Third year Bachelor of Design students from left, Ben Wright, Kieran Stowers, Chris Nicholls, Joy Roxas and Vincent Lee display the On The Fence online tool.


Entertaining online tool to encourage youth vote

It’s called On the Fence, but a group of Institute of Communication Design students hope their entertaining online interactive tool will encourage young New Zealanders to come off the fence to join in the decision-making by casting a vote in the general election.

Using the backdrop of sheep down on the farm – a play on the notion that people are sheep and follow their friends – the web-based tool asks users to feed the sheep bales of hay labelled with policy issues of the day. When a web user clicks on a bale it brings up two contrasting policy platforms from the left and right of the political spectrum.

Once the user ‘feeds’ the sheep their preferred policy, a best match is then calculated to narrow down the options to present the most compatible parties. The information on which to base the matches was compiled with the help of an independent panel of specialists who include political scientists, journalists and bloggers.

Project manager Kieran Stowers says a sheep was chosen for the third-year project to highlight that large number of young people feel peer pressured when voting, either going along with what their friends think or voting for a particular party, just because that’s what their parents do.

“The tool doesn’t tell a user how to vote or specifically who to vote for, but it points them in the right direction to find out for themselves what politics is all about.”

The quintet, who also include fellow Massey University Bachelor of Design students Ben Wright, Chris Nicholls, Vincent Lee and Joy Roxas, put themselves in the shoes of a school leavers to imagine how bewildering and disengaged from the process some teenagers felt about politics.

“It’s not necessarily for experienced people who already know who they want to vote for. Our overarching aim is to get young people interested in politics and the different policies out there, to put trainer wheels on the future for them,” Mr Stowers says. “It shouldn’t been seen as a chore, voting is a way of expressing yourself as an individual and we wanted to help people find their voice.”

Over the course of four months the students used skills including motion graphic design to develop the website, which they say helped their own understanding of the political process too

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