Design Research Get Lost – Meeting 1

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One of the difficulties we didn’t foresee when planning the Design Research Get Lost (DRGL) project was in finding times for the young people to get together. The memories of my childhood are mainly of lying on the sofa watching TV, playing run-off and lazily boating my way down the Mississippi river… although that’s probably Huckleberry Finn. Young people today are busy. There were school trips to France, scouts, other projects, exams, hack camps… the list went on. Nevertheless, we got together with 3 coders and 3 Woodies to start the project last Thursday night.

The purpose of the meeting was to present the young people with the ‘challenge’ (see below) and to develop a list of supplementary ground rules (see below).

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Then after discussing the way things would be organised the coders and Woodies explained what they did, how it was organised and what they were interested in. This discussion was meant to foreground the identification of areas of commonality around which the group might come to develop the project. It was interesting how both groups tried to anticipate the interests of the other and suggested appropriate ideas. The coders didn’t know much about the Woodcraft Folk or what they did but thought it might have something to do with working with wood, so one coder suggested that they could make a wooden case for a computer. I think that would be awesome!

The group seems to have decided to make a ‘wide’ game and there’s going to be an app or some such thing to enable lots of people to play it at the same time. Along the way there was mention of using Oculus Rifts (although too expensive), to Google Cardboard (maybe too flimsy), to charging people to play (might put people off) to ad revenues…

Reflecting on the research, the idea behind the project was to see what happens when adults/ adult researchers present young people with a set of conditions (the ‘challenge’) that might facilitate some form of productive self-organising activity. In practice this didn’t happen as suddenly or perhaps as purely as envisioned. Gradually we researchers stopped talking and left the group to its devices. There were interesting dynamics around letting the young people get on with things or supporting them when it was apparent they might be about to ‘drop the ball’. At one point the young people were discussing who was going to do what but they weren’t writing down names against activities. One of the Woodcraft Folk adults pointed this out and they discussed the importance of minuting meetings. I found this interesting because I felt it was a point at which the group may have encountered some difficulties and not progressed as quickly with the task. As part of the project I would like to explore the basic forms of organisational technologies that might complement the ‘challenge’. It was significant that when they’d written down notes of who would do what one of the Woodies made a point of asking each member of the group what they had to do and if they understood what that meant. I’ve been in many a meeting when everyone seems to say ‘yes’ to everything to speed things out the door, so I thought this demonstrated a clear understanding and forethought of how things can go wrong.

We’ll see how things develop.

James Duggan

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