Maker Children: DIY Culture & Perspectives on Social Tech

November 16th, 2010 by Jason

Here is a video of presentations by EDGE Lab members KAlison Gaston, Yukari Seko, and Alexandra Bal at DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media • November 2010


Chair: Jason Nolan (Ryerson University)
Discussant: Alexandra Bal (Ryerson University)

Adaptive Design: Do it Yourself Social Technology for Children With disabilities Using Recycled Materials
Alison Gaston (Ryerson University)

Social technology is not only digitally mediated. Children with disabilities are often isolated from social interaction with their peers due to the limitations of their disabilities, and also by the institutionalized nature of their lives, and the medical devices which they require are often not sufficient to allow for social interaction or are themselves a barrier to interaction by their very nature. The goal when working with special needs children, is to foster inclusion, and to find ways to enable the child to have sustained and meaningful interactions with her peers and environment. This presentation explores the conceptualization, construction and use of Adaptive Design techniques in the development of custom objects/devices made from recycled materials for a toddler in the Early Learning Centre at Ryerson University. The purpose of these devices is centred on facilitating social situations for the child with her peers, and the related informal learning observed in their use. A year of the use of various hand-made adaptive designs has lead to some remarkable observations: changes in child’s physical and psychological development, initiation of peer to peer social interactions as the teacher/parent ceased to be seen as an intermediary/interpreter, development of autonomous interactions, the child being seen as a person—an equal—by other children. Lessons from these DIY experiments are being shared through traditional digitally mediated social networks to parents and educators globally, and they can be made anywhere with local materials, at a minimal cost, with profound benefits.

The young child as hacker: exploring the foundations of DIY culture in the early years
Yukari Seko (York University)

Participation in DIY culture is not limited to adults. It is actually more firmly situated in the lives of young children. In a sense, the growth of DIY culture is a re-discovery of lost childhood experiences, where subverting parental/institutional/mediated experiences are central and crucial for a child to grow into an autonomous social actor through inquiry, theory building and testing, reflection and further inquiry. However, young people’s role and engagement in DIY culture are yet to be studied due part to the widespread assumption that young children are dependent on parents. To understand how children in fact develop active citizenship in participatory culture while constructing knowledge and meaning across social locations, it is necessary to see children as “hackers” who challenge norms of behavior imposed by adults and enculturation procedures in educational institutions.
Children are hackers. What do children hack? They hack the world of their parents to make it do what they want. Children’s subversive action such as making a mess, playing with food, and engaging with informal fantasy play are all examples of hacking, by way of which they subvert parental order and spaces, therefore cultivate personal awareness, self-esteem and sense of autonomy. Growing among a variety of user-generated technologies, “digital natives” constantly engage in participatory modes of production, interaction and community building before children ever directly access digital technologies. This presentation will look at existing literature on child development and situating it within DIY culture, as a new way of looking at existing practices, and how/why we should nurture emancipatory DIY cultural attitudes in young people. It will explore informal learning sites and strategies of resistance to the commodification of childhood, parental heteronomy and a nostalgia for an ideal childhood that isolates children from both their proclivities and the world around them, imposing norms of behavior in safe and surveilled spaces.

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