DigiKara formally took off with a kick-off workshop and Iftar celebration on the 21st of May 2018, as 25 students of five departments at Karachi University’s Department of Visual Studies had been competitively selected in April. The kick-off provided an exciting opportunity to get to know each other, create excitement for the lined up topics and experts, as well as start to familiarise themselves with the highly interactive and co-learning methodologies. Students were able to express their expectations, discuss the compatibility of creativity and economic demands in an open setting, and get a first sense of interdisciplinary collaboration.
This first workshop in the DigiKara project explored the interdisciplinary, creative approach through the lens of Design Thinking.
Exploring the required balance between the rational and the emotional that is required for any strategy, ideation, development, and also creativity, four ‘characters’ were developed around shared human desires. These characters were further developed as we imagined their lives in 2035. A variety of methods were used throughout the four day workshop towards human- or customer-centered design, in conversation with these characters and their human desires.
Imagination and creative writing were the main creative tools for each individual participant, combined with describing, mind mapping, and collaging to communicate the ideas to other participants. In groups of five, the students started to develop products, services, or ideas in conversation with their characters’ life stories, conflicts and opportunities. Ideation and basic prototyping of the ideas, products, and services rounded off the workshop and the rapid design thinking process. The final workshop day iterated visualisation and impact of the developed project ideas as the participants presented to each other.
The four groups had thematically developed project ideas that ranged from sustainable transport through a futuristic learning institute to bionic limbs and to feminist communities, while each team member had their own spin based on their disciplinary thrust or an interest they would like to pursue.
One of the main learnings of this first workshop in the DigiKara project was that creativity and design always needs to relate to humans and our desires. This also applies to all digital tools where there continues to be a relation and connection between the digital application and human utilisation. A further learning reflection of participants related to the added value or synergies available when working in interdisciplinary teams.
The workshop facilitator was Mrs. Svantje Roessner, who for nearly 20 years of her career worked at BMW before starting her own business Poetic Design. Aim of grounding in the word poetic is to create, unfold impact, and render the invisible visible. Since founding her business, she has worked with various public, private and academic audiences for creativity, strategy, innovation, design, dialogue, and much more. She strongly believes that emotion is the main element to access success.
The overall aim of the Digital Thinking workshop was to familiarise participants with all aspects of the digital world, in the form of a self-transformative process of filming each other as memories, thoughts, reactions, and ideas are deepened.
The workshop started form a theoretical discussion on history of the machine and reflecting on what a computer is, whether it just a tool or more, and how it influences our behaviours. Moving to a practical exercise, the participants started filming each other as they recounted childhood sounds. This experience was revealing in that memories of sound carry many layers, some of which can easily be captured digitally, some require different tools and perspectives. The second exercise was about telling stories and telling lies, as a resource to discuss what occurs when we step in front of and behind the camera, what happens when we digitalise our stories, and what we experience in the art of forgetting. The following discussion surrounded whether and how technology alienates from whom we feel we are: does our digital image de-materialise us, or vice versa? On the third day, the participants were introduced to video editing software and a large range of freeware, and in turn discussed the impacts of digital features, e.g. colour grading adds emotionality, or how finding and editing glitches in the work can humanise the digital experience. Finally, the participants explored how the digital world creates an attention economy and how one can be seduced into over-production.
For their project ideas, the four groups recalled the baseline of desires, and explored how digital ideas and tools could address unfulfilled needs. Two groups deepened their user experience in relation to VR, holograms and other models of representation. One group refined their idea towards a community app that would connect people with unfulfilled needs and facing everyday challenges to others who could offer help.
The main takeaways from this second workshop in the DigiKara series was the exploration of how today’s digital space requires us to deconstruct and re-construct at all times all our understandings of the world, which in turn requires a need to understand the history of digitalisation and workings of the digital world. Video editing helped put one’s imagination into the abstract space where one can creatively work.
The workshop facilitator was Dr. Martin Burckhardt, cultural theorist and author, with the most recent book title (in German): A short history of Digitalisation. Having started his career in the radio and recording incited his interest in the cultural significance of the computer. While delving into teaching, game design and programming over the years, he wrote several books and curated a number of platforms. In his book “The Philosophy of the Machine”, the machine is portrayed as the cultural unconscious, a theo-, socio- and psychoplastic apparatus. His latest book ‘A Short History of Digitalisation’ was published (in German) in 2018.
This third workshop directly built on learnings from the first two workshops, centring around entrepreneurship practices and developing skills required to building one’s own creative industry contribution.
