The Election Debate Visualisation (EDV) project – a collaboration between The Knowledge Media Institute (KMi) at The Open University and the University of Leeds - has created an attractive feedback tool to allow the audience to take part in televised election debates in new ways. What’s more, the project also aims to analyse the responses of users.
When the first televised debates took place ahead of the 2010 General Election, research identified a public appetite for understanding more about the political parties and their policies, but discovered viewers were often left feeling disengaged.
On Thursday 16 April viewers will see a final debate between five opposition party leaders on the BBC, moderated by David Dimbleby. The EDV's Democratic Reflection app, available on laptops, tablets and mobile devices, aims to capture viewers' reactions and use this to build a richer understanding of our democratic needs, engagement and reflections on the political debate.
Viewers can express their feelings and thoughts by using digital cards which capture different reflective statements. They can say – for instance – ‘I’m losing interest’ or ‘S/he's just saying what people want to hear’ and so on. At the same time, viewers can also watch the live feed of reactions from other users interacting with the tool.
However, there is more to be had - the Democratic Replay website will allow viewers to re-watch an election debate, this time enhanced with interactive visualisations and analytics. This will highlight interruptions, attacks, unanswered questions and even failures to comply with the debate rules. It will also make clear to the viewer facts versus speculation, how the debaters' arguments are related to one another and also pull together other viewers' reactions.
The aim of the Democratic Replay website is to help viewers wade through the metaphorical blows thrown by debaters at one another, and better understand the complex political arguments by untangling confusing communication strategies - and best of all, it is free and open to all.
EDV’s Democratic Reflection web app is now available online and will make it possible for viewers of the upcoming BBC Challengers’ Debate on 16 April to provide instant feedback on what they experience. Find it here.