Locating Community Stories: Using Place as a Lens For Culturally Responsive Making

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting


American Educational Research Association


New York, NY

Publication Date



Though maker integration is advancing to formal contexts, educators typically implement kit-like maker activities that lack personal meaning, especially in regard to identity. Efforts around culturally responsive making activities (Searle & Kafai, 2015) and broadening participation in the maker movement (Vossoughi, Escudé, Kong, & Hooper, 2013) have challenged designers of maker activities and spaces to adopt more equitable and accessible approaches. We explore place as a lense for designing and understanding culturally responsive maker activities. We operationalize place both in terms of location (Litts et al., 2013) and engagement with community (Grunewald, 2003; Smith & Sobel, 2010). In this poster, we outline how we applied this lense as a tool to enable participants to make more meaningful artifacts. With an American Indian community in the Western United States, we co-designed and implemented a two-week digital making workshop for 47 youth (12-14 years old) as part of a pre-college preparatory summer camp. Youth first participated in community tours led by key leaders, who shared stories about significant issues including economic development and sculpture art. Then groups of 2-4 designed a digital, interactive, and place-based (re)presentation of the tours using Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling (ARIS), a narrative-based programming platform designed for non-programmers (Holden, Dikkers, Martin, & Litts, 2014). In this study, we focus on two key sources of data: (1) a map reading group interview conducted during the design process, and (2) a reflective interview conducted after youth completed their designs. We analyzed data using initial coding and theoretical coding techniques (Saldana, 2009) using place as the central category. Findings reveal tensions between practical location connections to place and substantive community connections to place. Early in the design process, we noticed that many of the kids could not locate themselves on a map, which was an essential step in setting up their location-based, digital tour (Fieldnotes, 6/13/2017). In the map reading activity, we asked youth to “find [the reservation] on this [local] map” and found that most students had difficulty locating their reservation. One student elaborated that this was the first time she located herself on a map and another student was never able to find himself. The majority, though, were able to use the labels to make an educated guess: “I just saw the name on there” (Interview, 06/12/2017). Through reflective interviews at the end of the workshop, we found that youth had a rich grasp on the community significance of the place-based designs they created. For instance, one group, who (re)created the sculpture artist’s tour, reflected on the tension of accurately and respectfully digitally representing “the facts” to share with their more experienced, culturally knowledgeable relatives (Interview, 06/15/2017). Our work provides insights to how we can leverage place as a lense for culturally relevant maker activities, particularly spotlighting tensions between connecting with physical location as well as preserving local community meaning when (re)presentation across media. This place-based approach to making provides opportunities for makers to connect on an identity-level with the artifacts they create.

This document is currently not available here.