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WHAT IT IS

Awkward Middle Place is a co-creation workshop that engages participants to visualize their cultural identities in a fun, 3D collage project. 12 immigrants and children of immigrants participated to address questions about race, equity and acculturation in their identities. I hosted this experimental workshop as part of user research for my masters thesis at MFA Products of Design on November 18, 2017.  

 
 
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HOW IT WORKS

The participants were asked to answer questions about their identities in each of seven rounds. At the beginning of each round, the banner with the next prompt was revealed. Then the guests were given seven minutes to shuffle through magazines, find images that best described their answers, rip them out, and collage them onto the banners as their responses. At the end of each round, we gathered around the banner to share and exchange comments as a group.

 

Questions on the banners

 
 

Insights

 
I was surprised at how relevantly the magazines and current-day media could portray my feelings.
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There was so many similarities between participants and we were all talking about how to maintain certain aspects of our background while embracing other cultures’ values
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I got a better understanding of how it doesn’t have to be either one culture or the other, and how that might not be ok to people back home or even people here, but it is what works for you
I left the workshop with optimism. Everyone seemed to acknowledge their struggles and we validated each other’s experiences whether they were similar or different
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Concept Map

 
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Outcome

The workshop confirmed many insights from the user interviews that I had conducted. In both, users identified the central tension in their identities as the one between their heritage and white America. Many expressed feelings of shame in both being white-washed and in their cultural heritage. Furthermore, this tension was deeply colored by their relationship with their race as they perceived the signs associated with their heritage as exotic, primitive, or even childlike in comparison to the dominantly white communities that they now belonged.

 

Video Documentation

 

Video documentation of the workshop (1min)

 

Process /  Installation