blackfish prove that nonfiction film can be a powerful catalyst for positive social change. However, not all films and not all changes make the news. How can we measure the diverse types of social impact that documentaries cause?

SOLUTION

StoryPilot is a platform for exploring the universe of documentary films and the many ways that they've changes the world. The platform features a unique database of over 400 documentary films released in the United States between 2005 and the present and compelling data visualizations to help users find actionable insights.

MY ROLE

Inform feature design with actionable insights from social science theory.

MY TEAM

Product Manager, Data scientist, Data engineer, UX Designer, Web Developer

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PROCESS

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1. LEARN

I read far and wide on both tried and true and cutting edge social science theories finding out about how stories influence people. I drew from psychology, communications, political science, and behavioral science to put together a master model matching mechanisms with metrics of change to show that social impact can mean many things at many scales.

2. TRANSLATE

I analyzed filmmaker communications to understand the terminology they use to talk about their films. I used this to rewrite my model of change in language that specifically connected the scientific concepts to the needs and goals of filmmakers.

3. COLLABORATE

I worked with a data scientist and a product designer to design features that embodied the ideas from social science as data visualizations, metrics, and UI elements.

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FILM PAGE FEATURES

StoryPilot contains information on over 400 documentary films that can be delved into for exploration.

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UNDERSTANDING STYLE

THE SCIENCE

Narratology

Narratology is the study of identifying and classifying narrative structures. These structures have a profound effect on the way humans perceive the world around us. Storytellers take advantage of different styles, or voices, to signal our brains how to interpret their works.

TRANSLATION

Narrative Voice Classification

Documentary films take advantage of several different narrative voices to achieve different effects on the audience. These voices include cohesive combinations of directing, narration, cinematography, and editing. Users need an easy way to see each film’s classification.

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COLLABORATIVE DESIGN SOLUTION

Qualitative Tagging System

Each film was tagged by a trained researcher using a standardized rubric to give users a quick impression of not just what a film was about, but how it told the story. Users can click on the tag to discover other films with the same style.

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TRACKING SOCIAL INFLUENCE

THE SCIENCE

Gatekeeping Theory

There’s too much media being made every day for us to sift through to find all the things we’re interested in. Instead, we rely on influential “gatekeepers” to give us a curated feed of content about shared interests.

TRANSLATION

Social Media Influencers

Every community has its own unique set of influencers who serve as gatekeepers of information. Relevant gatekeepers can be great sources for learning or powerful allies for spreading awareness. Users need a way to find out who the thought leaders are even in niche communities.

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COLLABORATIVE DESIGN SOLUTION

Influential Followers

We scraped data from Twitter to find out who the most well networked film followers are in the each issue area. Clicking on the Twitter handle brings the user to their Twitter page so users can immediately join the conversation.

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StoryPilot: Team Members
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DETECTING POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES

THE SCIENCE

Discursive Opportunity Structure

Ideas that resonate with individuals become part of the broader public conversation. This conversation solidifies sentiments and helps individuals come to consensus around what kinds of public action are reasonable, forming the groundwork for political change.

TRANSLATION

Gaining Political Attention

Films are often mentioned on the floor of Congress as examples of pressing issues that require attention, but first they need to gain the attention of the constituents. Areas with that have higher viewership may be more likely to generate the buzz necessary for a film to achieve political note.

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COLLABORATIVE DESIGN SOLUTION

Community Screening / Political Mention Maps

We added two sections to each film's page showing which US states were the hottest for community film screenings to depict the reach of citizen conversation, then paired a map of political mentions on the floor of Congress to show political attention. States that are high on community screenings but low on political mentions are untapped opportunities.

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ISSUE PAGE FEATURES

StoryPilot clusters films around sixteen issues. Each issue has its own hub connecting information and films.

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SEEING THE LANDSCAPE

THE SCIENCE

Social Cognitive Theory

Humans are social creatures and one of the most effective ways of learning something new is observing how real people approach similar challenges. Our brains detect patterns in how different choices lead to different outcomes so we can plan our own behavior to maximize our chances of success.

TRANSLATION

Films by Issue

In many ways, filmmakers approaching similar issues are also approaching similar problems but finding a variety of different solutions. Users would benefit from being able to quickly compare film topics and strategies.

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COLLABORATIVE DESIGN SOLUTION

Issue Constellations

We used natural language processing of documentary film scripts and campaign materials to cluster films around issues by topic. Users can easily explore and compare films that were approaching specific issues they’re interested in to see what the filmmaker did and what kind of impact the film made.

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AMPLIFYING THE ISSUE

THE SCIENCE

Agenda-Setting Effect

The news doesn’t tell us what to think but it does tell us what to think about by prioritizing different headlines. Having a prominent place in mass media coverage indicates that this issue is at the top of people’s minds right now.

TRANSLATION

Mass Media Volume

Just because and issue is important doesn't always mean it's getting the attention it needs. The mass media has a unique capability to intervene and generate urgency around an issue as a response to current events.

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COLLABORATIVE DESIGN SOLUTION

Mass Media Monitor

We scraped television and print news transcripts and searched for mentions of an issue or issue-related topic over time. Moments when an issue is spiking up are prime for intervention.

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