Posts filed under ‘evaluation’

science/art

I wrote this article for RiAus while I worked there.

I’ve recently returned from a round-the-world adventure, presenting at several conferences and workshops about my PhD research and exploring along the way.

During my adventures I was lucky enough to visit some of the world’s coolest places that do science-art projects, as well as compare notes with some people working in these spaces internationally.

While I was in California I visited the Exploratorium and was enthralled by their tinkering studio. I spent a good ten minutes playing with their oscylinderscope. Even though I know I perceive music when sound waves tickle hairs in my ears, there was something compelling and affirming about seeing this at the same time as hearing it. We’ve done some cool music-themed things in the past at RiAus and I hope to see something about the physics of music happen in the future.

bikesI also visited Noisebridge, a hackerspace in San Francisco that blew me away. They had a collection of 3D printers just sitting around that dwarfed the collection we had at our 3D printing workshop with ANAT. They also have a dedicated sewing room, woodwork room and bike wall (pictured) – so much space!

It made me appreciate how awesome Hackerspace Adelaide is, given the limited real-world space and resources. I guess that’s why lots of projects end up happening out and about, like our Tour Down Under project in 2011.

I moved from the new-world technological frontier of California to a place steeped in science history – Florence. There I visited Museo Galileo and La Specola, fundamental to the history of astronomy and anatomy respectively. La Specola was fascinatingly creepy, while I found Museo Galileo profoundly educational for me personally.

I visited Museo Galileo fresh from talking about evaluation of science engagement at the Public Communication of Science and Technology conference, which made me more mindful of how I was engaging with the museum. At the moment I’m particularly interested in observational, ethnographic approaches to evaluating engagement, so was thinking about what someone might report from observing me interacting in the museum. I’m also interested in how engagement activities reinforce (or contradict) each other – and realised my own personal experience at Museo Galileo related to this.

I was involved in the RiAus Adelaide Reef project last year. This was a satellite of the worldwide Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef project. As science advisor on th

e project, I worked with mathematicians and scientists to develop the interpretive signage for the final exhibition – as well as learning to crochet to contribute to the project as an artist. I was much more comfortable with the environmental science and biology in the project, so spent more time trying to get my head around the idea of hyperbolic space with mathematicians David Butler and Simon Pampena who kindly helped out on the project.

galileo

In the final, interactive section of Museo Galileo, I came to an exhibit (pictured). Had I not been involved with the hyperbolic crochet project last year, I may have quickly glanced at it, pressed a button, then moved on. As it was, I spent a good ten minutes there. I pressed the buttons that moved the cone mostly full of water around, which changed the type of curve within. I tried to integrate in my brain how the level of water moving within a cone related to my understanding of hyperbolic space from the crochet project last year.

It would have been clear to anyone observing that I was engaged with the exhibit. I spent longer at the exhibit than others who passed through the whole room while I was there. However if people had been observing alone they would never have known why I engaged with the exhibit. Yes, this exhibit in Italy clearly stimulated my genuine learning about mathematics. However this learning built on my prior learning about mathematics through a craft project in Australia. In my evaluation research I’m interested in the steps that people take between projects that lead to more active citizens or more aware people, so it was profoundly useful to understand these steps within myself.

I went on from Florence to London, where there are too many amazing people and places doing science-art projects to mention. Keeping on the crafty theme, there are some people doing projects beyond London that I met who inspired me.

Something that appealed to me as a potential project for our 300+ group of science-art crafters involved in the RiAus Adelaide Reef is the Knit a Neuron project, created by Helen Featherstone and Anne Cooke.

This project appealed because, like the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef, it allows people to contribute an individually crafted piece which, combined with others, forms a new entity. Through creating their individual pieces crafters can learn some science or maths about what they’re crafting. Then the final exhibition gives everyone – viewers and crafters – something new to learn about, which in the UK version was the science of brain injuries and stroke.

I also had a great time throwing around crafty ideas with Julia Collins, who’s a doctor of knots at the University of Edinburgh. She does an awesome range of projects there now. We enthused about Vi Hart and got excited about the possibility of doing crafty maths projects for the Adelaide Fringe Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival in the same year – fringe festivals across hemispheres united through math and yarn!

comic

Moving from yarn to other festive things – I was lucky enough to be in Paris for the launch of the science humour exhibition (pictured) at Espace des Sciences Pierre-Gilles de Gennes in Paris.

Even if you don’t speak French, if you can follow enough to click on ‘visionnez les blagues’ on this site you can discover a trove of science cartoons. I contributed by sharing my favourite cartoon and explaining why I liked it on a note – that cartoon and explanation are now part of the exhibition. I would love to see this participatory project happen in the RiAus FutureSpace Gallery down the track.

July 15, 2012 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment


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