2nd Edition TalentLab: 'Co-Creating a scientific exhibition with the public' workshop summary - 1st Session

The fourth and last workshop of TalentLab II (21 and 22 of February, 2013) at the Residència d’Investigadors (CSIC Barcelona). With this workshop we began a new line of work, open to the public, with which we aimed to explore and define the guidelines for a future scientific exhibition inspired on the duality nature-technology. This time, the work process was developed in two sessions and the different groups of participants evolved throughout the two days. The participants were interchanging groups according to the dynamic of the sessions. Therefore, when we refer to a certain group, remember that they are not always formed by the same people.

Session one – inspiration and conception

The first session began with a reflection on the nature-technology duality. Frequently, when we think about ‘nature’ and ‘technology’ we immediately associate them to pre-conceived images or ideas, and we also see them as opposite terms. Is this true? Is it easy to define in crisp, clear terms what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘artificial’? If this is not the case, why are we constantly opposing one against the other? After being prompted with these kind of questions to spark a debate, the participants divided themselves in groups. Getting inspiration from printed images. they discussed about the boundaries between nature and technology.

From these provoking exercise, the first group, inspired by a picture of huge tree roots encroaching the ruins in Angkor Vat (Cambodia), emphasized the idea that ‘in the end nature always imposes itself’. They also mentioned that nature offers us technology that can be mimicked by humans (picture of a beehive). They referred to ship transport as an example of globalization due to the technological advances, and the positive (cargo transport) and negative (transport of invasive species) aspects we all should evaluate. In this sense, they also commented on the role of technology in improving life’s quality, in contrast to its use for war.

The second group mentioned nature as an inspiration to develop sustainable technology. From a picture of a earthquake they raised the idea of ‘re-thinking’ technology from the observation of nature.

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The third group remarked that, although globalization have enabled the access to more resources (goods), we have to be careful about the over-exploitation of nature. As an example of the contradictions of the globalized world (and at the same time, of the hybridization of nature and technology) they mentioned the fact that some fruits and vegetables that reach our supermarkets may have been collected more than a year ago and they just maintain their aspect due to anoxic treatments. The group also highlighted that technology should be seen as an ally.

The fourth group said that ‘we are technology’. From an image of a stone, they emphasized that nature is not a static thing, it is in constant change. Contrary to what the first group highlighted, they argued that nature does not have to impose itself, simply because there is no confrontation. They remarked the idea that technological knowledge has no control over everything, over nature, although it is a widespread idea. They also mentioned the need for ‘coexistence’. A picture of a Eduardo Kac’s installation where two girls look at a live microcosmos, suggested to them ‘curiosity’ and ‘control of nature’.

Finally, the fifth group, inspired by the order in a container ship and the disorder of a landfill site, highlighted the opposite ideas of order and chaos. From another image which depicted the use of DDT in the past, the group reinforced the idea that one cannot predict the consequences of the use of technology, reinforcing the point of view of the fourth group, i.e., that one cannot have control over everything. Finally, they also mentioned the topic of patents. They questioned if it is right to consider nature as an ‘invention’ and therefore, to grant exploitation rights to the companies so that they can manage natural resources, such as water.

From all these ideas, participants then wrote down in post-its the ideas they considered most relevant and hung them on panels. The next step was to, altogether, reorganize the ideas into topic groups. The participants ended up with six groups: inclusion-exclusion of technological knowledge, food, limits, evolution, natural models, and creation and emotion. Then, each participant chose one of these topics and from this self-selection, new working groups were created. In order to maintain five groups, the topic ‘food’ was incorporated in the ‘inclusion-exclusion’ one.

In order to start narrowing these general ideas, we used a creative method called ‘brainwriting’, in which everyone works for everyone. First, each participant wrote down three specific actions for each of the topics, in a complete and concise sentence. The worksheets were passed through all the members of each group and this activity generated 250 proposals. Then, individually, everyone voted the ones they found more interesting. For the topic ‘Natural Models’, participants highlighted the proposal of displaying tools and materials inspired by natural morphologies, Gaudi’s art style, natural architecture found in flowers, and industrial products inspired by nature.

For the topic ‘Inclusion-Exclusion of Technology’, participants voted for a proposal which consisted in exhibiting photographies that bring to light this contrast or, alternatively, images that are not what they look like; they also voted for a world map to show where the different technologies are created and where they are used, and also proposed an activity to discuss the topic of the exclusivity of the patents regarding nature and food industry.

For the topic ‘Creation and Emotion’ they chose an activity that would put the visitor in the place of a person with sensory disorders: a fear module where the human reaction to different problems would be put to test, a role-playing game to explore how it would be to live without technology (in order to realize that actually we are surrounded by technology), a soundtrack inspired by nature, the reuse of obsolete technology.

 

For the topic ‘Evolution’ they voted for a representation of the brain in which the different parts would be illuminated to show how evolution took place throughout species, a showcase with the different tools that humans used through evolution, a representation of the mass production of food, to show how objects evolved (feather pen to ball pens, rock to high-tech tablets). Also they proposed to exhibit photographs of the same place throughout the years, and to show one object/invention and how it evolved through the years and in different ethnicities.

For the topic ‘Limits’, the participants chose a proposal to bring the attention of the public towards the ethic problems related with biotechnology, an interactive game to highlight the limits (ethical, technological, etc.) of different topics, a representation of a brain of an elderly person as a symbol of our limits, and an activity to discuss about the exportation of waste by showing a mountain of waste as a way to represent human consumption.

 

From these ideas, the groups had to define and work on a specific proposal. They had some time to clarify ideas and narrow the options. Finally, late in the afternoon, we saw the first 3D prototypes.

You can find more photos in our facebook page.

For more information you can also check out the website of TalentLab.

—————–
Laura Valls. Unitat de Cultura Científica Delegació del CSIC. 
Irene Lapuente. La Mandarina de Newton S.L.

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