Current Teaching at Aalto University
CS-E4002: Human-Centred Research and Design in Crisis
June 2 – Sept 1, 2020 (2-week break in July)
The course introduces students to understanding and engaging in crisis contexts, using human-centred design principles and participatory research methodologies in conjunction with domain experts, partner organizations and everyday citizens. The course will build on extensive research findings from inter-related disciplines of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW), Participatory Design (PD), Participatory Action Research (PAR), A.I. and Crisis Informatics, among others to develop a range of conceptual, rigorous, creative, and pragmatic approaches towards inquiry and engagement in complex crisis contexts.
Online course details here.
My teaching philosophy is grounded in peer-based learning, real-world engagement and critical reflection conducted through ongoing dialogues with my students and the participants involved. It resonates with and supports my own research, creative practice and forms of civic engagement. Some key facets include:
- Devising and conducting critical inquiry based on the ethos and methodologies embodied in participatory action research and human-centered design.
- Engaging communities of interest with co-investigation, co-learning and co-design whereby trusting relationships are created and joint problem-solving is undertaken, ensuring both students and participants have agency in the emerging outcomes.
- Designing hands-on projects and playful experiences that promote experiential learning and rich forms of critical engagement among participants and students.
- Critically examining the role of media technologies, performance and creative practices in civic action and socially engaged projects in real-world contexts.
- Devising and implementing genuine partnerships with local and community-based organizations and collectives for sustained engagement and critical reflection.
- Interrogating the emerging ethical dilemmas, issues of social inclusion, privilege and reflexivity in the research process and creative practices undertaken by students with participants.
Critical Pedagogy at The New School
September 7, 2012
Teaching and Social Engagement in the Public Domain
Engage Media Lab: facilitated training workshops, seminars and public programs supporting students at The New School in co-designing, conducting and assessing participatory media-based learning with marginalized youth and communities in New York City and internationally in Brazil and Jerusalem. In 2013, EML partnered with the Eyebeam Art+Technology Center in Chelsea and the Washington Irving High School. From 2014-2016, EML partnered with the Arab American Family Support Center (AAFSC) in Brooklyn to engage newly immigrated youth from Yemen, with participatory media workshops.
Guatemala Después: Workshops conducted with artists, curators, and indigenous media practitioners at the Ciudad de la Imaginación in Quetzaltenango and Centro Cultural de España in Guatemala City, to develop thematic concerns and an open call soliciting artistic works for exhibitions on historic memory, conflict and genocide in Guatemala, June-July 2014.
Participatory Research and Contested Identities among Palestinian Youth: a research-training workshop conducted with graduate psychology students at The Center for the Child, Al Quds University, leading to pilot research and a participatory-media program engaging 12-15 Palestinian youth at the Burj Al Laq Laq community center in East Jerusalem, January 2014.
Invisible Borders: workshop with urban design and architecture students at the Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow, Russia, July 2013.
Zona Intervenida: workshops using film and performance-based research with local and international artists, dancers, writers, archivists and filmmakers at Centro Intercultural, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, June 2013.
Urban Tactics and Media Ecologies: workshop hosted by Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design, Moscow, Russia, July 2012.
OccupyDataNYC: Hackathons on visualizing socio-political data and tactics of urban protest, conducted with students, community activists, and researchers at The New School, NYU, and the CUNY Graduate Center, New York City, 2011-2012.
Overview of University Teaching
The New School
- Co-Lab: Urban Media: Tactics and Performance, Spring 2018 and 2019.
- Art, Media and Conflict: Embodied Borders, Fall 2017.
- Media Ethics, seminar course offering for M.S. Media Management, Fall 2016 and 2017.
- Participatory Media Research, Spring and Fall 2012 – 2019.
- Co-Lab: Designing Engaged Learning through Making and Play, Co-taught with Lisa Grocott (Parsons), Fall 2013 and with Pauline Gourlet (visiting research fellow), Spring 2017.
- Living Collections: Memory and Performance, Fall 2015 and 2016.
- Curatorial Design and Media Practices: Guatemala Después, Spring 2015.
- Art, Media and Conflict: Guatemala Post-Genocide, Fall 2014.
- Co-Lab: Urban Tactics and Media Ecologies in Harlem, co-taught with Melanie Crean (Parsons), Spring 2014.
- Interventionist Aesthetics, co-taught with Melanie Crean (Parsons), Spring 2013.
- Civic Media and Tactical Design in Contested Spaces, Spring 2012.
- Creative DIY Cultures and Participatory Learning, Fall 2011 and 2012.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Tactical Design for Cooperative Agency and Disruption, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT), Spring 2011.
- Contested Spaces, Conflict and Crisis, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT), Fall 2010.
- Design that Matters, The MIT Media Lab, Fall 2001.
Many students have expanded their inquiry by undertaking thesis or independent study research (using film) with me, based on experiences and pilot projects developed in these courses. In some cases, I have integrated my course offerings during the full academic year to offer a common thread of critical inquiry and engagement along thematic areas of interest, for example examining artistic practices, media archives, and curatorial design in relation to contexts of conflict in Central America (in 2014-2015) or site-specific performance and media interventions dealing with migration and borders (in 2017-2018).
Thesis Supervision and Academic Advising
I have served as a thesis advisor and supervised independent study for many students in the School of Media Studies, most of whom have developed film/media-based projects or conducted sensory ethnography as part of their research and creative inquiry. Many of their subjects deal with issues of inclusion, diversity and social justice particularly among marginalized or vulnerable communities in the U.S. or the Global South.
M.S. Thesis Advising (School of Media Studies, The New School)
- Jennifer Kaiser, “Designing Engaged Learning Tools in Middle School Settings”, Spring 2019.
- Mallory Brennan, “Resonant Dreaming: Mediated Explorations of Dreams”, Spring 2018.
- Chris Rogy, “Radio Sammaggi: An Ethnographic Study on Transformation in Participatory Media Practices”, Spring 2018.
- Sara Godoy Brito, “Out Objects: In the memory of the voices we have lost”, Spring 2017.
- Daniel Kim, “Disrupting the Culture of Silence: A Korean American oral history project”, Spring 2014.
- Nathanael Bassett, “The Conscientious Hacker: An ethnography of identity and community among hackathons”, Spring 2014. Distinguished Thesis Award, May 22, 2014.
- Eugene Paramoer, “Cinema as a Weapon for Social Change: Reflections on Unfinished, In- Process, Rehearsal Cinema”, Spring 2013.
Independent Study (School of Media Studies, The New School)
- Agnese Cebere, “Moving with Technology: The Virtual Body and its Perceptive Faculties”, Spring 2018.
- Daryl Meador, “Heroica Matamoros: A Border City in Three Landscapes”, Spring 2015.
- Lauren Brigitte Gianni, “Shades of Grey: Women’s Identity & Sexuality in the Middle East by Women Photographers from the Region”, Fall 2013.
- Heather Strycharz, “Counter Craft: Connecting through Handmade Resistance”, Spring 2012.
- Tom Tenney, “Art Stars: Performance Pirates at the Turn of the Century”, Fall 2011.
Critical Reflection and Self-Assessment
Ongoing reflection and assessment are one of the most crucial aspects I emphasize in my courses. All courses begin with students reflecting on their own interests, motivations and what they aspire to learn or develop during the term, while sharing with others, through participatory activities in class and in more in-depth responses using the online course blog. These responses serve as a baseline measure for students to assess their own learning goals, performance and outcomes regularly throughout the course. For the mid-term or final project presentations, in addition to peer review, I ask external reviewers (stakeholders or domain experts) to offer critical assessment and constructive feedback to the students.
In creative studio-based courses, I have sometimes experimented with project de-briefings using storytelling and self-reflections drawn as mental maps for shared discussion. In some courses focusing on participatory media and learning, I often ask students themselves to devise new forms of individual reflection (as “self-learning probes”) or peer-based assessment that better suit their learning goals and outcomes. Hence, I continue to explore engaging ways of having students become critical and reflexive in my courses, while seeking to develop a pedagogical style that emphasizes personal and shared accountability for learning goals and outcomes, particularly in design for community-based contexts.
Student course evaluations, while limited, have generally offered a positive assessment for most of my core coursework and regular electives; in some cases where these evaluations are less consistent they reflect pedagogical experimentation and risk-taking, particularly in research-driven and collaborative studios requiring external partnerships and cross-disciplinary focus. I have often re-calibrated my teaching and curricula based on student feedback, while continuing to offer experimental studio electives engaging my ongoing research interests. I believe my teaching remains well regarded among students; I have twice been nominated for the distinguished university teaching award in 2014 and 2017.
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