Yesterday I visited Deborah Rodrigues Moreira who runs Glück Workshops. According to her website:
‘Glück Workshops are based on the principle of learning through curiosity, playing, exploring new objects and ideas/interactions; and mainly exchanging between kids themselves and me. It’s not about creating a robot perfectly or even understanding exactly what you’re building. It’s about having a moment in your daily life where you can fully express yourself through the tools I’m bringing, without fear of doing something wrong. It’s an invitation to explore freely, without too many constraints.’
Deborah’s studio space
Deborah’s studio space was filled with curiosities made by the children on her workshops. Here are a few:
Sound Enhanced Characters
On Deborah’s wall were a series of characters made by young children. Each painting also contained black electric paint designed by Bare Conductive.
Bare conductive describe their paint as follows:
‘Electric Paint is an electrically conductive paint that makes it possible to draw a circuit, cold solder a component or turn any surface into a sensor. The Touch Board is a piece of hardware that can transform Electric Paint sensor data into sound, light or data in the cloud. Our range of kits provide users with context and focused project outcomes for these future-facing platforms, regardless of experience level.’
Deborah included the paint in her workshop in such a way as to allow children to add sounds to their creations.
Bare Conductive Kit
Deborah showed me a small robot made from toothbrush heads. This is the theme of her workshop this evening, which she is giving at Der Malfish. I will attend this later today.
Laser Cut Mix and Match Characters
Children on one of Deborah’s workshops were given three laser cut pieces to design a character. The three pieces were used to represent the head, upper body and lower body. The children could then use their designs in play with other children, mixing up the body parts to create new characters. Further details on this workshop can be found here.
The design reminded me of one of my favourite childhood books; Oxenbury, H. (1980) 729 Curious Creatures. I wondered about the differences in the materiality of the two items. Deborah also showed me how the laser cut designs she had made could be slotted together to make stackable cubes of characters. Again I wondered about how the 3D design compared to the 2D of my childhood.
Deborah told me that her interest in the digital in play is more about what technology can add to children’s physical play. How can technology add to children’s experiences of making and creating with their hands and with other children? As a result she is less interested in how technologies can allow children to play online or through screens. In this it would seem her interests crossover with that of Vai Kai.
She also mentioned how it was interesting that tech kits that enhance children’s making and creating use relatively old technology, but the idea of packaging them for this purpose is relatively new.
Kit by Makey Makey
Why such kits have come into connects with social semiotic theory, such as that by Halliday, Kress and Hodge and Kress and Van Leeuwen that states all communication practices are the result of social patterns. Further, Van Leeuwen writes that play reflects wider social practices. In a talk I gave at last years BERA conference I showed this as follows:
For the last slide (below) I used data from my ESRC-funded project with Jackie Marsh, Lydia Plowman, Dubit, Cbeebies and Andrew Davenport on apps, play and creativity. In particular I showed how Minecraft was identified as an app that promotes play and creativity. Full details of that project can be downloaded here.
I asked the audience what can children’s use of Minecraft tell us about wider communication practices? Like Kress (2010) I suggested the need for education to think about the importance of creativity beyond specific literacy skills.
The ESRC Final Report for the projects stated that the promotion of play and creativity were key in parents’ motivations for downloading apps. Creativity is defined in this context as the production of original content and evidence of creative thinking, both often present in young children’s play (Gillen, 2006; Robson, 2014) and everyday uses of technology (Willett, Robinson and Marsh, 2009).
Creativity and in particular DIY cultures has been invigorated by current global economies. Guy Julier talks about economic relating to the to wider social practices, so that from 2010 onwards we entered a period marked by Austerity, which has brought about maker/hacker spaces. This is also evident in the sale of play kits such as the one above or Hacker Maker Super Mario.