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Design for the Future: Workshop. A Spring 2023 Class

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MIT

David Silverman

Copyright

MIT

Design for the Future: Workshop

A Spring 2023 Class Open to All MIT, Harvard and Wellesley Students (Undergraduate and Graduate)
Mondays, 1230pm to 2pm; 3 Units
Location: Media Lab, Room To Be Confirmed

Join Professor Danielle Wood in Spring 2023 for an interactive class that will incubate new approaches to design that are inspired by the Black, Queer Feminist Tradition and artist practice. The class aims to produce a performance based on the tradition of the Choreopoem - a theatrical piece composed of spoken word, movement and visual art. Learn more about the 2022 edition of the class and the related performance called "Design for the Future:" https://arts.mit.edu/designing-for-a-free-future/#carousel-example-generic. 

This subject is offered at MIT within Media Arts & Sciences as a special subject that is open to all MIT, Wellesley and Harvard students (undergraduate and graduate). The class seeks to foster a community of participants from engineering, computer science, architecture, design, business, science, the humanities and social science. It lays the foundation for future versions of the class and helps the instructor design future editions. The subject is called “Design for the Future: Workshop.” This class is an incubator for a new class series created by Prof Wood that uses reading, discussion and artistic practice to introduce undergraduate & graduate students to three concepts: 1) Critical theory provides a tool to analyze the history of any field and find patterns of racism, misogyny and fear of queerness; these patterns are linked to capitalism and colonial thinking. 2) Contributions from scholars practicing Queer-Feminist-Antiracism provide a framework to design liberatory intervention within any field (such as engineering, science, art, design); 3) We can design Queer-Feminist-Antiracist prototypes based on the students’ experience in their professional or academic field. The class also introduces students to a Design Thinking Framework called Systems Architecture which encourages students to consider societal challenges as part of complex systems with environment, social and economic aspects that must be considered. During class, the students are introduced to about six forms of artistic practice and are invited to reflect on examples of artists that use these forms to adopt analytics from Queer-Feminist-Antiracism and create prototypes of liberatory futures. Guest speakers from MIT and beyond that practice in these art forms are invited to speak about their work to the students. The forms of artistic practices highlighted in the class include the following:

●       Theatre

●       Poetry

●       Visual Art

●       Dance

●       Literature

●       Collaborative Multimedia Art

For each form of artistic expression, class participants watch videos or read examples from existing artists and discuss the methods used within the example artistic products to prototype liberatory futures. Building on the training and experience of the instructors, the course will emphasize theatre practice as one of the core examples. The class serves as an incubator to prepare for future sessions of a 12 unit class called “Queer-Feminist-Antiracism and Design for the Future.”

Summary of the semester project. A key component of the Spring 2023 class is the Semester Project. Each student taking the class for credit will participate in one or more art or design projects during Spring.

●       Student Led Project. Students can choose to work individually or form groups for their student-led project work. Students select a topic for the student-led portion of the Semester Project that relates to their interests, academic training, professional identity, future goals and the Learning Objectives of the subject. Each project conceives and documents plans to create a “Prototype” via design or artistic practice that envisions a Queer-Feminist-Antiracist Future. Each prototype proposes future liberatory experiences and offers clues for the work needed to achieve such a future. The student-led project can draw from the type of artistic expression that the students find to best communicate their vision of a prototype. For example, students may select from practices in theatre, dance, music, poetry, visual art, video production, digital design, sculpture or other art forms to pursue their project. Depending on the complexity of the work, it may not be feasible to complete the realization of the project during the class. It is acceptable for students to either submit a design for their Prototype or the actual product they designed. If students successfully complete their student-led project, the Instructors will consider the work for potential inclusion in the exhibit and performance that results from this class. Students will likely need to complete additional work beyond the Spring 2022 class to create a product that is appropriate for public display or performance. Note that public performance is not required as part of the grade for the class, but students are encouraged to continue the work with mentorship from the Instructors.

●       Instructor Led Project: In addition to completing a student-led design or project, each student will participate during the class meetings in design sessions for the Instructor-led project. The Instructor-led project will draw from artistic practice in the traditions of theatre, poetry, music and dance with the goal of composing a work that can be performed before an audience in the tradition of a Choreopoem. These artistic traditions are selected based on the background of the Instructor. The role of the students in the class will be to shape the themes, content, story, and visual concepts shared in the work in response to the topics discussed in class. During several class sessions, the Instructors will lead the participants through creative exercises to generate ideas for the Instructor-led project. These creative exercises may include movement activities, improvisational games, group brainstorming or other facilitated collaboration. During these sessions, the Instructors invite the class participants to reflect on the learning from the guest speakers, the readings and the examples of artistic practice presented in the class. With this input, the Instructors invite class participants to imagine and document themes, content, story, and visual concepts that could form the basis for a performance piece or Choreopoem drawing from theatre, poetry, dance and music. The performance will also aim to present Prototypes for a Liberatory Future expressing Queer-Feminist-Antiracism, including work from past version of the class. At the end of the class, the Instructor envisions having an outline for a performance piece drawing from theatre, music, poetry and dance. If feasible, the piece will be performed on campus at MIT (such as in E14 Sixth Floor). The specific location for the performance will be confirmed in collaboration with the Media Lab leadership. 

Theoretical Framework: The following graphics highlight the underlying framework and relevant scholars guiding the teaching on Queer-Feminist-Antiracism, a core concept shapring the subject. For further discussion, see the syllabus for the Fall 2021 installment of the class “Queer-Feminist-Antiracism and Design for the Future;” see also the readings at the end of this document. The Fall 2021 course provides readings and lectures to help students learn the core aspects of critical studies and start to apply these concepts to their work in engineering, design, art and science.

Figure 1: Some of the scholars, activists and artists that influence the class content have written across the centuries to propose a liberatory future

Figure 2: This chart paints a vision for the progression from the minimum form of liberation, advancement of equity, to a truly liberatory and sustainable society

Learning Objectives

After taking this subject, students should be able to:

●       Articulate arguments, perspectives and context for the authors assigned in class on the topics of Critical Studies, Queer Studies, Feminism, Antiracism and the role of Design and Art to influence the progression of culture

●       Discuss examples from the forms of artistic practice that draw from or illustrate Queer-Feminist-Antiracist analytics (methods for explaining the world) and prototypes (methods for designing a future world)

●       Conceive and design a project that draws from the students’ research, academic field or professional experience that creates a prototype for a liberatory vision of the future

Structure of Class Meetings

The class participants will meet once per week for 1.5 Hour hybrid sessions. Attendance in the class meetings is mandatory for those taking the class for credit; class participation is a vital aspect of class learning and participation. Listeners to the class are also welcome, and the instructors encourages listeners to read the texts for each class meeting as much as possible. A typical class session includes a subset of the following activities; note that this is adjusted as needed to meet the overall goals of the course:

●       Student-led discussion of readings

●       Lecture by Prof Wood

●       Talk by Guest Speaker

●       Presentation by Students on Student-led Project Progress

●       Work Session for the Instructor-Led Projects

Read more about the 2022 Edition of the class here: https://www.media.mit.edu/posts/spring-2022-class/

Follow the link below to read the draft class syllabus.

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