March Hive Highlight: Unflattening: Weaving The Literal Through The Abstract

On March 8th, the Hive presented the workshop, “Unflattening: Weaving The Literal Through The Abstract.” The workshop offered participants a way to see visual communication – or art and design, especially the practice of making comics and sequential art – as an alternative medium to critical studies, research, and storytelling.

Nick Sousanis, author and cartoonist of Unflattening, a graphic novel and experiment in visual thinking, partnered with the Hive and Claremont Graduate University’s Transdisciplinary Department to guide participants through a series of exercises deconstructing the process of visual storytelling, the usages of analogy and visual metaphor, as well as formal techniques and tips in the design of sequential art.

Participants left with new tools for tackling visual thinking and storytelling, and alternative ways to engage their collegiate work, as well as their work beyond. Most importantly, everyone enjoyed the experience. Many thanks to everyone who participated in the workshop; the collaborative energy and commitment to the exercises made this a worthwhile experience.

February Hive Highlight: Pop Rocks in Water for Noise

On February 20th, Isaac Watts (Pitzer ’18) led a workshop that explored questions such as: What does your hand sound like to a pencil, a water bottle, or a steering wheel? How does a space express itself aurally?

During the workshop, everyone had the opportunity to make their own instruments using alternative mic’ing and sound recording techniques. The experience explored the boundaries of noise and music, and harnessed the tactility of sound. The participants made noise with watermelons, cottage cheese, sandpaper, mannequin arms, metal sheets, velcro, silly putty, bowls, magnets, ping pong balls, Pop Rocks, traffic cones, scrubbers, kale, model heads, wooden toys, and more!

Through this immersive workshop experience, attendees were introduced to technology for recording sound through solid matter, liquid substances, and electromagnetic fields for use in media projects.

Click here to hear what happened:

Article: Pop-Ups Offer Classes on Today’s Hot Topics

The Hive was recently mentioned in a New York Times article. Read the full feature below:

February Hive Highlight: 3D Origami Mini-Workshop

On 27th February, Kristine Chang (PO ‘21) led a simple and fun workshop in 3D origami, a type of modular origami in which hundreds of paper pieces are stacked together. At the workshop, people learned how to fold the building blocks of 3D origami, then assembled them into works of art – sculptures and figurines, like swans, made entirely out of paper!

Lessons Learned Through the Podcast-Making Process

By DD Maoz and Eli Cohen

Between February 22nd and March 8, The Hive and DisCo put on a series of Podcasting Workshops, where participants got to make a collaborative podcast – from interviewing to storyboarding to editing – over the course of three workshops. Eli Cohen (PO ‘19) and DD Maoz (PO ‘18) wrote about their experience planning and running the workshops.  

Before the Storm

We had many motivations for creating these workshops. First among them is that we love podcasts. But beyond that, we wanted to convey why the process of making them yourself can be so valuable.

We wanted to show how the different aspects of making podcasts can urge us all to be better listeners, intentional conversationalists, and mindful storytellers. We wanted to re-value the creative process itself. We wanted to create a low-stakes environment for people to actually make a podcast without grandiose expectations or the fear of failure. We wanted people to learn by doing. We hoped to provide participants with the technical confidence that will allow them to see this medium as their own. We wanted to make room for stories – for people to tell them, to realize the importance of seeking them out, and to grasp the power of handling them with care.

The basic premise was this: We would create three workshops that would walk participants through three stages of the podcast-making process: interviewing, storyboarding, and editing. Through these different stages, we would focus on different interpersonal skills: empathetic and active listening, communicating, and storytelling.

Workshop #1 – The Interview

In the first workshop, we emphasized empathetic listening and recording confidence. We opened with two audio excerpts from Chimamanda Adichie’s TED Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story” and an interview with David Issay in the TED Radio Hour’s “The Act of Listening.” They taught us about the responsibility entailed in choosing which stories are told, the presence listening commands, and the power of being heard.

We outlined five active listening principles, which we compiled from the Human-Centered Design course tips for empathetic interviewing, and Celeste Headlee’s 10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation. They were:

  1. Be present
  2. Do away with assumptions
  3. Enable meaningful conversations
  4. Go slow
  5. Care for the process

Then we reviewed the technical details of the recorders, considering basic tips for making a good recording.

