collaboration

Designers and Developers as Scholarly Collaborators

At the heart of the Greenhouse Studios design process is the concept of “collaboration from the start.”  All too often collaborators are brought on board at a late stage merely to implement or put the finishing touches on scholarly projects, not to conceptualize them.  This is particularly true with respect to designers and developers, whose labor and expertise are typically used in a service capacity to support the work of credentialed faculty researchers.  There’s nothing wrong, of course, with hiring a developer to build a website for a scholarly research project, or having a design technologist create colorful and engaging data visualizations.  Indeed, designers, developers and other technologists can enhance conventional research outputs, especially at the publication and dissemination stages, by making them more accessible, more engaging and more comprehensible to broader audiences.

But what happens when collaborators with expertise in design and technology are part of a project team from the very beginning?  Moreover, what happens when technologists work alongside other diverse researchers, whose respective fields may lie adjacent to one another, but rarely overlap?

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Collaboration and Emergent Knowledge at Greenhouse Studios

mud

Since the 1970s, scholars in fields as varied as sedimentology, ornithology, sociology, and philosophy have come to understand the importance of self-organizing systems, of how higher-order complexity can “emerge” from independent lower-order elements. Emergence describes how millions of tiny mud cracks at the bottom of a dry lake bed form large scale geometries when viewed at a distance, or how water molecules, each responding simply to a change in temperature, come to form the complex crystalline patterns of a snowflake. Emergence describes how hundreds of birds, each following its own, relatively simple rules of behavior, self-organize into a flock that displays its own complex behaviors, behaviors that none of the individual birds themselves would display. In the words of writer Steven Johnson, emergence describes how those birds, without a master plan or executive leadership, go from being a “they” to being an “it.” In other words, emergence describes a becoming.

We, too, form emergent systems. Emergence describes how a crowd of pedestrians self-organizes to form complex traffic flows on a busy sidewalk. Viewed close-up, each pedestrian is just trying to get to his or her destination without getting trampled, reacting to what’s in front of him or her according to a set of relatively simple behavioral rules—one foot in front of the other. Viewed from above, however, we see a structured flow, a river of humanity. Acting without direction, the crowd spontaneously orders itself into a complex system for maximizing pedestrian traffic. The mass of individual actors has, without someone in charge, gone from being an uncoordinated “they” to an organized “it.” Continue reading

Alom from the Fino Project Runs 16-mm Film Workshop with Students

16-mm Film Screening Juan Carlos Alom

The Workshop

On the evening of November 9th, I gathered in the Ballard Institute of Puppetry theater to watch four short films produced by students with old-fashioned 16-mm cameras. The films were made in a workshop conducted by Cuban artist Juan Carlos Alom, a filmmaker and photographer whose work has been exhibited throughout the world, and Aimara Fernádez. Alom is a team member of our Fino and Global Cuban Cultures collaboration, which is in the build phase of project development. The event was sponsored by the University of Connecticut: School of Fine Arts; Robert H. Gray Memorial Lecture; Greenhouse Studios; Literatures, Cultures & Languages; El Instituto: Plank Lecture Series; Humanities Institute; Global Affairs; Dodd Center; Human Rights Institute; Connecting with the Arts; and Center for the Study of Popular Music.

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Design Thinking Workshop

 

On Tuesday, October 24th, 28 participants consisting of faculty, librarians, and Greenhouse Studios collaborators engaged in a Design Thinking Workshop at Greenhouse Studios. Led by Tom Scheinfeldt, Clarissa Ceglio, and Sara Sikes, the workshop explored the “understand” phase of the Greenhouse Studios design process model.   Continue reading

A Greenhouse Takes Root in the Library

Greetings and welcome to the Greenhouse Studios blog! We are currently settling into the newly renovated 1st floor of UConn’s Homer D. Babbidge Library, and we are thrilled to be in our new space. The glass walls echo the setting of an actual greenhouse, and the brightly lit room inspires our ideation, creativity, and collaborative processes. Many thanks to the University and our Library colleagues for this purpose-built research space and the ongoing support of our work. Setting up the space has been a continuous team effort. After iterating furniture layouts, relocating from our startup space on the 3rd floor, and configuring our project rooms, the Greenhouse Studios is nearly complete. Graduate Research Assistant River Soma, an MFA candidate at the School of Fine Arts (SFA), is leading the effort to make the space a source of visual inspiration. She is currently painting a floor-to-ceiling mural across a section of glass wall to showcase the design process model we’re applying to the production of scholarly research and communications. We’re documenting River’s process and look forward to unveiling the final result!

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