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Experimenting Collaboratively for the Future of Humanity

As a by-product of my research projects, I sometimes come across great conceptual experiments that use contemporary ingredients and new methodologies in innovative set ups. 'Learn Do Share' is the account of such an unusual experiment: DIY Days NYC was an interactive conference with workshops at the beginning of the year.  I found the eBook last week released under a creative commons license to be shared remixed and expanded. The following is a summary cross-referenced with some of the topics I have been researching and writing about previously. As explained in Participatory Trends: We Communicate, Connect and Share, the trend of collaborative consumption evolves with the enthusiasm built around fast communication technology and the global movement of 'Sharing'. DIY Days in New York aimed high: Inspired by the visionary Buckminster Fuller, the challenge was how to make the world work for 100% of humanity. The answer was co-creation, using storytelling as the tool to get started.

"Co-creation goes beyond collaboration as it already involves to come up with something new." - Agnieszka Burszewska, Lilija Tchourlina and Ele Jansen in Learn Do Share

Participatory Storytelling

Participants were encouraged to co-create prototypes of solutions utilising participatory storytelling as the underlying method. This trick allowed to establish an emotional link between all groups of participants triggering imaginative problem solving.

"Designing for a world of wicked problems can only be done collaboratively and by using creative methods of problem solving that make our future tangible." - Jörgen van der Sloot in Learn Do Share

A similar approach is Design Fiction: By utilising the power of human imagination it is possible to project a new concept, product or service into the future, and evaluate their consequences in a more playful way. In addition to latest established concepts, the reason to choose storytelling was simple: Stories are known to be the oldest form of knowledge transfer between different groups of people, in particular between age groups. During DIY Days NYC, this statement was brought to life by combining informed decision-making with imagination. With reference to "Bucky" Buckminster Fullerand his scientific achievements, participants of the conference were teamed up with kids aged 9 – 11. These diverse teams co-designed fascinating prototypes, also called 'Wicked Solutions for Wicked Problems'.

Jumping through Various Types of Media

One of the latest innovations in this area is Transmedia storytelling. Here, the narrative is to be discovered by the audience throughout various types of media, rather than presented in a single shape. This method naturally won't fit any type of narrative, but easily incorporates the process of collective creation. Especially inspiring was an article by Lance Weiler, introducing his vision on 21st century storytelling using connected tangible objects, also known as the 'Internet of Things'. For a story this could mean, that real-world actions become elements of the narrative, influencing its outcome, making it literally unpredictable. Online interactions (website / mobile app / Twitter etc.) trigger actions in the real world, e.g. a mobile notification could influence the next decision and therefore change the story line. This participatory or multiplatform storytelling creates a truly global conversation with the potential to reach out and connect all our daily lives. These examples and inspirations are amazing opportunities to evaluate the trends out there now and link them to what concepts will surround us very soon.

Methods and Workshops

"DIY Days created a safe environment to imagine and share. It helped us express, and even create a more helpful disagreement. Integrating our different viewpoints enhanced everybody's view." - Angela Lang in 'Learn Do Share'

Key elements of the conference were finely tuned exercises:

  • participants were primed for collaboration through exercises designed to unleash emotional responses.
  • workshops & workstations encouraging the creation of tangible artifacts for intangible concepts (rapid prototyping workstation, robot heart stories, a piano, a geodesic dome etc)
  • kids to shake up the process of co-creation without relating to real-life constraints
  • game mechanics influencing co-creation in all lectures, workshops and between individual participants.
  • projects combining data-driven technology and gamification
  • experts joining the multi-disciplinary groups of participants (e.g. in a workshop tackling healthcare process issues, invited nurses shared their side of the story)

It remains to say, that everything about the eBook 'Learn Do Share' speaks for the success of the DIY Days 2012. The concept and approach is definitively worth to remember, incorporate and share. Please have a read yourself through the different essays of participants, organisers and writers. And then, use it: test and iterate the book's concepts and share your thoughts and findings with others, just like I did here. Only through collaboration and co-creation can we fight the World's Wicked Problems – so lets get started now!