Tuesday, 24 June 2008

welcome to awhiworld

It’s been interesting times here in NZ.

I have been reactivating urban spaces using ideas from geo-caching and treasure hunting; opening portals and generating parallel worlds in deprived sub-urban neighbourhoods; and facilitating photo rap odes to abandoned netball courts.Basically putting the ideas from this blog into practice!

Spawned from my work with Foam - and particularly groWorld http://www.fo.am/groworld/ - the South Auckland suburb of Papakura (my home town) has been the site of a number of semi-subversive experiments.

A local community worker inspired one project after she read my blog entry on geo-caching. By using a set of written clues, in combination with GPS units, we encouraged youth to visit and engage with derelict and marginal spaces.

The next evolution of this will involve clues different media (ala ARG), a larger space, and tasks to be performed at each location with the assistance of mentors from different disciplines. I’m waiting for funding to come through to take this to the next level.

In the meantime, running parallel to this is a more comprehensive initiative called AwhiWorld. AwhiWorld combines ideas and practices drawn from art, technology, alternative and virtual reality gaming, techno-treasure hunting, urban regeneration, community development, youth empowerment and leadership development.

My vision is that, using ARG type clue systems and storylines, marginalised youth will engage with neglected spaces in creative ways that build the capacity of deprived neighbourhoods. At the same time spaces that are already filled with potential and life, will regenerate other parts of the community. For example, the garden at a local school can spread into many different spaces (including backyards) through imaginal and virtual portals that are created by children through painting, storytelling and digital imaging.

Over the next few months I am working with teaching staff to integrate AwhiWorld ideas into the curriculum and will write about this process as I go. But one small success already, is the production of a photo rap montage that was created by some youth from the local alternative education school. (Alternative Ed is where children are sent if they cannot engage well in traditional schooling and/or are excluded).

Using a combination of ideas from Appreciative Inquiry http://appreciativeinquiry.case.ed digital cameras (mobile phone or otherwise) and the help of their teacher and a local rap artist, we created a presentation that will be shown at a large community event. The rap song/visual is focussed on some abandoned netball courts that are now derelict…but have the potential to be reactivated into a fabulous community space. The kids were encouraged to see this potential through a cameral lens, and write about it … then the rap artist helped them put this together with an original beat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN3F65vssec

AwhiWorld generated as a complement to the Papakura Awhi Wraparound Project, an initiative where a Police Officer takes responsibility for a the most crime ridden and economically section of a small township (in Papakura this involves an initial pilot block of 11 streets). [Awhi means to embrace in the indigenous Maori language.]

After attending a community meeting and seeing the kinds of issues the people in the neighbourhood are facing (drug houses, gang violence, neglected children, tagging etc etc etc) I decided that it was time to see if some of the ideas in this blog could work in this kind of environment. The answer is so far, yes.

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