[ISEA2022] Paper: Laura Trafi-Prats & Elizabeth de Freitas — Mapping the atmospheric in school buildings: Digital art-based participatory inquiry with youth


Short paper, theme: Educations and Societies: Participatory practices and institutional change
Venue: CCCB, date: June 14

Keywords: Atmospheres, wearable media, sensation, affect, school architectures, learning environments, participatory art-based inquiry, mapping, diagramming, speculative data

Creative experiments with wearable technologies and speculative engagements with digital sensory data foreground the need of reinventing learning environments to reclaim sensory and somesthetic relationality, while interrogating the passive collection of sensory data by sensors ubiquitously embedded in everyday spaces and learning processes. This paper discusses an arts-based project of mapping the sensory-affective dimensions of school environments in collaboration with a group of participating-students (16-18 year-olds). The mixed media maps offer dynamic digital representations of staff and students’ experiences of the school buildings, shedding light on problematic spaces in the built environment. The paper discusses processes in which digital-sensory devices allowed young people to further their attunement towards previously unconsidered aspects of school atmospheres, while exploring the pliability of their sensory capacity in reconfiguring and reimagining those environments.

  • Laura Trafí-Prats is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Health and Education at Manchester Metropolitan University, UK. Laura’s research engages with and responds to children and young people’s sensory, material and atmospheric experiences in a variety of contexts including urban spaces, the natural environment and school buildings. Laura is co-editor of the book Visual Participatory Arts Based Research in the City: Ontology, Aesthetics and Ethics (Routledge, 2022). She is the PI of the ESRC funded project Mapping Spatial Practices and Social Distancing in Smart Schools: Sensory and Digital Ethnographic Methods.
  • Elizabeth de Freitas is a professor at Adelphi University, USA. Her research explores innovative data methodologies in the social sciences, anthropological and philosophical investigations of digital life, and cultural-material studies of mathematical practices in complex learning environments. Her work has been funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the US National Science Foundation, and the UK Economic and Social Research Council. She is co-Pi (and former PI) of the ESRC funded project Mapping Spatial Practices and Social Distancing in Smart Schools: Sensory and Digital Ethnographic Methods.

The authors recognize the contributions of RA Isabel McCauley, along with the youth in our partner school, in supporting the ethnographic research process in which this paper is based. They also acknowledge UK’s Education and Social Research Council as main funder of the project.