Project

A Co-Design Experience: Technologies for Rural Sustainability in Colombia | 2022 Edition

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Diversa

Diversa

🚨Applications to the 2022 Co-Design Experience are now closed🚨

Overview

The development of technology in rural environments in Colombia is as problematic as it is vibrant. On the one hand, remnants from colonialism, decades of internal conflict, and dependence from imported technology, created and continue to maintain vast inequalities in how technology is made and how to access it. On the other hand, long-standing traditions of self-determination, primarily led by Afro-Colombian populations, farmers and Indigenous groups, continue to leverage rural inventiveness as an alternatives in transitioning to models that harmonize with nature and society at large. This includes (though is not limited to) the design and transfer of locally appropriate technologies.

In this learning experience, students from MIT and other universities in the Latin America region will work on (1) co-designing technology for opportunities in rural Colombia, (2) implementing technological concepts from local collectives, and (3) scaling already designed and/or prototyped rural technologies. Students will be introduced to principles of participatory d… View full description

🚨Applications to the 2022 Co-Design Experience are now closed🚨

Overview

The development of technology in rural environments in Colombia is as problematic as it is vibrant. On the one hand, remnants from colonialism, decades of internal conflict, and dependence from imported technology, created and continue to maintain vast inequalities in how technology is made and how to access it. On the other hand, long-standing traditions of self-determination, primarily led by Afro-Colombian populations, farmers and Indigenous groups, continue to leverage rural inventiveness as an alternatives in transitioning to models that harmonize with nature and society at large. This includes (though is not limited to) the design and transfer of locally appropriate technologies.

In this learning experience, students from MIT and other universities in the Latin America region will work on (1) co-designing technology for opportunities in rural Colombia, (2) implementing technological concepts from local collectives, and (3) scaling already designed and/or prototyped rural technologies. Students will be introduced to principles of participatory design with an emphasis in the Colombian context. The experience will require students to move from design research to implementation of functional prototypes through a host of participatory methods. We invite students from all schools at MIT who have experience in technology design, prototyping and/or other technical background to apply.

As an exercise on relational design, this experience departs from the traditional format of courses and/or projects, and focuses on long-term community-based relationships. We re building a community of learning, not acting in pursue of a grade. Activities will take place across ~6 months with two key moments: a 1-week field visit in rural Colombia during Spring break '22, and a field-based internship during Summer '22 also in rural Colombia*. The experience will begin with a seminar towards the end of January '22 offered in a hybrid-format (in person + activities in the New England area + virtual gatherings with community members in Colombia) and culminate with the summer internship. All activities besides field visits will follow a hybrid format with a commitment of no more than 3 hours per week with the exception of the IAP seminar.

This offering follows the 'Co-Design Experience: Technology Design for Coffee Production' offered in 2019 and is part of the ‘Regional Technology Co-Creation and Transfer Ecosystems in Latin America’ project.

Key dates

  • January 14 –    Deadline for application submission
  • January 17 –  Publication of accepted applicants
  • January 19-20 –  Info sessions
  • January 24-28 – IAP seminar
  • February | May – Spring learning experience
  • March 19-26 (2022) –  Colombia field visit
  • Summer '22 (dates TBD) – Technology transfer field internship

IAP Activities

During the end of the IAP period in January 2022, we will hold a seminar geared towards laying the ethical, methodological and theoretical foundations in design and social justice that will serve as a foundation for the rest of the course. We will meet for ~ 2-3 hours every other day during the week for lectures, hands-on activities and relationship building sessions with partners in Colombia. The content in this seminar will continue to be revised at a much slower pace during the spring semester. 

Spring Semester Activities **

Spring '22 will be as a slow burn, relational experience focused on establishing a meaningful connection with the context and needs/opportunities as articulated by members of rural collectives in Colombia. Activities during this period include:

  • Hands-on workshops on traditional Colombian manufacturing techniques
  • Reading circles on principles, methods and practices of design for social justice (e.g. Design Justice, equityXdesign, Participatory Action Research, Indigenous methodologies)
  • Cultural activities and field trips in the New England area focused on Colombian culture, history and politics.
  • Networking gatherings
  • Sketch modeling and prototyping sessions
  • Design research sessions

Costs

  • A group of MIT students will be fully funded for all activities during the Spring break field visit. Tickets and accommodation for the Summer internship will also be covered for a group of students. Traveling students will be responsible for food and local transportation expenses (~10 USD/day).
  • Students from universities in the Latin America are welcome to apply at no registration cost. Materials for activities throughout the course should be covered by students. We will offer a limited amount of scholarships for the Summer ‘22 internship.

Enrollment

In order to be part of this experience, please fill out the following form. Due to limited capacity we encourage you to apply ONLY if you can commit to the dates above. For more information, please contact Pedro Reynolds-Cuéllar at pcuellar@mit.edu

This experience is made possible with funding from MIT J-WEL, support from, Diversa, the MIT Media Lab and the MIT D-Lab, and is part of the Regional Technology Co-Creation and Transfer Ecosystems in Latin America project

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* Dates for the Summer '22 internship will be determined according to students availability

** Contents of these activities will be collectively determined between students and communities based on scoped needs/opportunities in preparation for the Summer '22 internship

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this a traditional course?

No. If you are looking for a classic graded course on technology design, this is not it. We are experimenting with longer timelines of learning, prioritizing relationships over content. Content is still great quality, we just extend it over time, diversify it across different types of activities, and center the relational aspects of technology design which are, in our opinion, the most important ones. 

What do you mean by relational design? 

In his book "Research is Ceremony", Shawn Wilson teaches us that "relationships do not merely shape reality, they are reality". We lean on these teachings and bring them into the practice of designing technology. We believe that focusing on relationships with the land and the communities that inhabit them, we are bound to create better technology. 

Do I need technical experience to be part of this experience?

Sorta. We would like to see a diverse range of expertise in this cohort. However, most of the projects this time around require different levels of technical experience. You don't need to know how to build complex machines (though it would be useful), though you will need to know your way around various fabrication tools and materials. 

I have classes during the Spring, how does this experience fit my schedule? 

Think of this as an extracurricular. The same way you sign up for a reading/study group, a hobby club, you will be signing up to a community of learners curious about how to change the way we build technology by co-designing and learning together with non-traditional technology creators. We will work on coordinating schedules among ourselves to arrange meeting at once or twice every week for no less than 3 hours total. Most of this time will be invested in cultural activities in the New England area, and in building relationships among ourselves and our community partners. The rest will be hard fun :)

Do I need permission from my advisor to take part in this program? 

If you are a Media Lab student, you will be required to pursue approval from your advisor in order to participate in the travel portion of this program. 

What is the COVID policy for traveling to Colombia?

This course will adhere to the Covid-19 guidelines provided by MIT at https://now.mit.edu/, as well as MIT's travel policy https://now.mit.edu/policies/mit-travel-policy/