Amanda Schuermann's Thesis Book, Dynamic Media Institute. May 2017
My interest in play and the courage to create began when I was in the midst of my first few years of teaching visual arts at an urban public high school just outside of Boston. Working with students who come from diverse backgrounds and varying experience in the arts was a challenge. As a new teacher, I needed to develop ways to engage all students in my classroom and help each of them develop their own creative confidence. This manifested into my primary goal as a designer when I entered DMI. My goal in this thesis is to utilize play in order to help build creative confidence in my users.
In the spring of two thousand fifteen, my art department and I began to strategically plan a framework that spelled out the characteristics and abilities we wanted our students to obtain through meaningful arts learning. One of the characteristics was courage.
Courage in the art room is when students…
try something they never thought they could do
try something new, unusual, or uncomfortable
use mistakes as opportunities
understand the process is more valuable than the product
play with materials, mediums, and techniques
express ideas, no matter how random, silly, or bizarre they might sound at first
do something spontaneous and without over-thinking
take positive risks
… without fear of judgement
In order for adolescents to obtain courage to create, some walls have to come down first.
Teens, or adolescents struggle with identity crisis which can make them feel very self-conscious, especially in front of their peers. This self-consciousness and fear of being judged can cause students in the art room to hold back. Many students come to art class with a lot of skills and others never had an opportunity to take an arts class before. This varying skill level creates more anxiety because some students feel inadequate, leading to lack of participation, effort, or willingness to try new things. Similarly in dynamic media, users can face this same kind of fear or self-consciousness when participating in an experience that requires interactions performed in front of other people. It is up to the designer to create an experience that disarms the individual of self-consciousness, just like a teacher does when designing a lesson plan. When I began at DMI, I had just begun teaching a paper fashion design unit which influenced a lot of strategies I translated into my design work. One common way that I disarm self-consciousness as a teacher and designer is through creating play experiences.
Play is said to be one of the purest expressions of humanity. It helps clarify individuality and can yield immense creativity when implemented in the right way. In society today, when people think of play, not in terms of games or sports, it is commonly considered to be childish and a waste of time. What people don't know about play, is that it is beneficial for everyone of all ages. Twenty fist century businesses such as Google, Facebook and Pearlfisher design company are even incorporating it into the workplace to yield more creative and innovative problem solving. Plus, it’s fun. This thesis outlines the theories, as well as the benefits of play in the classroom and in interactive media installations. Through research and exploration of play, I developed design strategies and conditions which get people to play and create at the same time.