What: Transdisciplinary design for Citizenship studio as part of the Transdisciplinary Design program at Parsons/The New School in New York City.
My role: Designer along with Oliver Arellano, Haijing Zhang, Emma Eriksson and Lauren Atkins.
In my third studio class at Parsons, taught by design strategists David Colby Reed and and Lee-Sean Huang at Foossa Design consultancy, we delved into issues of citizenship, mechanisms of Us and Them, and the need for permeable borders. The speculative design intervention my team proposed consisted of the social enterprise Dear America, exploring emotional relationships to America.
The aim of the concept to bridge the disconnect between individuals or communities and the country, and acknowledge the deeply emotional aspects of our relationship to our country, state or nation. In the case of America, also acknowledging a long history of injustices committed by the state against certain parts of the population.
The first prototype, The Department of Homeland Therapy, drew inspiration from relationship counseling, public art, relational storytelling and emotional mapping to stage a design experience inviting the public to reflect on their emotional relationship to America over time.
The designed interactions encouraged the participants to map emotions connected to turning points, followed by a commitment letter to America stressing the interdependence of the relationship. The prototype was staged at Union Square and at Parsons’ University Center.
For researchers: Dear America allows researchers to explore our data base of qualitative and quantitative data which we have sorted through a series of easy to search tags.
For educators: How can we think about civics education differently?What if we incorporated emotional reflection into the way that we learn about and understand our relationship to our country?
Merging civics education with emotional exploration: Dear America has crafted a curriculum that allows educators to explore concepts of citizenship, civic engagement, and community organizing through an emotional and relational lens. We have created school based curricula (for different grades) as well as museum education materials. Our course packs give educators the tools they need to tailor the materials to different cultural and social settings.
For public servants: Imagine creating public services that recognize and reconcile troublesome differences and repeating patterns of stress upon the relationship between citizens and the public sector. What would this look like?
Bringing emotional intelligence into public service: At Dear America we believe that incorporating emotional exploration into public service work complements current approaches. Understanding emotions allows for more strategic decision-making around policy implementation and community engagement. The Dear America team works together with public servants to conduct data analysis, facilitate processes of community engagement, and design appropriate metrics for evaluation.