The topic we chose for the interviews was “Transition,” and we urged people to recall specific stories and emotions from different periods of transition in their own lives. Then, for the rest of the session, in groups of three, we interviewed each other and made space for each other’s stories.

We came out with eighteen recorded ten-minute interviews, and the affirmation that giving people the time and excuse to talk and ask questions was one of the most powerful things we could have done.

Workshop #2 – Storyboarding

In the second workshop, we tackled the challenge of walking people through the whole storyboarding process in 1.5 hours. We brought on Isaac Watts (PZ ‘18) and Jeremy Snyder (PO ‘19) to help facilitate the session. In small groups, we started by taking time to listen to the 4-5 interview clips each group was assigned. Then, we took 10 minutes to share out our impressions with the group. From there, we took 5 minutes to construct a narrative arc, thinking about the common themes, and the surprises that came up from the clips.

For the final stretch of the session, using post-it notes, we constructed a storyboard that detailed what should happen at every moment of the podcast by creating mock tracks that resembled the audio editing software – one for interview clips, one for narration, and one for accompanying sound. We concluded the session with participants recording a live narration of the podcast, following the storyboard to tie clips together and communicate the narrative and themes to the listener.

We came out with a very rough draft of three podcast episodes, one by each of our three groups. We also realized that, while confusion is an essential part of the creative process, making a clear structure to guide the process along was essential to eliminating overwhelming, paralyzing confusion.

Workshop #3 – Audio Editing

In the third workshop, Ximena Lane (PO ‘19) joined the team and walked people through the fundamentals of audio editing together with Eli. We decided to step back from the project at hand and instead work with isolated examples of basic audio design. In the end, we highlighted four concepts:

  1. Vocal clarity
  2. Quality over quantity
  3. Layering with care
  4. Transition is everything

We also introduced the participants to the basics of audio editing software, such as how to navigate the timeline, work with multiple tracks simultaneously, and utilize basic audio effects. We created a one-pager describing each of the four overarching concepts and gave a few tangible techniques – altering amplitude with compressors or normalizers and changing the tenor of one’s voice with equalization – to help achieve them. We left a small amount of time at the end to practice these techniques on the project itself.

The Process of Creating

Each workshop required a different structure and varying amounts of guidance, and all of them required that we admit one simple thing: we were not experts. In planning and facilitating these workshops, we were simply creating the space for everyone – ourselves included – to experiment and learn by doing. We were often pushed to seriously think about group process more than the podcast-making process, and about how to enable a comfortable and intuitive sort of creation and interaction with the group.

We realized that there’s something freeing about just jumping in, with no time to fear mistakes. We realized how important our roles as facilitators were in planning sessions that gave participants room to engage with the creative process in ways that allowed for a healthy – but not overwhelming – amount of confusion.

Ultimately, we couldn’t prepare in advance for every possible scenario, and so the process was largely about being present with the rest of the participants and going where the process invited. We started these workshops knowing that the podcast-making process mandates the sort of intentionality that should be lived out in everyday life. We ended with the added realization that the same holds true for the process of planning these sessions, which demanded we be present, open, and intentional.

Most importantly, the creative process demands time. Time to be confused; to ruminate; to revisit and rework; to adjust; to bring oneself to the table fully in order to enable a true collaboration. While our workshop provided opportunities for participants to tap into many aspects of the creative process, time was not one of them. Instead, we got to engage with each other, to tell stories, to create, to construct, to edit, and to collaborate. Overall we got to see how these tools are something that anyone can use. When we compromised time to give room for other aspects of the creative process, we accepted the fact that the final product will not be polished and that it might not make sense.

Since we stepped back from the project for our final workshop, some participants took on the responsibility of editing the episodes beyond the workshops, relying on the original storyboard that was made in under 1.5 hours. The episodes came out to be exciting rough drafts, which give you all a glimpse into what a narrative that was created so quickly sounds like. 

Happy listening!

