Students taking the NM4881A module will have to complete a project on the social-theory-informed design and use of social media. The aim is to apply knowledge from this module to the production of a concept (a sketch of a solution) that will address a current need in social media. Teams have the option of (a) proposing a completely new approach or platform that they could conceivably bring to market on their own or with some help form third parties, (b) proposing a concept for an imaginary client who is a real company but is not actually involved in the project, or (c) approach a real potential client, i.e. an organization active in the social media space or more broadly doing business in or depending in some manner on new media, with an office in Singapore. When working with real clients, students should discuss with them how the team can apply the knowledge it acquires from this module to address a real need. Students should bring their own ideas to the table and also listen to what the client may propose.
The focus of the team project is thus on critical reflection and idea generation, towards the practical application of material taught in class, to address real-world needs. There is no prior design experience required, as the emphasis will be on applying theoretical and empirical knowledge on how communities and social networks operate. The development of a concept is just a means of connecting theory to practice and encouraging you to deal with real-world problems, while thinking about what the future of social media might look like. This is a team project and every team member must contribute and be able to explain the project to a third party. Specific instructions follow.
Think about a real need that you could practically address in the social media space. If you choose to contact a potential client, you could select a client who owns or operates an existing social media platform, someone who may consider creating a new social media platform, or finally a client who may be open to leveraging/combining existing social media platforms in new and creative ways.
Depending on the type of problem and (real or imagined) client, you will have to place a greater emphasis in your project and in the project report on how your proposed re-design of an existing platform will be integrated with the platform’s current workings and how existing users will adapt to it, or how a new platform will support a new activity/community and how users will be attracted to that new platform, or finally how a plan for leveraging existing platforms in new and original ways (i.e. beyond creating an account or a simple profile/page) will meet the stated need of the client (and any other key stakeholders, e.g. the users of the platform).
Think about the type of project that you wish to embark on. You may approach a few potential clients to see who and what suits you best. Utilize your own personal and other networks to get more ideas and contacts to potential clients. Having a real or imaginary client may help you ground your concept better in reality and consequently ensure that with your concept you will be addressing a real need.Working without a client on the other hand will give you more freedom to choose exactly what you want to work on, though you will still need to convince the class and the lecturer that the concept you will develop is based on a real need that you have identified.
In the course of the project student teams will collect and review literature relating to the problem they wish to address, produce and publish a short video illustrating the basic premise of their proposal, set up a focus group that will inform their concept design, and finally, produce a set of slides for in-class presentation and a project report to be handed to the lecturer. The idea behind these steps is this: at the end of the module teams should be able to pitch their entire concept to relevant audiences (i.e. the client and other stakeholders, e.g. the intended users of the concept).
Weeks 5-7: Discussion with lecturer
Inform lecturer of the problem you wish to work on and your initial ideas on how to solve it, to get early feedback. This can be done via email, in class, or with setting a time for consultation, if necessary. If you have more than one idea, consult the lecturer.
Week 8: Proposal presentation (incl. video) in class
Present team proposal to the class through a short (max. 5 minutes) video published on YouTube - please inform the client, if you are working with an external party; they may wish to remain anonymous or they may wish that you do not disclose your proposal publicly - when in doubt contact your lecturer. If the client objects to the idea of an online video, produce one which you will show in class only. Each team will be given about 5-6 minutes to present their video in class. Student teams will very briefly explain how they came up with the idea and then show their video. The video should clearly convey who the client is, what problem the team is attempting to solve, why it is important, and how they plan to go about solving it. The class and lecturer will provide feedback on the spot, so do not worry about having nailed the concept in advance and be prepared to make many changes depending on the feedback you receive.
Weeks 9-11: Focus group and concept development
Each team must recruit about 5-6 people for a focus group and set up one meeting with them. The focus group should consist of people who are likely to use the concept if/when fully realized and may contain people from the client's organization or outside it, depending on who will be interacting on the target/envisioned solution. The recruitment method and names of recruits should be documented. The team will need to assemble the group in a room and explain their concept to them. The team must record both positive and negative reactions to the concept and how easy it is for focus group members to grasp the concept. Then the team should ask the focus group to provide feedback on how to improve the concept. Whenever possible, you should drill down to the details of the concept, e.g. by walking the focus group through the steps required in order to use your envisioned solution. The team may want to use simple sketches on paper of what the user interface might look like and/or simple handwritten diagrams depicting the steps that certain tasks would entail, or the content of messages to be exchanged, as appropriate, to convey the key elements of the concept to the focus group. This means that you need to prepare before the focus group meeting and have a pretty good idea regarding the need you address with your solution, and how exactly you plan to do it. The more prepared you are, the more substantial the feedback your will receive. Finally, the team must document the feedback they receive, both positive and negative, and the time it takes for the focus group to grasp key elements of the concept.
