Paving New Digital Dialogic Pathways for Audience-Content Engagement

The ultimate aim of designing a public history platform, such as “Territorio no Incorporado”,  is to generate a dialogical and reflective virtual map that would help visualize the unincorporated nature of the Puerto Rican “territory”. Using this legal unterritoriality nomenclature as the framing device for the project appropriately responds to the new technological realities defined by the Pew Research Center report, where “as people create social networks in technology spaces, those networks are often bigger and more diverse than in the past.”

Throughout the creation of this prototype platform, I have taken the necessary steps in laying out the foundation for integrating digital tools that inspire and facilitate audience-content creation and engagement. As mobile and social networking technologies continue shaping the ways in which users work, learn, and socialize; it is imperative that I get to know those who will become the content-generators of this platform.

My intention is to have informed projections of how potential “Territorio no Incorporado” users can make use of digital tools and platforms for self-discovery and for re-mapping their identities. In “Creating a Dialogic Museum: The Chinatown History Museum Experiment,” Kwo Wei Tchen points to this critical aspect of activating visitors in the early stages of this process: “The more the activities of reflecting and remembering are made public, the more individuals will become active in identifying the differences and similarities in their experiences with one another and with people who have not lived their experience.” In an effort to build an unmediated-yet-guided platform for visitors (Puerto Rican residing in the Upstate region of South Carolina) to collectively reformulate their pasts and presents, it is necessary that I involve  them as collaborators in these content-creating and meaning-making processes.

The Interview as a Way to Initiating the Shared-Authoring Process

One of the most effective ways to start this inclusive initiative is by getting to know audience members, and to really listen to them. In her article, “Interviewing Humans,” Erika Hall asserts that making use of the interview as a “basic unit of ethnographic research,”  would allow creators like me to have a solid grasp of what is  influencing audiences as they engage with online platforms, stating: “Think of them as the world’s foremost expert on themselves, which is the all-absorbing matter at hand.” I was able to interview two individuals who are likely to fit the audience demographics for “Terrirotorio no Incorporado.”

Listening to their perspectives on accessing and making use of digital platforms, as well as their needs and priorities are as Puerto Ricans in the Upstate, affords me the chance to start “letting go” of some of my traditional approaches to over-mediating interpretation of informational sources and to trust audience members’ content-generating abilities. With the rise of broadband connections, mobile technologies, and social networking, comes new kinds of Internet users, ones who according to the Pew Research Center: “They spent more time online, performed more activities, watched more video, and themselves become content creators.” This was true for those who were interviewed for this project.

Although tricky, I have been striking the balance between providing an un-mediated platform for user-generated content, and guiding users to richer forms of content creation and meaning. In the Introduction of Letting Go? : Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World, Adair points to this ideal scenario: “whether online, on the streets, in the galleries, or in a recording booth, audiences express themselves more creatively and confidently if operating within, not beyond, boundaries…The amount and quality of creative participation increases when visitors are guided by smart question prompts, stencils, or menus of choices.” This “combined expertise”–in Koloski’s words–is what will make of the “Territorio no Incorporado”, a site that opens up sustained pathways to collaborative content creation and discovery.

Mapping Audience-Content Nodal Points

Findings emerging from my audience-research interviews shed light on how Puerto Ricans in the Upstate can potentially self-activate as participants in these new mappings of their unincorporated territoriality.  The encouragement I seek to provide visitors to engage in story-authoring practices will come in the form of shared interpretive methods, facilitated interactions, and co-learning activities.

The content that emerged from these interviews helped me craft two personas for my project. As interaction designer, Shlomo “Mo” Goltz, advices on his article, “A Closer Look at Personas: What they are and how they Work”, personas act “…as a way to empathize with and internalize the mindset of people who would eventually use the software he was designing.” This role-playing activity might prove to be effective, as it will help me imagine user behaviors and interests. As a design tool, personas will serve as my guide to simulate an audience-centered design experience, and to develop effective more measures for projecting content-user relationships.

As I enter the next design stages of “Territorio no Incorporado”, I must strive to broaden the historical imagination, an advice offered by Corbett and Miller, who stated in their “A Shared Inquiry into Shared Inquiry.” article: “As public historians we had focused too much on the history, too little on the public. We had forgotten that popular history always begins and ends with village storytellers.” (32) This platform will serve as an invitation publics to engage in sustained reflections and dialogues that will reveal new nodal points, new delineations, new forms of citizenry, and new forms of being in the world.


Corbett, Katharine T. and Howard S. (Dick) Miller. “A Shared Inquiry into Shared Inquiry.” The Public Historian 28.1 (2006): 15-38. 

Frisch, Michael. “From A Shared Authority to the Digital Kitchen, and Back.” Letting Go?: Sharing Historical Authority in a User-Generated World, edited by Bill Adair, Benjamin Filene, and Laura Koloski, 126-137. Philadelphia: The Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, 2001. 

Goltz, Schlomo. “A Closer Look At Personas: What They Are And How They Work (Part 1).” Smashing Magazine. August 6, 2014.

Hall, Erika. “Interviewing Humans.” A List Apart. Published on September 10, 2013. Published in Just Enough Research. A Book Apart, (2013).

Kuo Wei Tchen, John. “Creating a Dialogic Museum: The Chinatown History Museum Experiment.” In Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture,” edited by Ivan Karp, Christine Mullen Kreamer, and Steven D. Lavine, 285-326. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.

“Three Technology Revolutions.”Pew Research Center.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *