Making Friends is a joint project between Codasign and Queen Mary University of London, which explores friendship between young people in past and present forms through creative technologies. Liat Wassershtrom and Emilie Giles have been leading on delivering hands on making workshops with the young people and Dr Tessa Whitehouse has been leading on the research, the questions being:
– How do ideas about friendship emerge among young people?
– How are those ideas shaped by personal circumstances and material culture?
– (How) Do they change over time?
– What does it mean to have a friend, or to be a friend to someone?
We have been working with students across years 7, 8 and 9 at Stoke Newington School, exploring objects and experiences which are important to them. We have also been running hands on making workshops in which they have been working collaboratively using eTextiles, physical computing and storytelling to make interactive objects together.
For the first workshop we gave the young people tasks which were aimed at encouraging them to interact with each other, such as playing games, sharing photographs and objects as well as interviewing each other about these.
The idea behind this was to encourage them to explore what friendship means and to get to know each other a bit before the other two workshops where we would be using technology.
As most of Codasign’s work takes place in museums and art galleries, we held the 2nd and 3rd workshops at Sutton House in Hackney, somewhere which was new to the majority of the young people. This gave us the opportunity to set them a brief of going around the house in groups to find interesting patterns which they could incorporate in an eTextile design that should also contain an image personal to them.
The young people sewed pictures into their little eTextile piece that represented things such as their friends’ names, their house or a place they would like to visit – each one was different. They spent a long time planning these and also discussing with each other which parts that they would like to include.
For the 3rd workshop we continued work on the eTextile pieces but also moved onto a group challenge where together they had to choose sounds to upload onto a Bare Conductive Touch Board which when triggered would tell a collaboratively written story. The physical triggers for the sounds were photos that they had taken as homework for the workshop as well as the small eTextile pieces they had made.
It was great to see how the young people worked together and shared their stories and creative thoughts. The research around this is still being written up but we look forward to sharing it soon!
Between the 1st and 2nd workshop we held a forum around the project which focused on developing participatory practice with young people. Attendees came from the V&A, the Design Museum, Valence House, the Discover Children’s Story Centre amongst others, and the session was led by Katy Beale from Caper. We spoke about the project and the ideas behind it but also asked the attendees to discuss 3 questions:
– What does participation mean to you?
– How is friendship valued and supported in your workplace?
– How is technology changing the way you work in participatory contexts and/or with children?
The attendees worked in groups to discuss the questions, with different topics coming up in response to these including:
– The relationships between professional aims and personal interests.
– The role of friendship and friendliness in workplaces, with colleagues among other stakeholders.
– Levels of participation.
– The need for flexibility and openness.
– The extent to which workplaces identify friendship as an aim or hope in their work (rarely!).
– Incorporating children’s voices in an authentic way: children’s forums, youth forums, youth trustees.
– Connections between making and creativity on one side, and personal interaction and friendship on the other.
– The exclusions that increasing reliance of technology can create.
We plan on having a 2nd forum within the next couple of months which will take these discussions further and include case studies from other organisations as well as us, around topics such as wellbeing, friendship and technology; peer engagement and outreach and death of interaction.
We would love to have an array of different people attend again and would be happy for those interested to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.