Project Title: Exploring Environmental News Through Photos – EnviroView

Project Title: Exploring Environmental News Through Photos – EnviroView

Requested Amount: $30,000

Expected Amount of time to Complete Project: One month to begin compiling website and app.

 

Describe your Project (500 words): Our website’s goal is to connect people to the environment using the most used medium in society: the web. The website will inspire people to go out into their own communities and experience nature for themselves. The site will be a similar layout to “Pintrest”, a compellation of relevant local environmental areas of interest, news articles, or adventures based on pictures.

The site will be operated by a board of administrators, who edit, sort, and connect submitted pictures/ideas. The website will be organized by a “tag system”, so that users can search a specific issue, a location, or activity. Format of the posts are initially a page filled with pictures, in a similar way to a tumblr blog. These pictures, if clicked, will lead the user to a way to connect to this in their local environment, whether it be an outdoor activity, volunteer opportunities, or local news. So, with only images to look at, when someone finds a picture they are drawn to and decide to click on, they already have a sense of connection and investment. The website will challenge the current issue that people don’t care about environmental news because they are not connected, and because environmental issues are on incomprehensible long-term scales. Trying to connect people to nature and their communities is an effective way to get people to care about environmental news. Environmental challenges of this day in age are difficult to connect to, compared to seeing an image of people in a war.  Images evoke feeling and connection in people. If a website can facilitate this sort of connection it can give better access. We don’t want to create another form of technology that will further isolate people from their surroundings. Technology has the tendency to suck people in, we already spend too much time staring at screens.  That is why this app takes that tendency and uses something that appeals to people – like blogs and websites – but turns it into a tool to connect to the environment.  This is why the content is so important. It’s not just a website or blog filled with pictures, but, the images lead to an article or a place that someone has found to explore in their own area.  So the initial interest in an image facilitates an opportunity to learn more about the enviornment or a plan to explore it which will make people more connected to the world around them.

In addition to the website, an app will be created to mobilize access. A crucial aspect of this project is connection to nature. Creating an application allows for this connection to be made instantly and on the road. An app could incorporate a map feature and would work for local areas too. Someone just visiting a new place would have plenty of ways to get involved in events or explore places somewhere unfamiliar without having to result to a google search of “fun things to do” which inevitably leads to a myriad of tourist attractions.

What unmet need does your product meet (200 words)? A way to connect with local environmental things that are not touristy. The app facilitates a connection through pictures that peak interest to a specific activity that is in the locality of the viewer. The application’s goal is to highlight great nature spots for local people, to enjoy the nature that’s in their own backyard. Connecting people to their local environment will bring awareness to these places, and in turn their local environments as a whole. We believe this is the most effective way to get people engaged and concerned with environmental news, specifically at the local level.

 

Interview four potential users of your product about this unmet need. Do not tell them about your idea. Just explore their need. What did you learn? Include names and contact info for interviewees and a few words describing each — age, gender, occupation, town where of residence. Go for variety. 200 words

Lena Pfeiffer is a University of Michigan student in the Architecture program. Originally from Washington D.C., she is considered the “trendiest” in her friend group. In the off chance of a spare moment, she frequents music blogs and catches up with her friends. From my interview with Lena, it seems as though the news is not a priority for her, and certainly not environmental news. A platform that could peak her interest in more than just informative news stories would be the best way to target her as a user for our app. She is a very busy student, and doesn’t value online social media that doesn’t “better herself” in some fashion. Lena has time to log into facebook, since it is in direct association to her online social persona. She explained how Facebook is worth frequenting because every move made online, is a social move that connects to real life. But Lena doesn’t prioritize perusing the web for nice photography, or interesting stories, because it doesn’t have an impact on her personal life. I think our app would be filling the void of connecting Lena to her surroundings, while educating her on local environmental news. Pictures would peak her interest, but the outdoorsy activity or relevant local news story would connect Lena to a way to “better” her personal life.

Sarah Ziker is a senior at the University of Michigan, graduating from the School of Education. Coming from an environmentally focused hometown, Seattle Washington, I was surprised that Sarah had not immersed herself more within Ann Arbor nature. Ann Arbor doesn’t have that “in your face” environmental culture that Seattle has, and this has resulted in a general lack of knowledge of places to go and local environmental news stories. When looking at Sarah, the first thing you notice is the enormous tattoo of a painting on her delicate forearm, and impeccable style – usually consisting of horizontal stripes, glasses, and a lot of leather. She can be found reading books in the Law Library on the weekends, planning education lessons by day and cooking vegan meals for her housemates at night. She is not necessarily the person you would characterize as outdoorsy mountain woman from Seattle. Spending time outdoors and enjoying nature is a universal escape for humans, and heavily peaks the interest of many different types of people. Sarah is a great example of how an outdoor activity app could be used by book worms, and environmentalists alike.

Carrie Glauner graduated from the Geology department at University of Michigan this spring. She now lives in Detroit, where she works as a geologist. She spends her free time exploring the city and taking in her local environment. Carrie gets her environmental news largely from NPR, though the stories that are discussed are not generally focused on Detroit, but the environment on a larger scale. As a geologist, Carrie spends time in the field and studies the geology in and around Detroit. When asked if she feels a connection to her community, Carrie responded “Yes, the sense of community here is great and the culture is very rich,” though she still craves a deeper connection to her local environment. “I think an environmental news source about Detroit would be interesting.” Carrie is a perfect example of someone who would benefit greatly from a news source that provides easy access to information about the place in which she lives.