Horehound: Not Just a Weed

By Megan Robalewski

While it’s easy to forget what lies beyond the familiar campuses, 5C students can enrich their experience in Claremont by exploring what the surrounding landscape has to offer. Biology and Environmental Analysis students might be familiar with the Bernard Biological Field Station (BFS), which lies just across Foothill and is a short walk from the Harvey Mudd campus. Not only is the BFS incredibly close, it provides an opportunity for students to engage with the land where the Colleges are built as it might have been experienced before citrus groves and the colleges were established. During the Hive’s “Candy Invasion!” event on February 9, a group of students and members of the Claremont community ventured over to the BFS to harvest horehound, a non-native weed, and make candy from it.

The BFS is situated on an alluvial outwash from the San Gabriel Mountains and contains one of the largest remaining parcels of the native California Sage Scrub plant habitat that once covered most low elevation areas across Southern California. One section of the BFS has returned to a state of nearly all native plant species. In addition to the California Sage Scrub, the BFS is also home to a grove of native Coast Live Oak and Sycamore trees. Many invasive animal species that thrive right across the street on the 5Cs’ grassy lawns, such as pill bugs and Argentine ants, are absent here. Instead, native plants and animals such as wood rats – who use sticks to build impressive domed homes along pathways at the BFS – flourish here. However, not all of the BFS is a haven for native species; some parts, like the California Sage Scrub community in the southern area of the BFS, get invaded by non-native species at certain times of year. One of these species is horehound, a weed native to Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern and central Asia, which flourishes in the winter. Horehound has been used as a medicinal herb since the 1st century BC; colonizers of the Americas brought this magical medicinal herb with them. The lasting presence of this plant is one of many reminders of the colonizing history of plants and people that shaped Claremont as we know it today.

Not only did our group get to clear out portions of this invasive weed from the BFS to make room for native plants, we also learned about its medicinal benefits including pain relief, digestive aid, and cough relief (it is used to make cough drops such as Ricola, and horehound candies can double as throat lozenges). Guided by Wallace (Marty) Meyers, the director of the BFS, we meandered around the man-made lake, learning about the ecology and history of the place, as we excavated as many horehound plants as possible. The leaves were the only necessary ingredient for the candy, but the key to ridding the environment of the weed was removing the clumps down to the root. By the time we were ready to head out, we had so many horehound plants, it was difficult to carry them all. We headed over to the kitchen at Wolfe’s Market to learn from Harvey Mudd College Fellow Christy Spackman about the process of making candy from sugar and an infusion made from the leaves. After washing the horehound leaves, we steeped them in water with local Ponderosa lemons harvested near the Hive to make a tea (you can also drink horehound tea– it has a minty, earthy, bitter taste and has the same medicinal benefits of horehound candy). The next step was mixing the tea with sugar and corn syrup and heating it in a saucepan, stirring it until it boiled. We then let it sit as the temperature climbed to 300 degrees Fahrenheit and took a break for dinner.

The most exciting part of the candy-making process was forming shapes from the cooling syrup. In a race to shape the hot syrup before it hardened, we furiously rolled out drops, spirals, and even hearts and intricate twirls. Next we rolled them in powdered sugar (horehound candy is fairly bitter, so it helps to counteract it with some sweetness) and distributed them in small bags for everyone to take home.

After exploring the BFS and learning about the impacts of invasive species like horehound on our environment, I was amazed by how little I knew about the land where our colleges are built. This ecosystem has a rich history of adapting to the influences of people throughout history; engaging with this history is a beneficial exercise for anyone who calls Claremont their home, however temporary. This experience has made me more observant of the environment we live in. We often take the trees, squirrels, and especially the weeds, for granted, but the natural landscape has so much to offer anyone who is willing to look and taste.

My Unexpected Favorite Class

This post is part of a human-centered design (HCD) theme for February. Students reflect on their experiences within the HCD class and how the acquired skills have impacted their lives. Two other articles related to this theme that you can check out are this one from Forbes by the president of Harvey Mudd College, and this one from The Student Life (TSL) by Becky Hoving.

 

By Laura Zhang

Going into the first day of Introduction to Human-Centered Design, I didn’t know a single person in the class, nor did I have the slightest idea what design thinking was. Needless to say, I was excited but nervous. At first, even small things, like our daily warm-up exercises (which are just super fun icebreakers) felt very out of my comfort zone. Dancing and making a fool out of myself in front of twenty-five other people? Definitely not my usual cup of tea. However, our awesome instructors, Fred, Kareem, and Shannon, quickly helped us get over any hesitations and become fully immersed in each activity. I came to love 4:15 PM, when I knew they would have one of their great Spotify playlists in line and an awesome course plan ready to go.

