At the Digital Art Lab, we hosted a number video workshops for kids in the ICOZ Time Out. The kids in the ICOZ program are teenagers from troubled homes, with learning disabilities or social and behavioral and development problems who have been placed outside the regular school system for 3 months to get back on track. During these workshops all participants make a one minute video that they show to each other afterwards. The aim is to stimulate creative productivity and collaborative work, but more importantly to empower them through a process of creation: to have kids take pride in what they have created and value the skills they already possess as well as the ones they’ve acquired during the workshop.
Between 2012 and 2013 I nourished a little VJ community in the Digital Art Lab. Adventurers Bram and Lucas wanted to facilitate VJ Jam Sessions for beginners in the Digital Art Lab. The second P2P experiment is now in full swing! Since October 2012 the two 13-year old boys ran a short course called Video Mix.
As peer teachers, Bram and Lucas will show the participants a number of audiovisual techniques such as stopmotion animation, lightgraffiti (in stills and animated), and VJ-ing with Modul8. The focus of these get-togethers is fun & play & creating, and they master it very well. Have a look at this Flickr set for some recent student work: http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalartlabckc/sets/72157634672077317/
In Winter/Spring I initiated community arts project and peer learning experiment ALPHA; a science-fiction webseries made by 30 teenagers from the city of Zoetermeer and around. The project was sparked by 15 year old Thijmen de Valk, who’s been writing stories all his life and has the ambition to become a film director. He contacted me via Twitter to see if I could help him with his ideas. The setup of the project was to train the teenagers to become completely self-organising. After a successful crowdfunding campaign on voordekunst.nl and dazzling recruitment of talented crew and cast between 9 and 19 years old we started the rocket ride. The team of 30 kids had to learn to work together and develop all sorts of skills like how to…
View episode 1 below, all episodes of season 1 will be published May 2014
At the moment, Thijmen is still doing film and sci-fi projects with other young people. He’s a peer teacher at community arts centre CKC where he runs productions from his own company.
Fun facts is a workshop format for kids where they learn to translate data into imagery. How can you create the most informative, understandable yet fun and compelling image? In stead of using pencils, kids use physical materials and cameras to allow them to work 2D and 3D. I developed this workshop for the Cinekid Mediafestival in Zoetermeer in collaboration with my colleagues Ingrid Rekers and Timothy Kok at CKC Zoetermeer.
In 20012, I developed a P2P course in Robotics at CKC, with two 13-year old interns. The two peer teachers coach two teams for 8 weeks teaching them and helping them to build and program a robot that can triumph the challenges of a playing field the boys designed. In the last week, the two teams fight each other in the grand finale. This experiment was initiated with the idea to stimulate bottom up programming at the centre for arts and culture.
Cultivating a tightly knit community by giving young people the space and support to realize their ideas has been key in its success. Although this was a big change in mindset on many levels in the organisation, it has proven to been a very fruitful ambition and the principle is now fully embedded and supported at CKC. The contest is still run three times a year in the CKC. In recent years the first peer teachers have even trained their own students to become replace them when they went off to go to university.
To conclude the pilot project, I wrote a couple contributions for this book to wrap up the first year of the Digital Art Lab.
RPFRP #2 is a reflection on the social and creative innovation project the Digital Art Lab. The publication gives the reader practical information and a theoretic framework for hands-on innovation in the cultural sector. It deals with issues such as ‘how to connect with a young audience?’ This innovative trajectory is described sharp and vividly in the Patching Zone members’ and guest authors’ reflections on their work. The book is especially relevant for everyone who’s interested in practice lead research and development, innovation in (leisure) art education, business innovation in the cultural sector and unconventional creative innovation in general.
In 2011, my Patching Zone colleagues Kristina Anderson and Audrey Samson invited me to assist them with in their workshop The Art of Hacking at NIMK the Dutch Institute for Media Art. High school kids from all over Amsterdam were coming to show us what amazing vibrobot designs they have up their sleeves. Kristina and Audrey took the concept of vibrating robots and prompted the highschool kids to really play around with lots of materials and a glue gun to give their little bots character in their looks, sounds and the way they move. Read more on Kristina’s blog TinyThing about that concept. During Museumn8 we ran the workshop for eager grown-ups.
A thing or two on facilitation
My role was to explain the how-to of the technical part of the circuit to the kids: how the battery is connected to the motor and why it works like that. Why you need an eccentric weight on the motor shaft to create a vibrating motion. How to avoid shorts, and how to be clever about putting it all together so it doesn’t fall apart, by making a stable basic body by forming a batterypack, and by mounting the motor on it as a head using electrical tape. This construction of battery-pack-as-body and motor-as-head, using electrical tape and a paperclip, I’d used before in my own Vibrobert vibrating robot.
But the nice thing about the workshop was that the focus was actually a lot more on ‘making it your own’ and really facilitating personal expression doing that. I was asked to interview the kids on video to get an idea of their thinking about the process and it was really great to hear how the process of building had allowed them to get an understanding of the basic concepts. And the fun that was involved in really making it their ‘own’ thing.
Looking back on this workshop I really appreciate such efforts of maker facilitators like Audrey and Kristina that understand the value of openness in maker education. It’s all too easy to make something and then say to people: hey I made this you can make it too! And then to call that making, or worse: creativity. A truly valuable making process is one in which you are encouraged to unleash creativity through synergising information that you gather yourself in the process. As a teacher or workshop facilitator it can be hard to avoid preloading information and letting go of control in the process. To let the participants take over. But the art of facilitation sits in being able to pull that all together in the moment, while thinking on your feet. The trick is to let go of that urge to establish an all too rigid framework with guaranteed outcomes. The outcomes will be there, but you can’t predict exactly what they will be. Which – to me – makes it ever more interesting.
Making as method for Openness, Flow and Co-creation
Together with my colleagues Emöke Bada, Berit Janssen and Inge Ploum from the Digital Art Lab Project, I presented a workshop at ISEA2011 in Istanbul. With the Weird/Wonderful Fair we want to direct our attention to openness, flow and co-creation. We invite the local residents of Istanbul to explore with us in a mixture of interactive workshop, intervention and collective art piece.
The city as open space classroom for mobile peer-teaching
The Fair attempts to transgress the conference’s boundaries and incorporate the city’s public space, transforming the streets of Istanbul into an open space classroom. Instead of the conventional teacher-student approach which still dominates our educational systems, we propose a mobile peer-teaching format, a more subversive structure where we can use simple DIY projects to facilitate insights. Workshops included: Vibrobert, Electronic Whistle developed by Berit Janssen (see video below) and Invisible Ink.
“Non-automated interactivity: faking it as a methodology in digital arts education”, my essay on teaching methods for digitally augmented dance performance for teenagers was recently published in:
Flee immediately! Issue 0, summer 2011. Editors: Renee Carmichael and Timothy Cooper. http://fleeimmediately.co.uk
The last session of Digitaal Danstheater, a research project on using movement tracking technologies and datavisualization in dance productions, was the Projectweek (also called Ludic Week) at Erasmus College, one of the local high schools. Twelve girls ranging from 12-15 years old chose this workshop to fill their week, that aims to introduce kids to more sports oriented or creative fields, to engage them socially in ways that aren’t traditionally offered in school setting and to stimulate developing personal talents. All girls worked incredibly hard these four days, exploring new dance disciplines (classical, hip hop, salsa, modern), developing their own choreographies and experimenting with interactivity: thinking relationships between the body and the computer.
Two groups each made their own interactive dance piece that they performed at the end of the week. It was a fabulous experiment and a good experience that gave a lot of insight into ways to guide group processes, playing attention spans, and scaleability: the most recent Digital Dance Theater workshop was a 4-hour workshop whereas now participants had 4 x 4 = 16 hours in total to get an introduction to virtual theater and produce their own piece. Having more time is a pure luxury for running this workshop and I liked seeing that kids got the opportunity to get thoroughly engaged working towards their own end project over the course of the week.
In collaboration with: Timothy Kok & Nicolet Sudibyo. Zoetermeer (NL), May 2011