A brand new live website created in my brand new home town of Gibsons, BC. This feels like an exciting place to renew my commitment to documenting this crazy journey. I feel incredibly lucky to be working with the talented team in the Digital Literacy Centre, and now with Derek Gladwin on the Futures Literacy project and the related Energy Futures project.
So much writing and thinking is done in the quiet space of this moment within these doctoral studies within this marriage and motherhood and friendships and communal living and living in general just barely not falling off the planet. I am deep into the journey now, without a clear idea of where I’m going or what I’m doing or what I’m making. But I feel as excited and wondrously alive as I imagine I might feel, helicoptered to an untouched snowy mountainside to carve my temporary signature onto the world. (It’s not a contest! Must I really compare typing in bed to heliskiing? Totally inaccurate comparison. But I’d rather be here, thinking and typing in bed, than anywhere else in the world…. Nope. Not accurate! Who am I trying to convince? I’d rather be thinking and writing in bed in a hut on a beach someplace warm, so that when I am done, I might cool my body in the ocean. Goddammit, what can I say that is true?) These words, then, are my path through the snow of confusion and good intentions, my attempt to say something of the moment of my thinking, for better or worse. They will be my selfies, my: I was here thinking this, can you believe its?! So. I will commit to this space and to speaking aloud instead of into the quiet safety of solitude. Perhaps the accumulation of words here will amount to something interesting. Perhaps not. At the very least, they will be a documentation of the year 2020.
2020: an utterly balanced number for a new decade. The roundness of the numbers is a softness, a lightness, an invitation, an offering, an inhalation…
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.
“WHO are you and WHO do you want to be?” a friend of mine texted when I told her I was going to apply for this scholarship. We were discussing identity politics and the politics of leadership in these polarized times. From the vantage point of my positionality as a white, middle-class, able-bodied, cis-gendered woman, what do I have to offer in terms of leadership and perspective within the richly diverse heteroglossia that is Canada? As an engaged scholar committed to making a difference in the world beyond the academy, the question of who I am and want to be is an ongoing and entangled narrative project that includes my life’s work and strivings as a human being, my history as a student and educator, the challenges and gifts I have received as a mother, artist, and humble breathing body on this damaged planet. This self-in-the-making requires constant calibration and commitment to core values of dignity and compassion that guide my future goals both near and far. This self-narrative requires a belief in human agency and my ability to effect positive change in myself and the world; it is founded upon hope and an understanding that the future is not predetermined but contingent upon the potentiality we imagine for ourselves today. I believe we must engage in serious creative imagining on all levels of public and private discourse in order to reveal paths of potentiality and to design radical solutions to our most difficult problems; we must open our minds and hearts to the complexity, interconnectivity, and performativity of story. My privilege and role as settler on this land, the reverberating impacts my actions have upon the planet— these narratives are entwined with and inform my efforts towards effecting positive change in the world and communities where I work, breath, love, and study.
Our technologies, like our stories of self, are generative narratives we imagine into being, and they have complex reverberations across all levels of experience in the world, whether it be personal, societal or environmental. As the future comes hurtling upon us at increased speeds and with increased technological saturation, it is imperative that we engage more minds and diversity in the projects of technological innovation. Our technologies are intimately entwined with who we are and will be. Foundational to my work as a scholar and educator is the fostering of a critical technological literacy that empowers young minds to remain open to possibility; to see that, just as our narratives of self are not predetermined endpoints, technologies are ever-in-the-making. We all can and must participate in this generative storying. More equitable and creative engagement in critical innovation can foster a much-needed technological diversity and work towards creating a sense of agency and impact in the face of technological determinism. My research explores the combination of building, making, and technological experimentation within the context of radical and collaborative future-oriented imagining. I believe this multimodal technological inquiry has the potential to engage more learners in the generative project of technological design, while encouraging a much-needed critical look at WHO we are becoming in and with our innovations.
I have always been deeply interested in the power of telling and sharing stories. During my career as a secondary school teacher working in alternative educational settings with marginalized youth who were largely ignored by the greater community, I realized that the best way to facilitate deep and meaningful learning was, before all else, to listen. My students’ stories of resilience and resistance, their sense of self in opposition to the mainstream, their pride in their own creative practices, and their desire to have impact upon the world— these stories were deeply inspiring to me. I tried to provide them with abundant opportunities, technologies, and platforms for sharing these stories of self with the world outside our classroom. During my years as an educator in the remote Indigenous community of Bella Bella, where stories are as much a part of the landscape as are the trees and ocean currents, I learned to cultivate a more humble and attentive listening. It was my great fortune to be immersed in a multiplicity of storying taking place in that vibrant community: not only the reverberating historical narratives of colonialization and oppression, but the re-claiming of traditional narratives that had been repressed to near oblivion, as well as the radical new stories being imagined every day of resilience, creativity, and innovative ways of living harmoniously on and with the land. When protests against increased oil tanker traffic swept through the community, I organized the creation of a video that provided students with a platform to speak their truth of concern for the environment. I worked closely with two fluent Heiltsuk-speaking elders (among the last for whom Heiltsuk was their mother tongue) and helped document, in the language of that land, their commitment to the environment and their concern for future generations. We posted the video on Youtube and it was viewed over 5,000 times. By sharing their story with the world, my students—who had felt such helplessness and frustration caught up as they were in the tumult of forces beyond their control—became empowered with a sense of their own agency and potential for making an impact.
Years later, as a new mother ready to head back to work after maternity leave but unable to find adequate childcare, I became aware that many mothers in the community were feeling the same frustrations. Because our stories seemed caught in an echo chamber, I created a podcast which provided a platform for mothers to share their struggles with what we came to realize was a childcare crisis in our community. The video was viewed over 3,000 times and taken up by the local newspaper. The simple fact of having our voices heard was a profound experience for many of us who had been struggling alone with the desire and need to return to work but also to ensure the best quality care for our children.
I believe leadership today requires an attentiveness to and facilitation of a rich diversity in narrative imagining matched with the belief that things need not be so. The four strands of this scholarship—human rights and dignity, responsible citizenship, people and the environment, Canada and the world— are vastly interconnected; in fact, I believe we isolate these issues at our peril. Increasingly, our technologies saturate this landscape of interpenetrating narratives of care and commitment. I believe we can and must engage more voices in imagining technologically enriched narratives of hope, agency, and sensitivity to each other and the planet. Only through rigorous, creative, and diverse participation in the work of imagining our shared future will we ensure that this future will be a place where we all want to live.
I have been continually amazed at the difficulties mothers face, ever since I had two children of my own. How quietly mothers suffer the injustices of biology and culture!