Would Washington D.C. be easier to understand (and also keep tabs on!) if it were a video game? Would newspapers be more popular if their stories included avatars? That’s the idea behind American University journalism professor Dave Johnson‘s ‘For the People; USGov2.0′ proposal for this year’s $5 Million Knight Digital Challenge competition.
Who can explain how [Washington D.C.] really works? No one — including the media — gives a complete picture. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The tools and methods to comprehend this complicated picture fully exist in the game space, but have yet to be tapped using real data in real time. This project will build a working “SimCity” model of Washington, DC, visualizing the federal buildings and placing avatars of elected and appointed officials in and around them…Beyond the platform interface, the goal is to attach vast databases of public information…Strong journalism — print, broadcast and new media â€“ that relates these communities to Washington will be easy to find and new audiences will appreciate the relevance to their communities. Newspapers spend millions on NIE programs, but why not put the content in front of young users in the game space, using visualizations that help tell the story and engage the user on a deeper level?
Sound interesting? Sort of like Second Life newspapers, no? This is supposed to be the Internet presidency after all. There’s more here, and you can also vote — he’s apparently already made it to the second round.