 

Adam Glanzman is a Senior in the Program in the Environment at the University of Michigan as well as a Photojournalist for the Michigan Daily.  He does read environmental news mostly through the Times and Washington Post when they have the articles. He doesn’t go out of his way to seek out the stories in any sort of specific environmental journal.  As a photographer, he is attracted to images that are attached to stories, though he noted on the websites of newspapers, the images are usually rather small.  When he finds an image he likes, he investigates further to learn more about the photographer and why they were in the location of the photograph.  He also noticed that newspapers usually focus environmental stories on catastrophes or major events. Through social media he mostly posts his own photographs and is a perfect example of how any person could contribute to a site with many images and that would make it both more interesting and relatable. Most of his interactions with the outdoors in Ann Arbor are through his environmental classes, like an ecology lab at the Botanical gardens. This app would definitely appeal to people like Adam with a drive toward images and inherent interest in the environment.

How big is the potential market for your idea? Mention sources for any statistics you use. 100 words The potential market for this idea is world wide. Across the world, our environment is underrepresented in the news. This project works to solve this problem by making environmental news available to anyone with internet capabilities or a mobile device in a unique way. The application aims to connect users with their local environment, and will most likely be used in group settings, thus extending market reach to people without internet access or a mobile device.

 

How is your idea innovative — new or different from something already existing? Name your closest competitiors – 200 words Tumblr or pintrest are competitors because they similarly use pictures to gain the readers attention. But the vital difference between these platforms and our application is the focus on locality and real life application. Our app’s main goal is to connect users to their local environment, giving them activities to explore outside the internet. Tumblr and Pintrest don’t have real life application specificity. Community involvement is a major component to our app, because that’s how we believe people are best connected to nature.

 

How will your idea be financially sustainable? 150 words Our app, like other apps on smart phones is a one time pay system. To get the app, you pay a couple dollars to download it on your phone.

On the production side, we must pay application developers to create the application. This is also a single payment that would be made to engineering company of choice. The cost of engineering a phone application, depends on the breadth of accessibility. Our estimated cost is based on the following factors, that will make our website/application more usable and available to a wide variety of different platforms. Personal account log in system to the application, accessibility on smartphone, ipads, and mobile devices, and a link connection between website URL and mobile devices are important features of product development that will determine the ultimate cost of our idea. These costs are specifically geared to the development side of product engineering, and future costs would be limited to updates and domain fees. This makes our idea a financially sustainable option, considering the negligible additional costs after development.

 

Why are you and your team the right people to develop this project?  100 words We are young adults that are engaged with our local surroundings, with foci in photography and the environment. We understand first hand how powerful connection with images can be. The best way to connect people with their environment is to give them activities to do on the local, community level. Engraining these lifestyle decisions can spread throughout a community and make outdoor activities, and environmentalism a large part of local culture. This will bring rise to demand for environmental news, and its importance.

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3 Responses to “Project Title: Exploring Environmental News Through Photos – EnviroView”

  1. I may not use Pinterest, but I am an avid Tumblr user and can see some great potential in this idea. There’s a possibility that this kind of subculture has already developed on websites like Reddit or Pinterest, but to have a dedicated site, specifically catering to the younger generation, is new to me. I would maybe clarify what exactly the photos would be for – trail maps, vistas, community actions, or all of the above. I’d also consider letting the website be user-generated, rather than strictly admin-run. Websites like those you stated as your inspiration are wholly made of user content, which is what makes them so successful and popular in the first place. All in all though, this is a really neat idea and I think I’d like to use it (as a lurker of course, because that’s how I roll on Tumblr).

  2. Nikki, Marlene, Katlin — Ideas that take a popular idea, like Pinterest, and give it a new twist are always very interesting! There are many appealing things about this idea, including its focus on visualization and its support of user sharing. I also like the way you talk about turning a downside of technology — tendency to suck people into spending too much time in front of screens — into a plus for the environment. One challenge I see is, do you have enough ideas for raising money to manage the photos uploaded by users? How would you keep the app from being overwhelmed by PR people or others with an agenda that might include profit or politics? Also, what about marketing? How will people find and use this? Also, speaking of competition, check out what Pinterest announced recently: http://blog.pinterest.com/post/67622502341/introducing-place-pins-for-the-explorer-in-all-of-us
    It’s not exactly what you’re suggesting, but it’s related. So you should think about how your idea is different and better.
    Also, here are some recent statistics you might want to reference re Pinterest being the fastest-growing content-sharing platform: http://www.businessinsider.com/pinterest-is-fastest-growing-content-sharing-platform-2013-11?nr_email_referer=1&utm_source=Triggermail&utm_medium=email&utm_content=emailshare
    In your write-up, it would be good to directly quote Lena and Adam talking about the voids that need to be filled in their information lives. Also, you might want to clarify whether the target users are mainly tourists or locals. Finally, a few small typos: interest is piqued, not peaked. And it’s day and age, not in age.
    Again, nice work on this! I think this is worth pursuing further.

  3. I am trying to understand how this is different than something like instagram (or any other photo based social media site). I think that will be the biggest obstacle for you all if you choose to go forward. You need to make your idea unique and novel. As of now, it seems to be “old news” so to speak.

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