Over the past 6 years, I have worked with my research partner, Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, (assistant professor at University of Michigan’s Stamps School of Art and Design), to develop a series of methods for facilitating digital, intercultural design collaborations. These methods have emerged through a lively series of collaborative exchanges between our two design classrooms (located in the Middle East and North America) which began in 2012. Since then, our collaborations have involved nearly 200 students in 12 courses at 5 institutions on two separate continents.
Some of our previous classroom collaborations have involved specific topics such as water sustainability, for example. Student exchanges reveal drastically different social, cultural, and, of course, geological perspectives when comparing experiences between residents of the Gulf Region and those living among the Great Lakes. For our most recent project, however, we wanted to address the growing cultural tension between our students worked in collaborative teams, bridging the 7,000-mile divide between Doha, Qatar, and Ann Arbor, Michigan with virtual tools such as Google Drive, WhatsApp, and various video conferencing tools.
Students responded to a prompt to reimagine existing spaces (in Ann Arbor, Doha, or both cities) in order to foster dialogue, encourage play between strangers, promote cultural awareness, or celebrate cultural diversity in a positive atmosphere. Working together as a creative agency, the teams created video prototypes of their proposed design solutions for interactive and inclusive spatial experiences.
The results of the intercultural design teams’ collaboration were recently featured on the Stamps School of Art and Design Website. Check out the article to see the teams’ projects and read their thoughts on this intercultural experience.