Breaking Barriers was an interactive research-project initiated and financed by Samsung. RISE Interactive in collaboration with community art platform Foajé X and research-theatre RATS investigated how teenagers viewed and preformed participation in digital and physical spaces.
We met teenagers in youth-houses and libraries in three places in Sweden, with different socio-economical contexts. With one exception of a school-class of future game-designers, we met them in places they had chosen of their own free will. In our conversations, games and co-creations we discovered that the teenagers we interacted with had vague if any relationship to concepts such as citizen, society and – participation.
Their use of digital tools focused on consuming videos and communicating primarily with people in their own social circuit. Beyond specified areas for influence in school they did not know how to affect societal issues or how ideas and opinions could be expressed in a public space. The teenagers we met however clearly expressed that they had views and perspectives that could be of great importance for the political development.
We gradually changed our strategy during the project from questions to a more story-based format, where we as facilitators could share different examples of what it can mean to be a citizen and then use them for further discussion. The desire to see, hear and reflect on this was very big. In Sweden there has been a long period of a very open, un-intrusive attitude towards teenagers, in particular in youth-houses. The dominant idea being that the less interaction with grown ups the better.
We found that the longing for presence and examples from grown ups was clearly expressed in this project. We could envision a possible next step consisting of a citizen-library with stories about citizenship.
Breaking Barriers aligns with the research initiative and Stockholm Based development platform Prototyping Citizenship. That joins research fields around co-creation and organizations, digital culture, engagement and learning practices in order to support organizations and businesses to identify lack of democracy and co-develop tailor-made methods for inclusion and developed trust cultures.