We Predict a Riot: Weeknotes from 25th October

In our exploration of storytelling services, apps and communities at the previous meeting, we were conscious that Simon’s research had begun with media archives related to the Miner’s Strike.

Rather than attempting to create a generic storytelling platform for all possible stories, we understood quickly that a boundary or constraint would surface more interesting possibilities and perspectives…

  • The recent publication of the Hillsborough report provided a set of perspectives, controversies, fractions and accounts that might make for interesting narratives to explore.
  • The breaking Jimmy Savile case also offered a landscape of current and historical narratives that coupled with archival material offer immediate evidence in criminal activity.

We eventually settled on the London Riots as a potent multi-dimensional set of narratives that could be explored in both time and space from multiple perspectives – rioters, police, victims, observers. Also, a rich range of public, social and civic data was readily available from multiple archives.

So, in a somewhat over-caffeinated state inside Mrs. Atha’s hipstery coffee shop, we began to explore stories from the Guardian’s Reading the Riots site to pick out interesting characters that might provide us with archetypal personas and scenarios for the design process.

We settled on four real personalities…

  • Zak, a cafe owner who lost his premises to rioters.
  • Carla, a musician who is still paying a mortgage on a residence destroyed in the riots.
  • Peter, a opportunistic rioter whom also wants to share the frustrations of young people.
  • Angela, a senior police officer deployed to Hackney to protect civilians and paramedics.

Using their real-world experiences during the riots, we began to hypothesise about their motivations for using our service; what would be the stories they needed to tell. From this we began to break down their journeys into tasks which would later inform the user flow and interactions.


Something we began to consider was whether the veracity of stories could be modelled – was truth something we needed to account for, or simply to offer the maximal range of voices and perspectives?

We discussed the possibilities, strengths and weaknesses of modelling an eBay-style reputation, where users in the same place, time or situation as each other could ‘vouch’ for a story’s veracity, commentary or other people’s recollections. This would translate into ‘currency’ that helped user’s ‘earn’ the right to contribute or comment elsewhere.

We also speculated about a ‘conversational’ first experience for new users. Answering simple dialogues such as where they live, their age, where were they, how were they affected could also help you earn currency, but also locate you within the archive’s media objects, temporally, conceptually and geographically.

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