The workshop started with the Business Model Canvas as a comprehensive representation of the various aspects that need to be taken into account when ideating and designing an entrepreneurial business. On the first day, three aspects of this model were explored in more detail by all four participant groups for their respective project ideas; these were ‘customer segments’, ‘customer relationships’ and ‘channels’, so that participants could build on their personas developed in the Design Thinking Workshop. A game also asked ‘how do I know if the business model fits me and allows me to share my passion?’.
A discussion on what entrepreneurship is, and the role of innovation therein, commenced the second day of the workshop. It then introduced Effectuation, which can be defined as a way of entrepreneurial reasoning, a logic that uniquely serves entrepreneurs in starting businesses and provides a way to control a future that is inherently unpredictable. Effectuation contradicts the classical, causal management logic, and is particularly well suited for planning for an unpredictable future, for contexts that are characterized by change and for starting phases, requiring for the need for adaptive mindsets.
Various exercises were done in the course of the following days, where participants first individually reflected on their own abilities and their applications, in groups developed their stakeholder landscapes and uncertainty settings, and in role plays elaborated partnership opportunities. Coming back to two different representations of the Business Model Canvas helped to keep the big picture in mind. The final day saw the addition of the triple bottom line as well as elements in building and presenting a business plan, including the elevator pitch.
The four projects that were refined throughout this workshop involved a community-based ‘Help-Share’ app, a ‘Lets Party’ youtube edutainment platform for kids, a hologram/VR based ‘A-Touch’ communications tool, and ‘Stitch On’ as a digital tailor service.
The workshop facilitator was Christoph Schreckenberg, who heads a company called Feldstärken with the vision “to identify, employ and empower creative collaboration within the creative industries and beyond. Generally we like to address our projects from a bottom-up perspective – a grass roots approach, starting from the needs and talents of creative entrepreneurs, who see themselves as agents of change.” Mr. Schreckenberg’s background is in managing cultural businesses and cultural facilitation services for federal, regional, and local governments. He is also a systemic coach, professor of practice, and advisor for cultural and creative industries. His main areas of interest therein are ‘authentic branding’ and business development that is both true to the entrepreneur and to sustainability goals.
Using design concepts and ideas of gaming, this workshop further deepened the students’ concepts and ideas towards more realisable, applied projects.
By exploring the cultural elements of games, the participants explored the meaning of games and developed their skillsets on rules and their application from everyday life to design. The broader interdisciplinary concept as developed by the gamelab.berlin at the Humboldt University was introduced, thereby introducing how social and political elements of game and play can be approached and utilised for design work.
The workshop commenced with a number of icebreakers, which allowed the participants to familiarise themselves with the idea of game, play, and rules. Following, various examples of ‘gamified life’ were introduced, such as applied for example in museums, art, or public spaces. A short individual exercise encouraged participants to reflect on their favourite games, and by presenting reflect on explicit and implicit rules, as well as the social and empathetic roles of these games. The continuing two days, the participants continued refining the designs of their projects, diving into specifics and stepping out into the larger contexts in turn. They developed their unique selling propositions against the problem being addressed in its unique cultural context, and reflected on the own team’s skillsets as well as closer and further networks they could tap into. By the end of the second day, they had refined their ideas so far that they were tasked to interview three strangers for feedback on the project relevance, added value, and feasibility. On the third day, an exercise encouraged them to think about the idea of ‘flow’ as the balanced space between challenge and skills. The participants then started to develop prototypes of different kinds, including the design interface of the Help-Share app, or the process of ordering from Stitch-On, or a first storyline for the Animed youtube channel, or deepened research questions for A-Touch. The final day was spent developing and presenting ‘elevator pitches’ on each project, which are intended to both describe and excite.
The workshop facilitator was Thomas Lilge, the head of gamelab.berlin that he founded in 2013, an interdisciplinary Research and Development Platform at Humboldt-University of Berlin. Gamelab.berlin hopes to enrich research into the cultural technique of game-playing with transdisciplinary theoretical inquiry and new analyses. The creative experiments produced in gamelab.berlin will be made available, in part, to the Cluster of Excellence »Image Knowledge Gestaltung« and its members. His research investigates the cultural technique of game-playing and he develops related concepts and applications. Thomas Lilge studied Theatre Studies and Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. In his dissertation project, he is examining theatre laboratories and models of stages with particular focus on the intersection of art and science.
