Culminating the research phase of the project, the focus our group sessions shifted to exploring potential design responses for our issues. To facilitate this discussion we initially framed the problem within the scope of the Five W’s – who, what, when, where and why. Specifying the context within which the problem exists established a sound foundation for the proposal to be developed.
Whilst such a format is incredibly useful in translating the conclusions drawn from research into a design context, without a fairly specific direction in mind, the exercise will merely described a vague or overly broad context. Although I had clearly found the use of language in media dialogue around mental health to be problematic, I felt that my answers to the Five W’s were still quite generalised.
When attempting to thoroughly explain the context of my issue to my group I found that I could not identify a specific element to focus my design response. Without a refined direction in mind, and a very limited amount of time remaining to the class, it then became difficult to benefit from the group brainstorming process. Had the Five W’s been completed prior to class, perhaps a clearer understanding of the shift from research into design would have been established and thus a more productive exploration into proposals engaged.
Throughout the last few weeks, we have been engaged with a lot of different mind-mapping exercises in order to engage and see our topics in a collaborative way. In this week, we were still in the combined class which is much larger and less intimate. However, I sat down with my initial groups and we started the lesson by writing problem statement that we could create after every exercises and researches that we’ve done. We wrote down as many statements as we could, discussed them to other members and gave each other feedbacks. This exercise was really helpful to really broke down such a broad issue; as we are forced to wrote down what,when, where,why and how it affects others. Some of us ended up having similar statements as our concerns, which is also good because we can strengthen our statement in the mind mapping process. It wasn’t long until we decided which statement we will take a chance to explore further. The problem statements we chose are about attitudes toward refugees and about refugees experiencing trauma in detention centre. We wrote everything we could think of, for example its stakeholders, emotions, any words that relates to the issue.
The strength of this exercise is probably because we were dealing with a more specific topic as opposed to the larger maps. Everyone looked confident to contribute their own words to fill out the gaps in the map. I gained a lot of different perspective from this exercise only as I saw how everyone’s putting their own perspective on the same issue. We really enjoyed this process and really amazed by the amount of words we could wrote on this statements in the end of exercises. We also linked words that could be associated with other keywords so that we were able to see the relationships between each words.
In terms of weakness in this process is probably I still don’t know how to approach this issue in a different way and then came up with a design response. The refugees issue is such a complex and broad issue that it takes time to really broke down the issue. Probably the reason why we took so many weeks to brainstorm and do mind-maps of the issue is because of the complexity of the issue. I felt a little overwhelmed as I feel from the start of this project, we talked about serious topic such as refugees without much individual discussion with the tutors. I felt independent by doing all these stages alone and sometimes with my groups but I don’t know where to start my responding stage. It is really hard to choose part of the issue that could be responded with a design response.
Like any process, collaborative brainstorming has its own unique strengths and weaknesses.
In this tutorial, myself and two other classmates joined forces, sharing with other our individual problem statements and then devoting time to brainstorm the associations, themes and actors that came to mind for each one.
Starting with my rough beginnings of a problem statement, we oriented our first mind map around the trauma experienced by refugees in offshore detention. An immediate strength of this process was the fresh sets of eyes offered by my two classmates. Coming from their own unique social and geographical contexts, they brought a multitude of ideas to the fore that would never have crossed my mind.
For example, Lily brought attention to the psychologists, doctors, aid workers and other staff working in the detention camps, encouraging me to see the trauma experienced in camps as affecting more than just the detainees themselves. The ideas mapped by my classmates acted to not only challenge my own framing of the problem statement, but also trigger my own ideas in new directions.
For example, Lily’s suggestion of the effect of detention on a child’s moral code spurred on my own reflection on the ethics (or lack of) being taught by the practice of detention. Whilst putting your unique area of interest under the microscope can be somewhat daunting, it ultimately pays generous dividends. Simultaneously solidifying and shifting the boundaries of my problem statement, each suggestion made by my group members triggered ideas for a possible design response.
Since my two group members had developed nearly identical problem statements, we decided to combine these into a single brainstorming session, oriented around attitudes towards refugees. Inadvertently, this illuminated the close and inextricable links between the two problem statements, with one informing the other. Australian attitudes towards refugees are unquestionably affected by the trauma that those refugees experience in offshore detention.
Inspiring me to reverse this relationship, this brainstorm sparked the idea of harnessing public attitudes in my design response, and employing them to make change to the problem of offshore detention. In revealing this link, the brainstorming session was of great benefit to me, acting as a kind of ‘re-frame’ to my own personal work.
One interesting thing worth noting was the difference in flow between the first and second brainstorming sessions. I have often thought that it is much easier to give ideas to others than to come up with ideas for your own work, and this was certainly confirmed during these exercises. My thoughts flowed much more freely during the second brainstorming session than the first.
Upon reflection, I feel that this is most likely due to the lack of pressure or consequence when working with someone else’s idea, and the freeing effect that this has on the expression of ideas – without the need for prior critical evaluation.
From these sessions, it is very hard to identify any significant weakness to the process of collaborative brainstorming. One frustration, however, does present itself in the ambiguity of the webs of ideas produced by such a session. Never completely exhaustive, a mind map alone cannot resolve a problem, and rather functions as a mere guide for forward motion. It is up to the designer to actively choose one of the resulting ideas or themes to run with and develop further, grappling all the while with the possibility of picking a dead end.
From my own experience, however, I have found that it is in this place of risk and uncertainty that most good and meaningful work begins.
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