Tangible News Anchoring

Cross-platform and convergent media bring new possibilities for presenting data on TV.

The Idea

Tangible News Anchoring explores potential practices for public opinion gathering, analysis, and news reporting through the convergence of mobile user-generated content, the Web, tabletop computing, and broadcast media. It features a new type of mobile poll that couples questions with the ability to record video, and interactive visualizations of this data for television studio and other settings.

UX Research


Before beginning the project, CNN media employees were interviewed to discuss needs and opportunities in convergent media. These interviews led to a focus on cross-platform solutions and participatory media.

Discussion-based data exploration was explored with Fulton County Commisioner Joan Garner to learn what kind of data would provoke civic engagement and debate in the local community.


James the Canvasser

James volunteers to promote healthy eating habits in Atlanta. He signs up to collect data from local residents about the accessibility of healty food. He loads the data collection mobile app on his phone, then travels door to door in his neighborhood interviewing his neighbors and collecting data. The polls and videos he collects are transmitted back to a central server for the TV news crew to explore.

Susan the News Anchor

Susan is a nightly news anchor for a local Atlanta station. She requests data from local residents on eating habits and food security. After James and other volunteers submit their results, Susan can explore the data based on filtering criteria. She is able to tag interesting findings and videos for playback on the news.

Roger the TV Fan

During the day Roger works as a high school history teacher. He likes to keep up with local issues by watching the Atlanta Evening News. On Thursday he was intrigued by a segment on food security and healthy eating. He loaded up his computer and navigated to the public website to find out more about the food situation in his school's neighborhood.

The Design

Design Requirements

  • Exploration – visualize ideas and opinions across the political spectrum.
  • Narration – enable professional news anchors to produce a news segment using crowdsourced information.
  • Discussion – facilitate debate between multiple commentators.



The web interface was designed so that home viewers could interact with the data after a newscast and make their own discoveries.

  • Quick Start - Users are presented a list of popular recent polls to choose from on the launch page.
  • Search - Additional public and private searches are available by specifying additional search terms.
  • Explore - Each poll includes result visualization, map plotting, and video playback. Users can pivot on data including neighborhood and demographics.


A functioning tabletop computing application and website were built for validation.

News Desk Prototype

A news anchor can stand behind the table computer. The screens behind the anchor visualize data and video playback. Cameras capture the scene from multiple angles.

Tangible Anchoring Tabletop Computer

The news desk is a custom-built tabletop computer. Projectors in the table project the calibrated image, while an embedded camera identifies and tracks tangible objects on the table using fiducial markers.


Expert Walkthrough

Facilitated expert walk-throughs within the Synaesthetic Media Lab and implemented practical changes.

User Testing

Wrote and implemented user testing protocols for the mobile and web applications.