Posts tagged ‘MobilityShifts’

October 17, 2011

Participatory Learning…Virtually.

by alexandrakellyg

Josephine Dorado is a professor at Parsons and an expert in the field of “creative collaboration and theatrical performance in virtual worlds.”  I attended her demonstration on Participatory Learning Through Performance at MobilityShifts on Saturday afternoon.  Dorado explored, most specifically, improvisational dance in the virtual world of Second Life as a tool for participatory learning.  I must admit…I’ve always been a Second Life skeptic.  This is partially why I chose to attend this demonstration.  How does Second Life work?  What is the appeal of using my computer to transport me away from my immediate environment into an atmosphere of aliases that interact in real time?  What makes this virtual world of improvisational dance more fascinating and effective then my neighborhood contact dance group?

Photo credit:  Josephine Dorado

The demonstration displayed Second Life aliases (including Dorado’s alias) dancing to music that was being mixed by a DJ in the physical Orientation Room at Parsons.  The physical audience could sometimes be seen on a big screen within the virtual world.  We could watch ourselves watching the dancers.  The dancers performed many moves which seem physically impossible in real life; such as rapid fire upside down splits.  At one point, colorful ribbons were received by the dancers as props to use in interaction or alone on a corner of the floor.

A photograph I took at the demonstration - Josephine Dorado at center

The element of individual ‘choice’ and experimentation is still very much alive in the virtual world, but it seems less intimidating to choose to approach another dancer on the virtual floor then on the physical floor.  In Augusto Boal’s approach to participatory learning through improvisational performance, he gradually works with people to allow them to slowly start to grow into their own bodies and connect with other bodies onstage; at their own pace.  In Second Life’s dance world, there seems to be a much lower threshold to full body participation and collaboration, right from the beginning.  It is not as intimidating to throw your body onto a virtual dance floor, but in what ways does that test your comfort zone?  What does “embarrassment,” “shyness,” or “tentativeness” feel like online as opposed to on Boal’s stage?  And, what sense of accomplishment does a person feel when they have worked through Boal’s exercises (mistakes and all!) as opposed to ribbon dancing for twenty minutes with a group of anonymous people from around the world?

I left Dorado’s demonstration – my first official viewing of Second Life on a screen – feeling even more curious about this new notion of participatory learning through improvisation.  It tests many of my own definitions (mainly those formed through personal experience) of what performance is and what it does to inspire dialogue and create community.  Boal’s theater inspires community dialogue and individual senses of agency.  What are the post-effects of an online dance collaboration on a virtual community and within the physical lives of the people on their computers?

October 16, 2011

Scrapyard Challenge at MobilityShifts

by Farah

When I signed up for the Scrapyard Challenge workshop at MobilityShifts, I took to heart the organizers’ claim that no electronics experience would be necessary to participate. Although I’m completely clueless in that department, I wanted to give it a go anyway in the DIY spirit of the class. Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki conduct these workshops all over the world where they have participants take old electronics and other “junk” and use the parts to make something new. For this one, we were making simple sound machines.

I had expected the workshop to be more instructional, but its loose structure actually works in its favor. Rather than a complete step by step tutorial, we were given a brief lesson on how electronic switches work and how we could make our own; then, the workshop leaders essentially let us have at the table of junk. I wrote in my reading reflection paper about Vygotsky’s ideas on the importance of play for the development of children and mentioned that I thought workshops like the Scrapyard Challenge sounded like a good example of that for adults. Sure, you can probably teach people (or teach yourself) how to hack electronics through classroom style lessons. It’s more fun to learn by playing, which for me ended up being trying and failing and trying again.

A friend had given me an old boombox to work with, and a trash artist named Todd helped me in disassembling it and figuring out what we could do with it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a power supply that worked with the interior motors, so we decided to try something else. I ended up making a switch by soldering some wire to a metal Slurpee tin, which we had tested to see if it was conductive. I attached the wires to the organizers’ Arduino board and made some sounds by opening and closing the tin. Admittedly, it was quite lo-fi compared to some things others were making.

Just as Vygotsky says that children have differing levels of proximal development, I think that adults do too depending on the field. However, seeing what others do and being guided by someone with more knowledge helps bridge that gap. The ultimate success of these workshops is that through play, they enable newcomers to learn basic principles of electronics and gain confidence that they can DIY. No, I’m not an expert after a couple hours of tinkering, but I’m a lot less wary of trying something more complex another time.

Below are a few of pictures I took. You can see more here:

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And here’s a video from the workshop: