Open Citizens: multimedia learning in the city
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A multi-media project between schools, higher education and local enterprise is one of the latest initiatives to encourage the active citizenship of young people
How can challenges of the urban environment be made visible to its inhabitants? How can we ‘nudge’ behaviour and use data to solve problems? The Open Citizens project, based in the city of Coventry in the UK, asked local secondary school students to consider this, working in collaboration with Digital Media undergraduate students from Coventry University.
This multi-partner project, led by arts organisation Ludic Rooms, aimed to explore how STEM subjects can contribute to young people becoming more active future custodians of their city and how access to open manufacturing techniques and open public data might inspire social change.
Activities and outputs were carefully mapped to curriculum targets in active citizenship for the school students and contributed to technical and professional practice assessment for the undergraduate students. However, the project invited the young people to recognise their own expertise in identifying and solving problems within their own communities. In an important role reversal, the younger secondary school students were able to act as the guides to the city for the newly-arrived undergraduate students. The university students responded to the issues with maturity and shared their media and design skills to create content to a high standard.
In a series of workshops, the participants learned where to find and interpret sources of open data, and then created their own rapid prototypes for devices that would collect and visualise data in public. They were supported by Fab Lab Coventry – a new community resource in the city – which gave advice and training in using digital manufacturing tools.
Dom Breadmore, Creative Director of Ludic Rooms, explains: “By looking in detail at an aspect of urban life, we hoped to encourage young people to think critically not only about the social infrastructure that surrounds them but, more importantly, about how they can be empowered to facilitate change.”
Ludic Rooms is a postdigital arts organisation led by a collaborative approach and a passion for creative technology. Its work is enquiry-led and site-responsive, rewarding curiosity in the playful.
‘Open Citizens’ was funded by Think Higher, one of the 34 HEFCE-funded ‘National Networks for Collaborative Outreach’. These networks aim to help streamline higher education outreach for local schools, as well as exploring new forms of outreach to meet local needs and priorities.