The #NoKidsInPrison Immersive Website Experience reveals the impact of incarceration on young people, their families, and communities, and imagines a world where all youth are free. Created in collaboration with the youth abolitionists, RISE for Youth, and Performing Statistics, the experience provides an in-depth exploration of the American prison system and is a pivotal part of a monumental awareness-raising campaign that includes augmented reality installations, virtual reality exhibits, and other new immersive content in cities across America.
As a key contributing creative partner, our goal was to design an experience that could be deeply felt, widely accessible, and move people to take action. By creating an interactive, immersive experience available to everyone online, the 3D website greatly increases the impact and momentum of this nationwide movement. One of the unique qualities of immersive design is its uncanny ability to bring viewers into spaces that many systems attempt to keep hidden from the public eye. Visitors not only experience a day in the life of an incarcerated youth but, importantly, along their journey, are guided by young people and their families. Likewise, as youth share their visions for alternatives to incarceration, visitors embark on a journey of active exploration to discover for themselves a brighter future without youth incarceration.
In the world without youth prisons… #NoKidsInPrison is an interactive website experience composed of art, poetry, music, and dynamic animated content to guide visitors on an immersive 3D journey through the past and present of youth incarceration. Visitors are invited to imagine a world without prisons where every young person has what they need to thrive, feel safe, and be free.
Several key elements informed and guided our design of the user experience and immersive interface:
The first step in the making of the website involved hosting discovery sessions and workshops with the youth, immersing our team in their stories and artwork. We then devised a thoughtful strategy for empowering site visitors to access these beautiful layers of auditory and visual storytelling through a path of discovery, education, and understanding. The website offers a transformative experience where visitors travel through time and space, from the confines of prison cells to classrooms and community streets, finally lifting them up into the youth’s dreams for a better world.
Using our knowledge of filmmaking and exhibit design, we developed a story arc that builds depth and invites visitors on a journey of discovery. A timeline interface allows users to explore freely from stop to stop, skip forward or backward, or return for deeper content exploration. Additionally, a drop-down menu offers a Table of Contents to transport users to a particular chapter in the story.
Throughout the experience, affordances (plus signs) provide interactive opportunities to explore further, learn, and listen. Visitors are invited to explore a detailed digital archive of photos, articles, book clippings, case files, and other documentation spanning generations of systemic criminalization, illuminating past legacies to move toward a future that centers on healing and human values.
The journey begins with a "transmission from the future" to invite visitors on a time travel experience to understand the traumatic impacts of youth incarceration in America, as well as provide a vision for building a better future.
The narration unfolds in five chapters, with subsections further illuminating the topics from different vantage points. Powerful, first-hand testimonials from young people and their families impacted by the juvenile justice system, interactive data visualizations, video sequences, and a virtual reality experience transform traditional journalism and story-telling into an unobstructed view of what it's like from the “inside”.
The experience bookends with our guide asking, “Will you help us build a world without youth prisons?” A Call to Action page includes additional resources, downloadable educational material, and options for how to get involved in helping #NoKidsInPrison achieve its goal.
This web experience would not have been possible without the bravery, creativity, and brilliance of dozens of young artists and activists who shared their work, stories, and demands for a world without youth prisons. The #NKIP Website Experience provides an accessible educational experience for global audiences to engage with the campaign’s impactful social justice mission, and amplify hope for future generations.
Initially slated as a physical exhibit, when Covid hit we transitioned to an immersive web experience. By moving the content online, the voices, art, and stories we collected became accessible to millions of visitors, versus a few hundred we may have expected visiting a localized exhibit. This also allows the site to be used as an ongoing educational tool in classrooms throughout America. Traffic to the site is continuing to increase, up 4% from last month with over 790 backlinks. Initially considered a US campaign, now nearly 20% of visitors are international, giving #NKIP the potential to become a global movement.
Based on qualitative research, we found the majority of users quickly became absorbed in the content, most notably by the intimate storytelling, 3D immersivity, spatial audio, and unique interactive components.
Moved to Take Action
20% of traffic generated to the site has resulted in transactions through donations, newsletter sign-ups, and downloadable content. The web experience helped to generate awareness and funding to create The Hive, Virginia’s first youth-centered community that helps young people reverse the intergenerational trauma caused by systemic racism, holistically supporting them as they transition into adulthood.
Much more than a website, #NoKidsInPrison is a years long campaign that continues to spread the word and amplify voices of incarcerated youth through virtual reality police trainings, teaching curriculums, community activism, and the multi-city Freedom Constellations project featuring augmented reality banners, bus wraps, billboards, exhibits and more currently launching across America.
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