UMSI students’ website allows Jacksonians to track downtown reconstruction

Students at the University of Michigan School of Information have created a new website for the City of Jackson, as part of the school’s Citizen Interaction Design (CID) project. serves as the one-stop information center for Dig Downtown Jackson, a yearlong city project to rebuild the aging infrastructure of downtown Jackson. The construction project is scheduled to begin on August 11, 2014, city officials announced at a press conference on August 6.

The website explains why it is happening, when and where it is occurring, and what to expect over the next several months. It also provides an interactive model of what cosmetic and structural changes will occur along Main Street.

The site was designed and developed by four UMSI master’s students who are working as summer interns for the city: Michael McCasland, project manager; Clara McClenon, Dig Jackson project manager; Lingbo Guo, developer; and Jim Rampton, user experience designer. 

“We saw the website as an opportunity to provide context for the construction project, to simplify its complex processes so that people would approach it with a new understanding” said McClenon, who served as the information architect of the website. “Basically, our challenge was to wonder, ‘What if you didn’t feel like construction was a headache? What if you felt proud of your city for taking on this type of work?’”

Citizen Interaction Design is part of the UMSI Initiative for Information Impact. The CID program represents a three-year commitment between two partners, the School of Information and the City of Jackson, to develop and employ new information tools to increase citizen engagement with local government. The program includes a summer internship component and a Jackson project manager to facilitate interactions with appropriate personnel and provide on-site guidance.

Projects in the first year included a system whereby tips could be texted to the police anonymously, the passage of an Open Data Policy by the city council and a digital cemeteries archive.

The Dig site will continue into the second year of the program, according to Scott TenBrink, the Jackson project manager for Citizen Interaction Design, with new students maintaining, updating and adding new content. 

A video describing the Dig Jackson project, produced by the School of Information, is available on the UMSI YouTube channel.

Posted on August 7, 2014