DUI Without Losing your License

It’s been a busy week here at the East 43rd Street Design Center. Ian Bogost was in town to teach at a conference called Serious Issues, Serious Games, and stayed to work on an evolving notion I like to call DUI[^]Dynamic User Interface. Ian is the designer of the Dean Iowa Game, which allowed people to understand the mechanics of canvassing in Iowa.

There are two ways to look at the Deaniacs’ enthusiasm for the Dean Iowa Game.

  1. The simulation showed volunteers that retail politics is about carrying signs, knocking on doors and handing out flyers[^]a practical antidote to the zealots’ illusion that politics is about wonky discussions on the trade-offs between single payer health insurance vs. capped-premium HMOs.
    [^][^][^][^][^][^]alternate view[^][^][^][^][^][^][^]
  2. The Dean for Iowa game demonstrated that the Dean dilettantes would rather play Dean games and iChat with their fellow believers than plug into the Iowa Democratic Party establishment and do something that might actually make a difference.

Whatever your view, the The Dean for Iowa game was a seminal event among those who know that people respond at a gut level to such games, and learn far more than they do from static information. The project received a lot of attention in the press, including these 10 mentions linked to from the Persuasive Games web site (NYTimes, Slate, Ad Age, CNN, Good Morning America, etc.).

Back Story

Last November, Joi Ito told Ian that if he wanted to build a policy-oriented simulation for the Dean Campaign, he should contact me, since I was embedded with the campaign, spending a week each month in Burlington. The timing and the zeitgeist were propitious, and it took Ian and Nicco Mele and me about a week to spec, budget and commit to the project. By then it was Thanksgiving week, and we wanted the game by late December. Ian and his company produced the finished product in 3 week, over the holidays, no less. Ian tells a little of the history today, and a terrific treatise on Visualization as the new eBusiness.

Ian created the first Presidential candidacy game, and now he’s creating the second, this time a policy game for a major political party group. He’s still in the stealth (coy) phase of development

Doin’ the DUI

Serious work needs engaging graphics

A Dynamic User Interface is Flash-driven user environment that borrows its design concepts from computer games. I learned about the importance of dynamic presentation from the cockpit of the KC-135 Aerial Tanker. When I returned from Viet Nam in 1968, I was surprised to learn how archaic was my new airplane, a Boeing 707 equipped to “pass gas” to other aircraft. The tankers still had the old “round dial” flight instruments installed when they’d been built in the 50’s, a technology little changed since the 1930’s.

+ 30 years =

These instruments showed where the aircraft was but, aside from the slow rotation of the compass, none of the displays presented the aircraft’s position dynamically as it moved toward or away from our courses or destination. It was commonly accepted that the plane was a bitch to control, especially in the traffic pattern on hot days.

About a year later, the Air Force installed the Collins FD-109 Flight Director system in the fleet. Overnight, the aircraft was remarkably more tractable and could almost be flown with precision. It was striking that what had seemed to be the aircraft’s inadequacies were really a matter of presentation.

The round dial system was a graphic, but static, presentation of the plane’s data and progress, and it was demanding to integrate all that information. The FD-109 became our trusted Dynamic User Interface, and its descendants present meaningful colors and moving icons to the pilots in your airliner’s cockpit. We are all the safer for it.


Ian and I also worked actively on DUI concepts for Spirit of America. Spirit of America “Full Throttle” will be a membership campaign that employs strawberry roots activism, by which supporters can directly recruit other supporters and build their own activities to support requests from people we want to demonstrate the awesome power of Americans’ generosity toward previously oppressed peoples.

That’s where the DUI comes in. Ian will present a proposal to the SoA folks to depict each members’ activities dynamically, through various metaphors: a forest with trees, or a flower garden, that sprout branches and leaves and blossoms as a member’s recruits (and their activities) grow; or a bungalow that expands into a mansion as the member’s recruits and activities grow. Of course, we can still use the Solar System DUI that Ian mocked up for the mydeanpeople project, described previously:

click to view the animated depiction

This will be the first organized use of metadata about how members recruit others and empower them with the tools to act, essentially, as their own franchise of the Spirit of America enterprise. This is the “polymer” structure that I harp on until my friends’ eyes glaze over.

We couldn’t get it done for the Dean campaign, but maybe the SoA experience will indicate if it would have worked as I envisioned it last October.

Why 2004 Won’t be Like 1984 [^] CLI to GUI to DUI

Why 1984 won’t be like 1984” was the headline
for Apple’s introduction of the Mac. In 1984, it was clear to only a few people that computers needed to enrich their means of depicting data. Most of the experts were convinced that the CLI [^] Command Line Interface [^] was plenty good enough. Their confidence echoed that of IBM’s Thomas Watson 2 generations earlier, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.”

Ian is suggesting another interface revolution, where dynamic graphics depict a user’s motion through her flight plan of commitments, deadlines and opportunities. Perhaps, as the FD-109 did for the KC-135, it will also make our lives more manageable and enjoyable.

5:36:15 PM    

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