If time permits, you may now think about how to incorporate some of the focus group's suggestions in the current version of your solution, otherwise just report them in your final report and sketch out how you might go about including them in future versions of your concept.
Weeks 12 and 13: Final presentations and project report
Present final concept in class, including the results of the focus group meeting. Invite clients to attend presentation. Time: 20 minutes per team, followed by 10 minutes of Q&A. Every team member must present a small part of the project, ideally one where they have contributed the most. Order/day of presentation will be determined by drawing lots on Week 11. Final report is due on Week 13.
Here is the proposed structure of the final report. This should help give you an idea of what is expected.
Please make sure that your report is a self-contained document, that someone with no prior knowledge of your project can read and fully understand what you have done.
Explain the problem, why it is important, the concept, and how it helps address the problem in 150 words or less.
Introduce the aspect of social media that your project is dealing with. Explain why it is an interesting and important area in social media.
Introduce the problem that you will address. Explain why it is important and non-trivial.
- Academic literature that relates to the problem at hand, explaining also why and how it is related to your topic
- You may include relevant credible non-academic/industry sources
This is where you introduce your grand new concept!
- How to solve problem: briefly explain your concept and how it will address the problem you have identified
- Compare your concept to state of the art and explain how it will meet user needs
- It is alright to derive inspiration from existing social media platforms and tools, but avoid mere imitation and in every case give credit where credit is due when you borrow ideas from others
This is where you can highlight key features of your approach. Explain in more detail the main features of your proposed concept. You are free to choose what features you present here. Do not attempt to give a complete picture or make room for all the great ideas that you may have come up with. Select 1-3 key elements and present them in some depth and clearly enough, so that the client or a software developer hired by your client would understand what you are conceptualizing and would be able to carry your ideas forward. For example, you can:
- Explain how your solution builds in specific ways on lessons learned during class (social science theory and social media practice) about the design or role of social media. Make sure that you link any theory or lesson from our class meaningfully to the concept you developed, so as to support the concept; if you for example force-fit a theory or empirical finding that may not be really applicable, just because you feel you ought to, the result may weaken your report, not strengthen it
- Illustrate how a specific task that is central to your solution will be accomplished (using hand-drawn mockups of the user interface and/or diagrams where helpful) and explain the value of your approach
- Explain how your solution will be integrated with the workings of a current platform so that existing users of that platform will find it easy to use, or alternatively, if you are focusing on building a new platform, or in leveraging existing platforms for a client need, explain how and why a target audience will be attracted to your platform of choice
- If the success of one or more of your key features relies heavily on the production of original content by the client (e.g. producing videos, an interactive game, or other types of content), you need to provide examples/sketches/prototypes of what that content could look like, to make your ideas more concrete, so that the client is not later at a loss when they try to implement your suggestions.
- Recruitment method for focus group, including names and contact information for group members (email or phone number)
- Tasks, features and/or messages/content (as appropriate depending on problem addressed) explained to focus group
- Documentation of collective focus group feedback
- Synthesis of main issues raised by group
- Strengths and weaknesses of proposed solution
- Other limitations or concerns (if any)
- Overall how satisfied are you with the concept as it stands now?
- How would you improve it further?
- What did you learn about this type of problem that you are addressing?
- What would you suggest to the client as immediate next steps?
Report Formatting and Length
You are free to format your document as you wish, as long as you use a font that is clearly readable when printed out (sizes 11 to 12 usually work well) and include a cover page with:
- The indication “Project Report”
- Course title, i.e. “NM4881A – Social Media”
- The name of the instructor and department, i.e. Communications and New Media
- Your team’s name and the full names of all students in the group (as on matriculation record)
- A title that is indicative of the topic of your project
- Date of submission
Print in grayscale (if you wish to print in color, you may do so, but it is not preferred) and submit as simple stapled document (no ‘jackets’, no plastic needed).
Length: 4,000-4,500 words (excluding cover page and references)
Submit a printed copy in class on Week 13, during the first 15 minutes of class. No late submissions will be accepted. For your submission to be considered complete and receive a mark, you must also upload an electronic version to the appropriate folder on IVLE.