This posting contains two main sections: the first provides a quick discussion of user research that I have found for my project, and the second section offers a discussion platform to vent ideas as to how this project has changed or is changing due to the research data, reading articles, and holding meetings.
Part 1: User Research
This project started out with an elevator pitch on creating a public history project on the US Census. Simply, this being 2020, the US Census is topical, timely, and offers a range of research opportunities. However, I have not narrowed down much regarding theme of research or area of US Census history that needs to become the core of my research. I suggested adding a teaching element to this project but crafting a lesson plan for high school history teachers. In many ways, a website will be designed in order to help present the historical information then a lesson plan was to be created in order to help the facilitate the uses of the information. Currently, I am working on refining such a project. This needs to be a public history project not a full educational lesson. However, the user research that I have gathered thus far offers great insight into American’s usage of online tools and digital media.
The Pew Research center has created a study that maps out “information-engagement typology” of groups of people. Simply, the center has grouped online users into various categories based upon one’s willingness to learn and use digital tools for that learning. The highest category is called “Eager and Willing”. Within this first category, “More than half the members of this group are minorities: 31% are Hispanic; 21% are black and 38% are white, while the remainder are in other racial and ethnic groups.” Meaning, minorities are actively seeking out digital tools to be used and new outlets for information and news. This group is also eager to not only read new materials, but to improve their computer literacy through this research driven search for new information.
The second group is called “Confident”. This group comprises people who, like those in the first group, are eager to learn and seek out new information through research and to find new streams of news. However, these individuals are not open to increasing their computer literacy; in fact, they feel confident in their already established computer skills and research methods. This group is comprised of predominately white and “one-third of the Confident (31%) are between the ages of 18 and 29, the highest share in this age range of any group.”
In the end, this research speaks truth to our persona building activity – there is not one mode of outreach that will work for all groups of people. The center writes that “This typology suggests that one size does not fit all when it comes to information outreach.” In many ways, this is where the personas come into play. They help us craft a person in a group that we want to target. Narrowing in on a person or a few people via these personas helps to create a more manageable marketing strategy to a more manageable marketable group.
Part 2: Change in Project Design
All of the above being said, my project has encountered a few snags. Specifically, teachers might not be the best marketable group of people for my project. While I can still use the personas I have created, I need to broaden my market to non-teacher that still hold the same educational skill level, demographics, and computer literacy as the teacher persona I have created. I have interviewed two teachers for this project, and while my audience has shifted slightly, the interviews provided good advice on project organization and content development. One piece of organizational advice from the teachers was to create a project with clear objectives – if you want to include a lesson plan, then that lesson plan has to have clear motives and clear outcomes.
Moreover, this project has to slightly shift away from an educational lesson plan to a public history project. Due to the Pew Research listed above, I am interested in how minorities are calculated within the Census. Now that the Census is adding online check-ins, does that imply a more accurate reading of minorities? If the research from the center is correct, then it could prove interesting to find out more how minorities interact with the Census.
Or, perhaps, it could be interesting to see how young adults are calculated in this Census. Such as: tracking the age change of when someone is legally an adult, or how young adults calculate their wealth, or are young adults still dependent to their parents – according to how the Census sees the situation. In any case, these are some ideas that are currently bouncing around that could help me narrow down my topic.