How do you use technology/policy to improve citizens’ lives? Tell us about your role or organisation.
My role in the Taiwanese government is a re:architect, which means I am constantly crafting government citizen interaction. I like to look at my work as an interaction design project, asking how might we facilitate interactive spaces and collaborative processes to build capacity for government and citizens’ co-creation, leveraging existing and emerging technology. In short, prototyping future democracy.
Through my work, I’ve also reflected on where I came from. The design community could be inspired by democracy. I propose three calls to action to my beloved design community: to democratise the design process; to design from interaction to movement to sustainable development goals; and to continue listening and empowering our respective fields or industries.
My favourite project in the government is the project called Holopolis, that I work on for about 20% of my time. I was pretty much inspired by Audrey’s article about how public participation could be facilitated through virtual reality, and learning from our vTaiwan project, an experiment to prototype open consultation process for digital regulatory reform, to create Holopolis as an open community inviting everyone to join, with open processes – anyone can have a say on how we run this project. It also includes a virtual hackathon in spacial design, where creative coders, designers form teams and upload their projects to a shared site.
It’s a fun project that asks all contributors to see democracy as a game with purpose, with voting as its entry level, equivalent to clicking ‘like’ on social media.
The next level is interaction – from having a say to making, which means gov-citizen co-creation. The cool thing about Holopolis is that we encourage all contributors to imagine a future democracy, living 500 years in the future. Interesting technologies like VR and AI are highly encouraged to be used since we could all benefit from VR’s unlimited prototyping material and space.
What is so special about VR combining democracy is that it can transcend the dimensions of time and space, bringing a stronger sense of coexistence to participants, which helps foster common understanding and eventually leads to spontaneity, interaction and pursuit of the common good.
What has been the most exciting thing that you worked on in 2018?
Last month, we sent a team to attend a hackathon in Madrid to work on collective intelligence projects. I was extremely excited about this because it was an opportunity share the story of Taiwan, vTaiwan, and participation networks across all ministries, and more people could contribute to my passion project Holopolis. At the same time, my teammates from Taiwan could feel more confident with their skills, and become more committed in our endeavour in democracy. It was a very beautiful moment that reassured me that democracy is a global work that sits across national borders, and we are all experimenting with this movement.
“Democracy is a global work that sits across national borders, and we are all experimenting with this movement.”
If you were to share one piece of advice that you learned in 2018, what would it be?
Listen. I learned it’s extremely important to listen carefully to people around me, including the public servants, the citizens, my team, and even myself. That is the very first step before any kind of collaboration. That is also how we start to co-work, inspire and empower each other.
What tool or technique particularly interests you for 2019?
Since I sometimes consider myself as an artist-in-residence in the Taiwanese government, I am recently looking at a collection of free educational resources devoted to machine learning for artists. One specific tool that jumps out is the ml4a library introduced by Gene Kogan.
What are your priorities for 2019?
One of the next challenges I have set for myself is to work on facilitation at all scales, from facilitating teams and communities to facilitating movement and change.
Last week I went to Hong Kong and had a chance to facilitate a workshop about democracy. With about twenty-five participants from politics, design and more, we openly chatted about how we feel about democracy, then, we used an online deliberation tool called pol.is to discuss local issues from Hong Kong, such as reducing plastic waste.
What is one skill that has helped you the most throughout the course of your career?
Sketching and prototyping skills that I picked from my design school CIID definitely are great skillsets to have mastered. Public servants in the government are now getting used to having me drawing freehand sketches in front of everyone to get us all on the same understanding.
We used video prototyping techniques in one of our policy making processes to demonstrate the interaction flow of the newly proposed virtual healthcare card policy. I even made a series of comics just to illustrate the story of how we redesigned a very taxing tax reporting system. We did this by running co-creation workshops and inviting citizens, designers, public servants, and other stakeholders.
What advancements do you predict will happen in your field in the next ten years?
I think there will be many more open social debates footprint on the internet, and using that, more citizens could participate with ease – including creative innovators helping to illustrate multiple perspectives, and policy makers making legitimate decisions based on real societal status, and experts in respective fields contributing authentic experiences.
Coffee, yoga, music… what powers you through your day?
Cortado. Double espresso.