An aria in Babel or what happened at DotXDab

What happens when artists meet coders meet journalists meet scientists meet …? Different people, diverse disciplines, multiple voices, and many ways of seeing. Will there be a Tower of Babel tangle of tongues? Or will we witness an emergence, a gradual becoming, an unrehearsed harmony?

We were curious, and decided to hold Dot Cross Dab, a one-day design jam on April 2, 2016, where we invited artists, coders, journalists, scientists, … — you get the picture. Twelve brave souls joined us, who were split into groups of three.

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The first group had Ayontika Paul, a writer; Antony William, who teaches at the National Institute of Design, Bangalore; and Tanmayee Narendra, a student of computer science at IIIT-Bangalore. The second group had Padmini Ray Murray, who teaches at Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology; Shramana Dey, an environmental scientist; and Angshuman Das, a student from IIIT-B. Shakti Banerjee, who teaches at the National Institute of Design; Anisha Nazareth, a student from IIIT-B; and Akash Hans, an artist who works in advertising, were in the third group. And the final group had Karthik Krishnaswamy, a sports journalist; Adishesh Iyengar, who runs a start-up; and Soumitro, a student at the NID, Bangalore.

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Ways of seeing

The teams were given a choice — either they could design on their own, or they could have a firsthand experience of the FoV methodology, which we use in-house for interdisciplinary design. All the teams chose to go with the FoV methodology.

The theme of the first edition of DotXDab was ‘Equity in the City’. At the outset, every one individually mulled over different lenses with which you could view the theme. Caste, class, gender, education, access, appearance — these were just some of the different lenses folks came up with.

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The lenses went up on the wall on post-it notes, and slowly a clustering began to emerge.

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Collectively, the participants debated over different lenses, and each group found an affinity to a certain lens, with which they worked with through the course of the day.

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WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

Now that the lenses were chosen, the teams split up to discuss about what was the problem they wanted to focus on, and think through different dimensions of the problem. The problem formulation session had two parts — the first where the team thought over the problem they wanted to design for, and the second part where they listed different actors who affected the problem, and who were affected by it.

The first team chose to focus on how external appearance affects the way you ‘see’ different people.

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The second team focused on how language creates barriers rather than bridges.

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The third team wanted to recreate that lost sense of community by bringing people together for fun,

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and the fourth wanted to think about the problem of loitering at night.

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FRAMING THE FUTURE

Post-lunch, the teams focused on designing an artifact that would address the problem they chose, and presented it to others at the end of the day.

 

Is what you see what you get?

The first team came up with a song (and sang it too, with chorus and all) that spoke about how what you see is not always what you get.

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The Language Cafe

The second team came up with a ‘Language cafe’, where Kannada can meet Bhojpuri over coffee and kodubale, and in doing so understand each other a bit better. The ‘Language Cafe’ is an end-to-end concept, complete with a curriculum, a flag, hashtags, and a detailed schematic for an app.

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Talk to me

The third team came up with a message board — something you can perhaps soon spot in elevators or corridors of apartment complexes. With empty pockets of spaces, the board invites you to fill in messages for your neighbours to see — ‘Cricket match at Apartment #304’ or ‘Congratulations to Seema from #402 on completing tenth standard!’

 

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Stories of the night

The fourth team who wanted to encourage people to loiter at night, first came up with the idea of creating a map that could travel on different streets, where you could add on your own story of what happened that night.

Building on that idea, the team came up with a ‘Story machine’, a machine that prints you someone else’s story of the night if you tell it one of your own.

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The team invited someone from the other groups to tell a story, as they had a quick prototype to convert speech into text that could be printed out.

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From a broad theme of ‘Equity in the City’ there emerged four different ideas of how to make the city a bit better. And lest we forget, the idea of what that ‘better’ meant was debated, discussed, and decided over many cups of buttermilk, nippatu from Nippatu Nagaraj, and organic millet cookies from Orgtree.

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We leave you with the song – to be spoken out to the beat of 1-2-123. Last two lines tobereadwithoutstoppingforbreath. And the chorus goes

‘What you see is what you get.

What you see, you soon forget’

– sung twice between each stanza.

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