The Case of MNsure.org and the Intervention of Citizen Writers

Proposal Title: 
The Case of MNsure.org and the Intervention of Citizen Writers
Presenter(s): 
Abstract: 

This presentation shares results of a usability case study on MNsure.org, a supporting web site for Minnesota’s health insurance exchange program for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Social media played a prominent role in the MNsure.org website, and many people began using social media to share their experiences with MNsure and the website. This presentation shares examples of citizen writer accounts that “intervened” in the MNsure enrollment period and created a sense of transparency and accountability. The presenter will connect citizen writer accounts with Robert Johnson’s vision of the “user as citizen” in User-centered Technology.

Proposal: 

This presentation shares results of a usability case study on MNsure.org, a supporting web site for Minnesota’s health insurance exchange program for the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Launched in 2013, MNsure.org is considered a “massively transactive website” that supports web activities such as creating accounts, determining insurance eligibility, and purchasing insurance. The presentation will share results of the MNsure case study and the intervention of “citizen writers” who offered user experiences with the website. MNsure.org had many usability errors in its first open enrollment period—so many that the enrollment period was twice extended. Usability difficulties such as account creation, lack of editing functions, faulty software, and unorganized help systems plagued the website for over six months. Social media played a prominent role in the MNsure.org website, and many people began using social media to share their experiences with MNsure and the website. This presentation shares examples of citizen writer accounts that “intervened” in the MNsure enrollment period and created a sense of transparency and accountability. Many lessons can be learned from the MNsure case, but in relation to computers and writing, the presenter will argue that “citizen writer” and social media accounts are a critical source of user data that must be considered in website design. The presenter will connect citizen writer accounts with Robert Johnson’s vision of the “user as citizen” in User-centered Technology and Anne Gentle’s description of end-user input in open-source documentation (Conversations and Community on the Social Web, 2012). 

Context: 
This proposal relates to the conference theme by demonstrating one instance of "intervention." The case of MNsure.org demonstrates several ways that end-users "intervene" in the process of web use, in this case to complete the complicated task of signing up for a health insurance packages. The "citizen writer" user accounts found in social media offer a source of user data that should be considered by web designers. I argue that interventions in this case demonstrate a powerful way users can contribute to web design.
Proposal Type: 
individual