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Saturday, June 10 • 5:30pm - 6:30pm
Learning Designs for Interspecies Critical Making

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How can making with living organisms invite learners to reflect on their personal relationships with the more-than-human world and question the present condition of human-nature relationships? In this poster, we use critical making as an analytical lens to examine a six-week biomaking workshop in order to elucidate points of critical reflection around issues of human-nature relationships among participants. We draw on Ratto's (2011) definition of critical making, which combines hands-on making and critical thinking, and focuses on the "act of shared construction itself" (p. 253) as a site of reflection and understanding. We take an expansive view of this "shared construction" to include both the human and non-human actors that contribute to learning and making. Critical making, while drawing on critical design, is distinctly different with its focus on the process and material engagement rather than on the final product (ibid). We make use of these distinctions to frame our analysis of learning affordances and learning design of biomaking experiences. Rather than wondering what the participants could ultimately create, this lens foregrounds questions like: What does learners’ engagement with living materials look like? Are there specific points in the making process that are particularly ripe for meaningful reflection? How can these critical points be leveraged through learning design? To that end, we examine Building Fungitopia, a biomaking workshop and research implementation designed as part of the second author's dissertation project on interspecies creativity.
Building Fungitopia engaged two groups of six middle school students in exploration activities in a local urban park along with hands-on biomaking with fungi in a makerspace adapted as a laboratory. Building on previous work (Correa & Holbert, 2020; 2021), we made specific design decisions in hopes of helping spur critical reflection. These included choosing fungal mycelium as the living material for co-making, framing mycelium as a "partner" in making, working across indoor and outdoor spaces, connecting with organisms through our bodies and in their local context, engaging in collective observation and reflection about fungi and mycelium’s changes from session to session, and inviting students to release their creations back into the park for them to continue growing or degrading naturally. Previous work also spurred the iterative design of different techniques for working with mycelium in ways that foreground non-human participation in the construction process. Different strategies including mycelial welding, sewing flexible molds, and creating molds with forms found in “nature” were introduced to participants. We used a range of multimedia tools including chest-mounted goPros and 360-degree lab cameras to capture participants' embodied experience as they explored the park, encountered other more-than-human bodies, and engaged in making with them. Participants reflected on their experience in post-workshop questionnaires, activity surveys, and group debriefings. To make sense of the designed experience, the lens of critical making was deployed to identify moments of critical reflection leveraged by embodied and situated experience. This poster shares these moments of critical inquiry and personal connection with more-than-human others. By visually presenting these moments and discussing the ways in which they supported critical reflection, we hope to advance together in the development of learning frameworks and methodologies that can support ethically mindful forms of interspecies critical making.

Correa, I., & Holbert, N. (2021). Myco-kit: Towards a design for interspecies creative learning. Interaction Design and Children, 439–443. https://doi.org/10.1145/3459990.3465178

Correa, I., & Holbert, N. (2020). Human-Nature Meaning-Making: Mothers and Daughters Rethinking Humans’ Relationship with Nature through Critical Constructionist Design. Proceedings of the FabLearn 2020 - 9th Annual Conference on Maker Education, 61–67. https://doi.org/10.1145/3386201.3386221

Ratto, M. (2011). Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life. The Information Society, 27(4), 252–260. https://doi.org/10.1080/01972243.2011.583819


Blake Danzig

Teachers College, Columbia University, United States of America

Saturday June 10, 2023 5:30pm - 6:30pm EDT
TBA 207 Ryerson St, Brooklyn, NY 11205