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Take back the vote

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  • Design Thesis: MFA Design for Social Innovation, School of Visual Arts, New York

    While a large percent of the voting population of India takes part in the elections, there are still some sectors that are not too active in the process. One of those sectors are the first-time voters or the people between the ages of 18-23 at the time of the election. This range of people are students in colleges, and for some of them this is the first time they are living away from home. 

    From being in that situation myself, I realised that a large percent of these people (including me at the time) were quite apathetic to politics in the country. The reasons vary from 'I don't understand the system' to 'I don't really care' to 'My vote won't matter anyway'. But, what is really great about college campuses is that there are strong knit communities of people who affect each others lifestyle and behaviours in positive ways. 

    I wanted to explore these communities and the leaders that emerge in those systems, with the possibility of creating small-scale social movements on college campuses in India. My aim at this point is not to get people to the voting booths, but just to get people talking about current issues, political parties and the country as a whole. The process of this project takes place in three phases:
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    Introduction: The outcome of this phase was a visual gateway or an interactive introduction to my thesis project at the MFA Design for Social Innovation program at the School of Visual Arts. It was displayed as a part of our Spring Show 2013.

    On pressing the button (or the election ink) placed on a finger, a network of votes lights up throughout the poster. The idea is to make the user feel like they have the power to start this thing by taking the action of casting a vote or even just talking to people they know about this. If one person talks to two people and those two people talk to two more and so on, it is the spark to a movement. 
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    Research: Research was conducted with two groups of people - 
    1. First-time voters (18-23 year old students living on campus)
    2. Student leaders on campuses (people who take charge of events, bring people together and are natural leaders)

    Various methods of research were used to gather information: in-person skype interviews, online surveys, prototyping, data mapping, conversation, sorting exercises and secondary research.
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    Implementation: At this stage, I'm experimenting with absurd ideas to find that one thing which will be awesome (as of Feb 2014)