Aarhus

The last six weeks or so have been amazing! So much happened so fast that it has been hard to keep up and write about anything. I have been to six countries and have been through 10 airports, participated in two conferences and two fieldwork projects. Overall, I’m extremely happy but also exhausted! Since coming back to Toronto about a week ago, I’ve been mainly resting and relaxing. In the next few posts, I start to slowly write about my experiences.

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My international trips this summer started with Mexico, where I was co-conducting a second series of workshops with art and technology in Oaxaca. It was an amazing experience and I was lucky to work closely with my collaborator Karla, her partner, Jonathan, and 7 talented design, art history and architecture students creating arts and installations with children. This was a fantastic experience where we collected a lot of data (and it was a continuation of our previous work there). I shall write about it in more detail in a dedicated future post.

After coming back from Mexico for a night in Toronto, I left for Copenhagen via Paris. After a brief stay in Copenhagen and seeing some great friends, I left for Aarhus, where I was attending the Interaction Design and Children Conference. I love this conference! Not only there are amazing projects and interesting ideas but the best part is the people: researchers coming from all over the world to share their joy of creativity and innovation. Last time I was at IDC, many ideas took root and I met my great friend and colleague Karla with whom I am working in Mexico. This time, I was presenting the results of our project in Mexico.

Upon arrival in Aarhus, I got to an apartment I was renting through airbnb. As it turned out, my host, who I met very briefly, as she was leaving for Copenhagen was a young and prolific Danish actress, Sara Hjort Ditlevsen.

Before the conference, I participated in a workshop on interaction design for children with disabilities where I met inspiring and open hearted researchers. The best part was talking about our dilemmas around including children in the design process, keeping our values pure and balancing different aspects of a project.

The next day, the conference started with a talk by Paulo Blikstein from Stanford. Two great ideas I took from his talk was the importance of epistemological pluralism, the idea of the existence of different ways of knowing things, and, the idea that the achievement of all the technology that brings us comfort and extra time is the possibility of living creatively. Especially, this second idea resonates very much with me and explains the belief that the comfort of mind that new modes of living have afforded us should result in more freedom of mind and creativity.

The talks, presentations and demos that followed were a feast of creativity and playfulness and at the same time rigorous research. I met many amazing people there and saw many great projects. A couple of highlights were 3D printed books for blind children and Youtopia which is a table top game to teach children about sustainability and the environment.

In my presentation, I used a poetic style of presentation, where I used a lot of metaphors, narratives and humour to tell the story of our project and the children we work with. One slightly controversial idea I used was, in the context of using technology to facilitate learning and creativity in developing countries, to spice, which is very important to use but can ruin a dish if used too much!

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As part of the conference, we visited Aarhus’ fantastic museum and also at the last day saw the Lego factory, which is futuristic with many robots running around, collecting pieces and categorizing them! The closing keynote was also thought provoking and given by Marilyn Fleer. She is an expert in Vygotsky’s theories of development and emphasized the importance of socio-historical factors (in addition to cognitive ones) in the development of children and their tools and techniques.

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An amazing coincidence was that I found out that by complete coincidence a good friend from Bhutan was in Aarhus exactly at the same time that I was visiting there! This was a very pleasant surprise because it was the first time for both of us to be there and to be there at the same time (and for different events) was a very improbably coincidence. She kindly invited me to one of her friends’ houses for some Bhutanese food which was fantastic and a nice deja-vu!

I enjoyed the conference so much that it was hard to leave Aarhus after that but I got on the bus for the next leg of my trip, on to Berlin.

 

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