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Avatopia (2001-03)

Researchers and designers from Malmö University, Interactive Institute and Animationens Hus (Eksjö) worked with Swedish Television (national public-service broadcaster) around the topic of young teenagers who want to change society.

The work focused on creating a participatory design process, where some 30 teenagers from southern Sweden took part in creating a crossmedia platform for communicating, socializing and planning societal interventions.

The researchers and Swedish Television brought the core idea of a crossmedia spiral to the design process, where a communication forum online would form the basis for broadcast TV material, which would reach a large audience through a trusted channel and inspire more people to engage in the online forum. All the details (appearance, functions, social norms) were developed by the teenagers in collaboration with researchers, designers and TV professionals.

Avatopia was deployed in September 2003 as an online forum and a weekly TV spot in the youth programming block. It grew according to plan in late 2003; unfortunately, Swedish Television were faced with unexpected budget cuts by the end of the year and decided to discontinue Avatopia. Hence no large-scale evaluations were made, but anecdotal data supported the notion that a crossmedia spiral of narrow, high-involvement interactive media and wide coverage broadcast media is a feasible principle for organizing community platforms. Further, we concluded that a participatory design process where lead participants transition into mentor roles is a feasible way of working with social norms in community building.

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More about Avatopia in Gislén, Y., Löwgren, J., Myrestam, U. (2008). Avatopia: A cross-media community for societal action. Personal & Ubiquitous Computing 12:289–297. A pre-publication version of the paper is available.

Malmö University credits: Ylva Gislén, Jonas Löwgren