This workshop, called ‘Dreaming in VR: the art of immersive storytelling’, concentrated on how to conceive of and create projects in virtual, augmented, or mixed reality (also called XR - extended reality). The workshop evolved around two questions: How are XR tools different than other mediums, in terms of how they relate to space, and what kind of stories would work best using these tools? The workshop also doubled as a space for everyone to discuss, experiment with, and be in dialogue about creativity, as a practice, as few rules exist related to these new mediums.
The workshop’s main theme introduced on the first day was space itself, drawing inspiration from the smallest unit of matter to the largest systems we can imagine. Using constrained space of a post-it note, a first imagination exercise encouraged students to doodle for ten minutes, followed by a discussion whether we consider ourselves artists. While the concept of freedom was evoked, the reality of making art was also discussed around a range of conflicts (including internal, cultural, financial, etc.) and around dealing with rejections after pitches. Being inspired by some of David Lynch’s testimonies, students were encouraged to develop their own ‘ritual space’. On the second day, participants presented their spaces or temples of awareness to further explore their world of creativity and of representation. The concept of dematerialization was introduced, important in the 21st century digital work and in particular for XR experiences. A meditation exercise focused on the role of breath and the role of sound in VR. The third workshop day focused around experiencing VR, some in 2D presentation and the workshop facilitators own project VRwandlung as an adaptation of Franz Kafka’s story ‘Metamorphosis’. Although they didn’t know Kafka’s book, they could delve right in and get a new perspective and experience, as this was the participants’ first exposure to VR. The facilitator spoke about the team he required to make VRwandlung especially in relation to production constraints, limitation of technology that can distract from ideas, theft of ideas, tension between art and for-profit funders, and other aspects. The participants worked through one student’s idea and thought of what team members, skills, expertise, creativity and insights would be needed to make this a reality (called workflow, including team, time, budget, etc.). This built directly on the last workshop, and helped the participants developing their pitches for last day of this VR workshop. The closing discussion centred on finding different ways to articulate one’s idea even if one cannot afford to do the whole implementation yet, as many ideas need to be kept alive at the same time for some to bear fruit when the time and audience is right. At the practical level, the workshop prepared students to pitch XR ideas in a way that any audience, regardless of their knowledge of the mediums, will get excited about.
The facilitator for this workshop was Mika Johnson, a multimedia artist concentrating on designing virtual reality experiences. Johnson also directs AR projects, music videos, commercials, and fiction and documentary films. Long term projects include "The Amerikans” - a web series featuring 15 short documentaries - and his recently completed debut feature: “Confessions of a Box Man,” the first part in a trilogy. Along with exhibiting his work internationally, Johnson has also presented, lectured, and taught workshops in Istanbul, Tokyo, Madrid, Hamburg, Kiev, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Weimar, Prague, and in North America. Based in Prague, Johnson teaches workshops and classes at FAMU International and Prague Film School.
This workshop formed another critical component of creatively participating in the today’s digital world; working through a number of case studies, the participants gained familiarity with legal and ethical concepts and good practice in relation to creative industry.
The workshop commenced with a review of creative practice or the ‘freedom of expression’ being a human right, leading to a discussion of its ratification as well as limitations in Pakistan. The participants were then encouraged to reflect on the benefits of creative practice, often expressed as intellectual property rights, including the resulting moral and material interests. Working through an example of one DigiKara group project, the participants explored the different types of intellectual property rights – relating both to objects and the intangible expressions of the idea – which can lead to encouragement for further economic participation on the one hand, and to the protection of the author’s personality on the other hand. The participants discussed the grey areas and worked through these elements in relation to a number of examples that directly related to everyday situations of creative practitioners. It was well understood that often only a fine line separates legal versus moral or ethical practice, and that awareness of the legal context is essential to avoid pitfalls.
Much interest surrounded the topic of rights in design, i.e. when does the appearance of the whole or a part of a product merit protection? The participants were introduced to the specific situation in Pakistan in relation to global practice.
The second part of this workshop discussed topics around collaboration and its legal setting. Coproduction agreements were introduced as a useful tool for collaboration and clarity in roles and responsibilities. Similarly, agreements with creative freelancers are a useful measure to avoid exploitation, misuse of information as well as to share credit and revenues where appropriate. Other legal tools were also introduced as well as their application discussed, including license agreements and their essential elements.
The facilitator for this workshop was Dr. Ulrich Reber, a certified expert in International Business Law and Partner at SKW Schwarz. While he advises and represents many German and foreign companies in civil and commercial matters with an emphasis on corporate litigation, numerous clients come from the media and entertainment sector, especially from the music and gaming industries. He is thus very familiar with the demands and legal challenges of today’s digital world.