The question of how to prepare design students to effectively create and produce in a world of ever-shifting matrix of new technologies, rapid environmental change and economic instability is the most significant challenge facing design educators today. There is a growing need for collaboration and effective work styles incorporating professionals spanning a number of industries and representing diverse backgrounds. There is a need for new communicational structures and the ability to reach outside of one’s own field of expertise to bridge gaps and work in unexpected ways.
The style of teaching developed in the NeighborGapBridge class creates an environment in which collaborative thinking amongst students form different departments as well as industry and community members is taken outside of existing structures and allowed to flow based on natural affinities, needs, imagination and available resources. This is a radical break from traditional rigid forms of teaching and collaborative techniques. The class does not have a fixed beginning or end as the students and the facilitators come into a space, begin conversing, eating and associating in a free fashion. The facilitators do not act as traditional teachers but rather listeners and witnesses to the process. Lectures are replaced by conversations based in free association and whatever comes up in the moment. Instead of experts, the class consists of enthusiasts that sometimes are versed in a particular subject and sometimes are completely agnostic. The goal of the classroom is to collapse the fixed and assumed vertical structures in which we all have been raised.
This environment is achieved by a number of non-tools and non-actions. We use defamiliarization as a strategy to undo expectations and fixed identities. The language that emerges in the course of the meeting is captured and taken apart by recontextualization and erasure. We place the participant in a liminal space where crystallized cognitive structures can be loosened and sometimes dissolved. This process is reportedly uncomfortable, confusing, unexpected, freeing, stimulating, explorative, leading to discovery and new synthesis. In order to bridge the gap, one becomes the gap, the liminal space, the space in-between. This allowing to fall apart and just be is a feminine technology leading to true thinking and acting “outside of the box.” In a world that is running out of answers and time, we cannot afford to ignore this radically creative approach.