Young people today receive technologies that become central to their lives and yet they do not participate in imagining the design of those technologies. Increasingly important are learning experiences that not only promote building and experimentation with technologies, but also facilitate critical and imaginative engagement with the role technology plays in our lives and the world. The popular uptake of Makerspace technologies in classrooms and communities aims to democratize technological fabrication; however, research has shown that the movement still lacks diversity of engagement, prioritizing things over people, and innovation over critical thinking, ethical questioning and imaginative foresight. In order to address this problem, my research proposes the use of collaborative future-oriented storytelling in the Makerspace environment to generate a more equitable space where young people can engage in critical imagining about the future ramifications of the technologies we build and consume. In particular, I intend to work with adolescents in classroom settings to facilitate collaborative story-telling about the objects they are creating and how they might impact their lives in a future that is, as the science fiction novelist William Gibson said, “already here but not very evenly distributed.” Questions guiding this project are:
1) Can collaboratively constructed future narrative enable critical discussion around the implications of technological artifacts and innovation?
2) Might collaborative narrative increase equitable engagement in Makerspaces?
3) How does future-oriented narrative imagining impact technological learning and making?
The curricular innovation of technological experimentation combined with collaborative, future-oriented narrative imagining could deepen students’ technological skills and critical literacy. This integration of multi-modality and arts-based inquiry may also increase diversity of participation in the Makerspace environment, while having reverberating impacts in students’ lives beyond this project. We must engage diverse and widespread participation among young people in critical technological inquiry so as not to enable passive consumption of technologies and leave the power to design the future remaining in the hands of a small and elite few. We need more young minds doing the creative work of imagining their own futures; in this way they will find the radical solutions necessary to solve our most pressing problems.
This study comprises three phases, unfolding over ten months. Volunteer participants from Moscrop Secondary School in Burnaby, BC, will be enlisted to participate in two Makerspace inquiry sessions with littleBits electronic building blocks as well as Arduino technologies. The initial phase will be a bounded test case study without the additional layer of collaborative future narrative. I will use the tool of pedagogical documentation to participate, build with, and guide the participants in their experimentation with the technologies. I will coproduce and gather data in the form of field notes, observations, the made artifacts, and footage of the making process. In addition, I will conduct interviews with participants designed to gauge their level of engagement with the making, the perceived situated-ness of their artifact in the present and possible futures, and the level of criticality they brought to the act of making. In the second phase, I will facilitate another Makerspace with the same participants, introducing the additional pedagogical modality of collaborative future narrative. This storying will be facilitated through an initial future-oriented survey as well as narrative prompts such as “be careful what you wish for” and “messing with nature.” I will gather data in the form of field notes, observations, interviews, artifacts, footage of the collaborative making and storying process, as well as the narratives themselves. In the third phase I will compare and analyze the data. The multimodality embedded in these case studies will necessarily require a combination of theoretical tools. Critical design scholarship, artifactual literacies, and the simultaneity of experience will guide close readings of the data, coding for emergent themes and futuristic references, with a focus on the interaction between the human beings and the technologies in the Makerspace. Motivating this research is the promotion of inclusive and critical technological literacy.