Fostering a class dynamic of positivity, support, and engagement is a crucial building block to the HCD course experience. The entire course focuses around empathizing with people, hence the name Human-Centered Design. I learned how to conduct interviews, define users and their needs, generate ideas for solutions, prototype those solutions, and test/re-test the prototypes on real people. This process required a lot of pushing my own boundaries, and learning to take initiative. I had to be comfortable asking strangers to do personal interviews and to test out my prototypes. While this was difficult, if I didn’t dive deep in my interviews, then I wouldn’t find the most relevant user or tap into the true nature of their problem. The instructors also brought in their personal expertise from leading design projects and teams with various companies, design firms, and international non-profits. They were very inspiring and supportive every step of the way. Guest lecturers with a wide range of design backgrounds (such as Elaine Young, clothing artist; George Kembel, d.school founder; and world-renowned strategic thinker, Roger Martin) were also invited to class.

My personal favorite project was our last one. For Design Project 3 (DP3), we got to choose our own topic, and “amplify” an unheard voice within our topic. My team focused our project around de-appropriating ethnic foods. We reached out to restaurant owners in the Village, podcast writers in New York, and food activists in the Bay Area to get the information we needed. Throughout the process, we learned to use each person’s individual strengths, and by working as a cohesive team, were able to come up with a storybook menu idea (that the manager of Saca’s Mediterranean Grill in the Village loved). We all felt passionate about this topic, and it felt empowering to create a prototype that made us proud. During the final DP3 showcase, we got to show off all of our hard work. My friends came to see what our specific design process was all about – and some of them are taking the class now!

Passion really is what drives this class. Fred, Kareem, and Shannon are all equally as passionate about what they do as the students are about the class, and that energy feeds off each other. My friend Sophie Zagerman described this course as “transformative.” After taking the class myself, I understand why she chose that adjective. This is not your traditional class. It doesn’t teach you a formula that works every time. It gives you a framework and toolkit to approach solving huge, ambiguous problems that have no solutions. It teaches you to accept confusion, embrace frustration, and to think about “failures” and “setbacks” not as bad things but as learning opportunities; these are also lessons for life. HCD teaches you to think about relationships between people and their surroundings, from every aspect, micro to macro. Many of the soft skills you develop in this class such as listening, empathizing, and communicating effectively help you grow into a better person. You may not notice it at first, but one day as you are walking around, you will start to notice a poorly-designed door handle here or an un-empathetic listener there, and slowly you will not be able to un-notice them. I find that these kinds of transformative experiences, one that actually shifts your mentality and perspective on life, are rare. They stick with you for the rest of your life. This class was such an experience for me. So with progress from day one to now (HCD ’17 class alum), I can definitely say without a doubt that taking this class was one of the best decisions I ever made.

February Hive Highlight: Intro to Metalsmithing

Earlier this month, Anya Zimmerman-Smith, a Claremont McKenna College freshman, led a metalsmithing workshop in the Toolbox. Anya helped participants create gifts for and inspired by people they love. Participants learned about the design process through metalsmithing and got a chance to indulge their creative sides by making copper pendants for necklaces and bracelets. Below are some photos from the event. Be sure to stay on the lookout for more of these kinds of workshops!

 

How often do you get a chance to listen?

This post is part of a human-centered design (HCD) theme for February. Students reflect on their experiences within the HCD class and how the acquired skills have impacted their lives. Two other articles related to this theme that you can check out are this one from Forbes by the president of Harvey Mudd College, and this one from The Student Life (TSL) by Becky Hoving.

By DD Maoz

If you stop by the Hive’s Studio 1 on Fridays, around 10 am, you will find a group of keen students taking the Human-Centered Design course. You’ll most likely see us hopping on one foot, or stretching on the floor, as part of a “stoke” activity meant to warm us up and help us connect with the topic of that day’s “lab” session (read: “doing” session). In the last Friday of January, however, you would have seen us filing out of the Hive, making our way across Seventh Street toward Pilgrim Place, a senior community for those who have devoted their lives to pursuing social impact and social justice in different ways.

