Taking Liberties

January 4, 2009

Human rights

The British Library is currently running an exhibition charting, in its own words, “the 900-year struggle for rights and freedoms in the British Isles” and by association around the world.

What rights and freedoms? Liberty and the rule of law, the right to vote, freedom from want, freedom of speech and belief, having a say in how we are governed.

If you are in London, it is worth going just to see originals of documents like the Magna Carta (which first stated many of the principles of the rule of law), the Habeas Corpus Act (which enshrined the right to freedom from unlawful imprisonment), the King James Bible (the first sanctioned English language bible), Hobbes’s Leviathan (the social contract between the ruler protector and his people), and the Bill of Rights (the closest Britain has come to a written constitution).

Most of the exhibits are online and can be seen here. Click the ‘timeline’ link next to each section to see where they fit in.

For those of us who are members of Generation Y, it pays to remember that universal suffrage (in Britain) is as old as our grandparents and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as old as our parents. We cannot take all our freedoms for granted.

“Please enter your citizen number”

However, there is another reason to write about this: the brilliant use of interactive technology. Aside from being very, very cool, the interactive booths and online visualisations make sure this exhibition stays stuck in your head.

When you enter you are invited to take one of these:

img_0166

This wristband has a barcode and “citizen number” on it which you can use to register on booths scattered around the exhibition. Each booth allows you to vote on some of the issues presented in the exhibits (“Should voting be compulsory”, “Should we all have the right to die”, “How free should the press be”, etc…). The system tracks your answers, and at the end you can see how they compared to everyone else’s. You can even enter your citizen number on the Taking Liberties interactive site, where you can get more info, watch videos and check out the visualisations in the comfort of your own home (pictured below).

Breaking_the_law

My citizen number is 142423, feel free to log in and see how I did, or try it yourself.

Museums are one of the purest expressions of designing information to educate, inform and entertain at the same time. This exhibit uses three of the most important tools to get you to pay attention and remember:

  • Social proof: you want to take part and answer the questions because you can see everyone else is
  • Attention : forcing the user to answer questions on the issues engages you in the material and frames the sometimes archaic documents presented in the exhibits
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition: the best way to make a fact memorable is to repeat it, ideally in different media. With the original documents, the interactive booths, the website and the online access to your voting, Taking Liberties has it covered.

At the heart of this is the well executed technology; read on to see how it was done…How it’s done

Throughout the exhibition are scattered these booths, which are controlled entirely by the barcode reader (A) and the knob below the screen (B).

User

On logging in by swiping your barcode wristband under the reader, you are faced with a carousel. Turning the knob spins the options and you can choose the one you want by pressing down.

takingliberties_booth_step1

Pressing the knob takes me to a first case study.

Voting2

And then a second one.

Voting3

Detail on the explanation of the knob control.

Voting_detail3

And then the vote! On the next screen (which in my haste I forgot to take a picture of) you can pick from four thought provoking options. Push the knob and you are asked to swipe your wristband again to confirm.

takingliberties_booth_step4

That’s it! The last screen recommends an exhibit to help you think about your choice.

Voting5

Great usability, great affordance. There were children using this (although the ease of use couldn’t help them answer the thought provoking questions). The final room brought everything together on big screens:

IMG_0144

IMG_0132

IMG_0139

IMG_0143

More pictures

Taking_liberties

IMG_0146

IMG_0133

IMG_0161

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: