Out of My Hands

Out of My Hands: Co-Creative Models of Making
A Workshop at Mobility Shifts: An International Future of Learning Summit
Oct 10-16, 2011, The New School, NYC


Miami University student participants: Maria Bee, Ellyn Bordoshuk, Jarrett Bowling, George Brennan. Sam Childs, Andrea Fiegel, Kristen Gebhardt, Colleen Griffiths, Beth Hall, Austin Li, Jane Manchester, Alexandria Mazzurco, Kaleigh Pawar, Nicholas Peltz, Aaron Retter, Erin Riley, Elizabeth Schafer, Erik Seyferth, Ann Sniechowski, Kaitlin Stewart , Molly Zilis (Typography 251)

Out of My Hands: Co-Creative Models of Making

This workshop explored collaborative learning opportunities emerging from the current shift toward bottom-up creation. Powered by the ability of mobile platforms to transcend time and space, a new co-creative spirit empowers users across classrooms, institutions and beyond to join together in communities of making, moving well outside “group projects” of old.

Content for the workshop included pragmatic approaches to classroom projects acquired during research and experimentation for our recent book, Participate: Designing with User-Generated Content (Princeton Architectural Press, Sept 2011). Such projects ask users to co-create content, taking full advantage of mobile phones, laptops, smart phones, and netbooks, thus providing interesting pedagogical models for digital learning.

Our workshop began by isolating qualities of professional co-creative projects developed by the likes of Jonathan Harris, Min and Sulki Choi, Luna Maurer, Keetra Kean Dixon, Jonathan Puckey, and Karsten Schmidt—projects that cross borders and continents, spanning both physical and digital arenas. We then analyzed the common structures of such projects—including modularity, inclusivity, accessibility, and criticality—considering how similar models can be used to establish co-creative learning opportunities in the educational arena.

Looking to some of our own classroom projects, we considered, for example, modular workflows, like those used in LINKED, an animation project involving design and non-design majors from MICA and Miami. Individual, yet connected, the project’s structure transformed a finished product into an open system by relying upon accessible sites like Flickr, Googledocs, Vimeo, etc. The structure of the project scaffolded collaborative user response, inviting rather than intimidating.

After our initial analysis/discussion, we began the workshop exercise: co-creating letterforms assembly-line style. This exercise urged participants to examine their collaborative potential by undertaking aggregate production. After establishing a set of procedural rules, each participant used the same stickers to begin a letterform. After the initial letter start, each person sent his/her letter on a circuit of the room, opening it up to additional development. The resulting letterforms reflected the authenticity of the crowd. Using mobile phones, letters were photographed and posted to Flickr at each stage of creation. Immediately following the session, workshop leaders composed an animated piece out of all the photos taken and post it on Vimeo for discussion. Issues raised included: How does the work express individual views as well as an overall group collective? How does it build a community? What issues of ownership, buy-in, control and purpose arise? How can work like this find a fundamental place in the classroom? What happens when the learning process is opened to participants beyond the traditional classroom?

Prior to the conference we will completed a similar project with a large student group, resulting in a partial alphabet. The alphabet was completed during the mobility shifts workshop.