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RESEARCH ACTIVISM DESIGN

RAD diagram

Think on this: How can my role as an artist and/or designer impact the outcomes of any social, political, economic and/or environmental endeavor?

The New School was founded on the idea that students and faculty should have an academic environment that supports their ability to address the challenges of their time, directly and with integrity. Engaging with communities that are addressing issues of resiliency in the face of climate change will be the “Field Action” assignment for this course. We will self-identify as participant observers learn by doing and engaging with the real world outside of the classroom. Through the practice of service, in roles of the citizen scientist or organization/community volunteer, citizen activist activism, participation in support of a cause or movement, we will forge art, design, and design strategies to help build more resilient futures for a given context.
The intention of the field action is to directly engage with the wider environment of NYC.  There are many initiatives from non-for-profit as well as for-profit-organizations and projects from the city (eg: NYC parks department) that intervene in a system and help make it more resilient and/or more sustainable in some way. The field action offers the opportunity to shift between theory and practice; between reflection and action– going out into the real world to engage and observe. Each student chooses an action of personal interest, signs up to volunteer for a few hours, and then reports back to the class about the experience.  The field action is presented in a storytelling format to in which you play a character embedded in multi-scalar system in time and history. This format will allow for inclusion of qualitative data (emotions, feelings, ideas) garnered in your research. You will describe the relationships between parts in the story as well as contextual knowledge of the whole system.

Project Milestones: Schedule of In-class Presentations

Part 1: Research – Climate Change Risks of your City: A Report (Due 9/17)

Assess the climate change vulnerability and risks of your home town or city. Make as a visual presentation utilizing a media of your choice: video, powerpoint or large printed graphic 3’x5’.

You are encouraged to pin-point a social, political or economic factor related to your interests that intersects with your locality. Consider changes you have observed or that have been reported, local and global causes of these changes, projected impacts at multiple scales, adaptation and mitigation options (actionable items at multiple scales) and the long-term perspectives.

Modeled after the “Climate Change and Cities: Executive Summary” risk framework, identify one climate hazard, natural and human systems impacted and made vulnerable by this climate hazard and strategies for adaptation or mitigation. What human and environmental factors impact the level of risk?

Your research may start here:

Part 2: Research/Activism – Participant Observation: Volunteering with a local organization

Volunteer at minimum TEN hours with a local organization doing work addressing a climate change risk of your home town. Identify a local organization related to your systems map for which you can volunteer. Profile the organization on the blog and note the arrangements of your volunteering. Week 6 (10/1) you will report on the organizations in class.

While you participate, observe and listen to the people and environment you are working in. Be very tuned in while you are volunteering. This is a practice in awareness and empathy. Reflect on your experience in your field notebooks. Provide descriptions of the people involved in the organization, the environment, design of the systems in which you are operating. Note the thoughts, feelings and ideas which arise through the action. How do they further inform your understanding of the system you are researching?  

Prepare a 10 minute visual and verbal story for week 9 (10/22). Creatively communicate the mission of the organization and the qualitative data collected during experience in the field. You may enrich your initial systems map from what you have learned, or take on another storytelling strategy such as video, interactive media or other print formats.

Go to http://www.volunteermatch.org/ and plug in “environment,” “climate change,” or another related key word.  Any of the following organizations would also be acceptable: 

Part 3: Design/Activism –  Design an Act/Artivism and bring it to the world
What did you learn from your RAD pt 2 participant observation research?
What morsels of inspiration can you combine with ecoliteracy concepts explored this semester to share with/make an impact within your sphere of influence?
Design and execute an activism or artivism in the real world. Live to tell the story of it for our last class. This portion of the project is an opportunity to critically apply the information into our practices as entrepreneurial designers and makers while meaningfully addressing pressing climate change issues of our time. Your project can be indirect and educative or awareness raising. It can also be directly addressing the issue itself. Apply your disciplinary expertise to operate in an artistic, innovative and emotionally compelling way. Take initiative and inspire others to share in engaged citizenship. Typological examples of acceptable act/artivisms:
• A (public) performance
• An organized day of action
• Production and distribution of educational materials
• Design of a product, strategy or organization
• Letters to editors/media
• Public Art Installation or Guerilla Art operation
• Media campaign
• Photo essay, comic book or other distributable creative narrative form

Required deliverables for this RAD portion are:
1. A 1500 word project brief defining your act/artivism and providing background and context for the systems it explores in the context of climate change. The following format is recommended:

  • BACKGROUND – Describe the environmental, social, political and/or economic as well as the human concerns of the climate change issue you are exploring. What is the need or problem? Communicate why this matters to you and why it might matter to others in your sphere of influence. Provide cited information from your research.
  • DEFINITION OF ACT/ARTIVISM – Proclaim your plan of action. How are you responding to the issue presented? Define your sphere of influence (audience) and how you are connecting with them. What are your goals? How will you gauge the effectiveness of your action?
  • SCHEDULE – How and when will execute your act/artivsm

2. Documentation of the act/artivism execution in a format that can be both posted on our class blog as well as physically exhibited for our final course crawl. This could be the physical artifact itself or posters. The projector will be reserved for video media only.
3. 5 minute in class presentation/storytelling for our final class on 12/10.

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