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The Outrage Machine

An SMS-based interactive billboard

 

The Outrage Machine

An SMS-based interactive billboard about social outrage

 
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What makes a news topic both outrageous and emotion-tugging, and how can we use technology to help explain the scale and severity of the topic in an accessible way?  

The Outrage Machine is an interactive billboard that prompts audiences to express what outrages them on the larger-than-life Viacom screens in Times Square. Using a simple SMS-based interface, we invited the public to send in messages about what makes them outraged, and displayed the results in real-time on the billboard.  The project was created in partnership with NYU-ITP, Viacom and NYC Media Lab as part of a call to create site-specific, screen based interactive storytelling experiences that address social outrage. 

 

Role

Concept, Interaction Design, Art Direction & Visual Design

Collaborators

Abhishek Singh
Andrew LeVine

YEAR

2015 - 2016

 
 
 

CONCEPT

Is Internet outrage the new normal? Our team began to answer this question by researching the various expressions of anger on the internet. We familiarized ourselves with the cycle of outrage that dominates platforms like Twitter almost daily, on topics that range in gravity from Starbucks cups to racism in Hollywood.

In response, we decided to create an interactive experience that would encourage people to express outrage outside the usual context of anonymous social networks, and instead do so in a highly visible public space.

 
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Process: Prototyping and Design

Before settling on an SMS-based interaction, we sketched a variety of different concepts, from a carnival game Outrage-O-Meter, to an interactive game where people could vote on different trending outrages from Twitter. We prototyped our ideas on different scales and using different materials, from web apps to pen and paper. 

 
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Based on observations from playtesting and various site visits to the Viacom screens, we decided to radically simplify our concept. The context of Times Square also presented a host of design challenges for creating an interactive piece, from the obvious separation between audience and screen, to a more subtle (but significant) delay in the screen transmission system.

Given these considerations, we landed on a simple SMS-based interaction that would be inclusive and easy to use for audiences in the over-saturated environment of Times Square. 

 
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Final Design and Technical Implementation

The final design consists of an SMS-based app, powered by Twilio, that populated the billboard with user-generated content. On the billboard, we asked people what they were outraged by, inviting them to text their first name and their answer to an anonymous phone number. 

 
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The outrages submitted by the public were displayed one by one on screen, passing through a literal outrage machine. The machine’s aesthetic of colorful cardboard and stop motion animation was designed to feel bold and graphic, but also human and DIY in a way that would stand out against the polished advertisements of Times Square.

 
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Installation

The billboard was displayed on the Viacom screens in Times Square on January 29, 2016. Over the course of a 40 minute run, we received over 200 messages from nearby audiences. The outrages people submitted were all over the map, ranging from gentrification in New York City to climate change to Justin Bieber..

 
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Role

Concept, Interaction Design, Art Direction & Visual Design

Collaborators

Abhishek Singh
Andrew LeVine

YEAR

2015 - 2016

 

Tools & TECHNOLOGIES

HTML / CSS
Javascript (NodeJS)
Twilio API
Adobe Photoshop