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Friday, June 9 • 1:50pm - 2:10pm
AmpDance: Rethinking Computing Technologies for Dance Education through Community Design Practices

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Computing education and technology development spaces more broadly continue to suffer from cultures that exclude many individuals and communities. This impacts how technologies are designed and who typically is left out or not prioritized in computing education––with female-identifying and BIPOC students disproportionately affected. One aspect that propagates this exclusionary culture is that design of educational computing spaces and technologies do not leverage the assets or practices of diverse communities. Our work presents a case study that implements inclusionary practices, as researchers worked in collaboration with a justice-oriented community organization, STEM From Dance, to co-develop a physical computing hardware kit, AmpDance. AmpDance was designed to facilitate youth in choreographing original dances with programmable electronic components. The learning technology supports plug and play functionality of electronics to help dancers rapidly create and iterate on flexible, expressive wearable costumes that they can program to be responsive to choreography. The system consists of a set of printed-circuit boards (PCB), with embedded connectors that allow learners to plug in and control sensors (i.e. buttons, tilt) and outputs (i.e. LED strips) with a microcontroller. The design of the kit was shaped by our partner organization’s experience working with other sewable wearables and requirements of the dance context such as flexibility, mobility and durability.

AmpDance was developed over the course of a four-year participatory design collaboration between researchers at NYU, University of Colorado, and STEM From Dance, an NYC-based non-profit centered on equitable STEM education which creates creative learning opportunities for female-identifying youth of color by pairing dance education with various computing technologies. STEM from Dance has a unique program structure centered on community and confidence building, which supports students as they learn about dance and computing. Participants learn by creating dance performances that include technologies that they have programmed and choreography they have designed. In this paper, we outline the contextual exploration that we engaged in to develop a better understanding of our community partner and their learning environment. This includes participating as instructors within their program, observing learning sessions, and conducting interviews with instructors, students, and the executive director. We present AmpDance in the context of this initial collaborative research as well as two subsequent user studies with instructors and students examining the wearables as tools for facilitating dance and technology design.

Our research findings explore the ways in which a community focused on equity, computing, and dance, can support new contexts and technology for learning and creative expression. We provide two main contributions: the design of AmpDance, which supports learners to explore, test, and iterate as they quickly prototype robust wearables that can be danced in, and an understanding of how these design decisions, including the materiality and interactivity, support learning, creativity, dance and community practices. The connections we draw between community practices and technologies for learning, demonstrate the power of designing for equity in context with communities that already exist.


Kayla DesPortes

Asst. Professor of HCI & the Learning Sciences, New York University

Kathleen McDermott

New York University, United States of America

Friday June 9, 2023 1:50pm - 2:10pm EDT
Steuben 409 (Design Center)