A learning expedition about street art: why?

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  1. Back to an initial dream: walking together, collaborating together…

In September 2016, a small network of scholars and practitioners (RGCS) experimented a first learning expedition in Barcelona. This event gathered students, artists, designers and academics interested in the new places for entrepreneurship and innovation.

After an opening event in a coworking space, we had the opportunity to spend two days in Barcelona visiting coworking spaces and makerspaces. We walked a lot together, shared numerous ideas, had fun, tweeted while walking and commenting what we just saw. Entering into spaces, visiting them, and then going out and sharing long walk in the city was both something very simple and very complex at the same time. At the end, isn’t it what we do all day? Coming in and out, walking? But quickly came the idea that this could also be a method, a set of techniques and routines we could co-design. Developing a community management of walk, thinking about narratives which could be pushed during the walk, using social media to connect the different learning expeditions together, embedding the learning expeditions into the network… represented very exciting stakes. A smaller initiative in Berlin (#visualizinghacking2016) in July 2016 had also been an opportunity to think about it but the key idea was not there yet.

We thus started thinking about a couple of things we could experiment further in the context of a second, bigger, learning expedition in Berlin. Opening it systematically to key stakeholders which are not that used to collaborate together (academics, entrepreneurs, managers, activists, students and journalists in particular), extending the times walked together in the context of visits and flâneries, using more systematically social network to extend in time and space our event, asking people to co-produce part of the learning expedition in the flow of the learning expedition itself (the all last day was indeed empty… with just possibilities)…

This three days long event in March 2017 has been the context of a great experimentation with 47 people registered, and a real variety of profiles (academics, entrepreneurs, managers, consultants, activists, makers, journalists, students…). After this came the idea of systematizing further the emergent protocol with an acronym (OWEE, which stands for Open, Walked, Event-Based Experimentations) and a first set of techniques and principles (OWEE box, use of tweeter…). What about co-designing a method which could become a common? A method whose aim would be collaboration but also what could be seen sometimes as the next step or goal of collaboration itself: extension of the community behind it (RGCS), innovation for itself and other communities and territories and even inclusion and pacification?

  1. Beyond the dream: co-designing a method

Other learning expeditions took then place in Paris (in the afternoon of our first symposium in December, 2016), in Tokyo (July, 2017), in Milan and Rome (October, 2017) and in London (January, 2018).

They all have been the opportunities to visit, walk, comment, and tweet in the context of new places for innovation and entrepreneurship in the city. They all have been opportunities, beyond the places and areas visited to discover and discuss emergent innovations and new work practices.

Where are we know? We probably move gradually from a vision to a real method co-designed. We also feel more and more that various kinds of OWEEs and learning expeditions could be distinguished:

  • Exploratory OWEEs: the idea is to learn, to explore and comment new places. Our learning expeditions in Paris, Berlin, London or Geneva were highly exploration oriented (see hashtags #RGCS2016, or #OWEEUN for instance). Exploring places is often a way to explore practices (of innovation, of work, of communication…);
  • Creative OWEEs: the key stake here is a co-production, doing something together. We organized two particular learning expeditions (#visualizinghacking2016 and 2017) in Berlin and Tokyo whose aim was to take picture, draw sketches and do paintings about hacking gestures, bricolages and improvisations in new places for entrepreneurship and innovation;
  • Inclusive OWEEs: inclusion and pacification are here at the heart of the walk and the mix of stakeholders. Playing and co-designing together is a way to better know each other. To overcome stereotypes and tensions by putting them in the flow of the walk. Connecting similar initiative in the same area and on the same topics is expected to make them stronger, to make them more transformative, for the best. Few initiatives of the network mentioned here (except in Berlin and Paris) have been an opportunity to explore further in this direction

Of course, exploratory, creative and inclusive types are just archetypes, caricatures. All learning expeditions draw more or less on the three dimensions. Nonetheless, we believe that a focus is often present and make them more visible for participants. And these dimensions may be a way to avoid usual dichotomies (teaching-research, communicating-diffusing…) often present in managerial and academic practices. Most of all: all learning expeditions in the context of RGCS aim at constructing, embodying and strengthening the network itself and transforming the practices of the people (e.g. academics) participating to our event. We hope that the accumulation and repetition of learning expeditions is likely to open more and more academic practices to the city, and favor more and more outdoor and non-traditional modes of reflexivity in teaching and researching.

  1. A learning expedition about street art: what do we expect?

Most previous learning expeditions have been an opportunity to come in and out. To enter somewhere, visit, talk with people, and then move out. What about a pure outdoor event which would be an opportunity to visit open places and move from one open place to another? To explore the art of the street, and meet collective of artists in the context of their work? What about pushing through this both a creative and an inclusive OWEEs?

We would ask people to take as much pictures as they want, tweet them, comment them physically and on line and then to think about a way to make street art indoor, internal, corporate, etc. (see e.g. art 42)? A last phase would be an opportunity to co-design internal street art and think about a way to make the immediate urban landscape part of the internal space and time of local organizations? We will invite street artists, artists, designers, and in particular local people to walk with the academics, entrepreneurs and managers who will join us. Our idea is to include and make enter everybody into other people’s world. We do not claim any novelty in this street art experimentation… but we believe that the sum of all kinds of events we organize all over the world may create a particular emotion and transformation for participants.

This learning expedition will be organized in Paris on June, 14th from 9 AM to 7 PM in the East and South of Paris.

We hope it will be interesting to compare this OWEE with other kinds of learning expeditions we already did and other methods based on walk (more and more researchers and activists get in touch with us to share ideas about similar ideas they are pushing).

Other RGCS learning expeditions will take place soon in Lyon, Grenoble, Montreal, and Boston, New York… join us, have fun with us! One key lessons we have drawn from this is that fun and game can be amazing political and strategic resources!

This post is a summary of 2017-2018 collective discussions of 7 meetings about OWEE project, meetings in Paris (last co-creation workshop at le Square and RGCS event at FabLab Sorbonne Nouvelle) and feedbacks of presentations of OWEE at Paris-Dauphine, HUJ and Promising. It has been written by François-Xavier de Vaujany, coordinator of RGCS Paris.

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