We were walking to Pilgrim Place so we could interview 11 of their residents and gain more experience with the first stage of the human-centered design process: Empathize. This stage is made up of observation, immersion, and engaging. Engaging, we learned some days before, means actually talking to people. It means that problem-solving should be led by an encounter with another human being rather than led by unchecked assumptions and our own misconceptions. We were walking in the pairs we were assigned (a scene that resembled elementary school field trips, when teachers assign pairs so as to make sure no student gets lost), talking to each other excitedly about our interview “discussion guides.” “It’s a conversation, not an investigation,” Fred Leichter, our professor and the Hive director, pointed out.  

Once we, an excited group of college students, entered the gates of Pilgrim Place, residents we passed would greet us hello, or wave from afar. We walked into the Napier Activity Center, and David Mann, Vice Chair of the Napier Initiative Council at Pilgrim Place, told us all about the Napier initiative, a memorial fund in honor of Joy and Davie Napier, which funds Napier fellowships and programs aimed to “encourage leadership for social change.” It’s a wonderful program that you really should read more about here (http://www.napierinitiative.org/index.php).  

“Maybe,” one Pilgrim Place resident suggested, “we should pull from the Napier fund to buy one of your students a new pair of jeans.” He was pointing at the student to his left who was wearing a pair of ripped jeans. Everyone roared with genuine laughter. (I was reminded of my grandpa asking me, when he saw my own pair of ripped jeans, “You mean to tell me you paid for this?”) With that laughter came a great sense of ease; people exchanged warm-hearted smiles that lingered as pairs of students sat down with a Pilgrim Place resident, beginning to ask them about their lives.  

I was excited, and looking around the room, it was clear I wasn’t the only one. We all get to engage with incredible people every day – whether we recognize this or not – but it’s not often that we get to devote ourselves to listening. It’s not often that we’re permitted to ask questions; that our profound curiosity about another human being is encouraged and given a proper outlet. The other side of this, as our interviewee expressed, is that it is not often that you get to be listened to with such intent; that you get to tell your story to a willing audience; that you get to reflect on your own path. Encountering our interviewee in such a way felt incredibly meaningful.  

It was meaningful because it gave us a chance to ask, “why?” It was clear that our interviewee had a clear conviction for what was right. She used words that resonated with me, proclaiming the importance of process, of recognizing one’s work is never done. In an interview setting, instead of agreeing wholeheartedly and moving on to share my own experiences in relation to what she was describing, I got to ask her, “Why is it so clear to you?” This did two things. It prevented us from assuming we know what our interviewee actually meant. Having to ask “why” meant that we needed to interrogate our own assumptions about what a specific word meant and give room for the difference in experience words sometimes fool us into glossing over. And in that, it prompted our interviewee to have to articulate things she, too, assumed were too obvious to explore. She later reflected that having to explain what seemed self-evident prompted her to delve into her path and contemplate her values, in ways she never had to before.  

When we got together as a class the next Tuesday, our pairs got together to form groups of four to arrive at the next stage of the human-centered design process: Define. We had to put our listening to good use, and make an empathy map indicating what our interviewees had said and done, and gather what we think they might have thought and felt. Our discussion of how our interviewees felt came as naturally as what they had said. We reflected on the fact that perhaps there comes a stage in one’s life when what you say and what you feel don’t seem at all disconnected; a stage when what you feel is also what you articulate to those around you. We guessed how different this chart would be if we had interviewed fellow young people – how far the words would be from feelings, how hearts would not be worn on sleeves, but perhaps hidden behind the need to keep face.  

In the Claremont Colleges, it’s not often that we’re pushed to truly listen, and it’s not often that we get to have these profound conversations with people who are not our peers or close friends. As groups of us made our way back to the colleges, it was clear that we were feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. One person in the class even mentioned that this was the best part of her semester so far. It’s shocking, yet incredibly intuitive, how much an intentional engagement with another human being can impact us. The most important lesson, then, that I feel I gained from this visit is the reminder and the imperative to bring these reflections into being in my day-to-day conversations; be intentional, be open, give room for reflection, ask why and listen.  

Article: Human-Centered Design Class Applauds Failure and Creativity

Linked below is an article from student-run newspaper, The Student Life (TSL) by Becky Hoving, on the Human-Centered Design class.

http://tsl.news/life-style/6968/