The DemTech Exercises

Body Hoo-ha breaks down the inhibitions that stop imagination flowing freely. This involves going round in a circle inventing and copying small actions in increasingly elaborate exercises based on gesture and sound. Weaver leads variations on getting everyone to make a clear gesture with an illustrative noise, then copying each others’ movements. The exercise goes on, with gentle modification, to take in name-learning and physically-led character development. Forms are made safe through repetition - and the success of not humiliating oneself in front of everyone else.

Fantasy Persona is a means of finding new parts of oneself and developing an alter ego to express them. Choosing a quality they would like to have, people build a movement round it, name it, develop it, etc. A choice of props (wigs, hats, gloves...) acts both as a means of distancing from it and a marker for when ‘in role’. Without a single exposing act, people are acting. In Weaver’s experience, talking through the persona encourages greater disclosure. For our purposes, association with an ‘other’ self is useful.

Paper/Making is a means of demonstrating to anyone they can make something. Weaver created the technique for women in Brazilian prisons, using only a sheet of paper and list of words, or ‘recipe’. The ‘recipe’ is answers to questions: it might be two truths and a lie. Particular questions are less important than that they implicate the individual involved. Using only the ideas on the sheet and the sheet itself -folded, torn or however- participants make a thing. The thing is not judged, but it can be described.

Web of Links: this socio-dramatic technique (Sternberg and Garcia 2000) involves mapping associations from a thing at the heart. We used objects from their bags, placed on paper and drawn out to show any kind of relation. To emphasise the meshed nature, Weaver asked each person to tell one ‘link’ story, then name their web/network.

Finale: this exercise in pairs creates a world/system/scenario in which any paper objects made by the two Fantasy Personas in the pair and the real personal objects sitting in their Web of Links could work together to do a desired task. This gave the two people four objects to choose from, each surrounded with a dense collection of associations to help in thinking about how they might connect. At this point, the focus of the workshop could be made explicit: a brief statement about a ‘network of things’ and the developing shape of computer science orientated the designs and put them in context. We conducted videoed interviews with the pairs to encourage them to improvise greater technical detail about their inventions without apparently moving into technical territory. People do more work imagining details of a situation that has moved into the past than they do in some unspecified future. Thus, we used questioning in a future-past setting. Technical aspects were treated lightly, with questions such as “How did you design it to produce the answers to those questions?”

And one exercise that was wonderful, but didn’t make the final cut...

Timelines involved recording memorable events - and objects associated with them - on a strip of paper people marked with chosen life-points. Half was made out to the past; half left for future predictions. Once the past was populated, people put markers in for the future. At the end of the workshop, they returned to the future and added further thoughts. This showed development in their thinking (from sci-fi futures to attributes based in their own values) and made great connections between people and things, but it had a tendency to glamorise the past, and we found dealing with the future temporally a weakness in the short time we had. It turns out ‘networked futures’ are best dealt with as spatial.