EAGER: Cyberlearning at the Los Angeles State Historic Park

PIs: Jeffrey Burke, Noel Enyedy, Carlos Wagmister
University of California-Los Angeles

The long-term goal of this project team is to advance understanding of how technology can be used to leverage the potential of public spaces to promote civic engagement, public interaction, and ultimately, life-long learning. In this EAGER project, they are carrying out a set of first steps in coming to understand how public spaces might be augmented with technology to promote and develop community interest and practice in civic engagement. The venue for the work is the Los Angeles State Historic Park, a 32-acre site in downtown LA that attracts families from several nearby ethnically-diverse neighborhoods. They are creating a prototype interpretive module for the park, an interactive mural that will act as an invitation to civic engagement and evolving social memory for the park and its surrounding communities. Evaluation centers on measuring and characterizing the engagement of park visitors, their participation with the media, and the interactions between media authorship, organizational structure, and youth civic engagement. Research is around issues in designing installations in ways that increase civic engagement, learning how and under what circumstances new types of embodied interaction technologies increase civic engagement, especially by neighborhood youth. Foundations for the design of the installation and experiences around it come from three theoretical perspectives: communities of practice, play and performativity, and the idea of an evolving social memory and the knowledge-building discourse that promotes such evolving memory. The challenge is to achieve the civic engagement and learning goals in the context of a space people visit primarily for recreation and play.

The potential broader impacts of this work lie in the possibilities of learning better how to use neighborhood and other public spaces to promote civic engagement and learning, especially among youth who frequent those places. Participation in activities in public spaces could complement formal education and be designed to support voluntary, self-directed learning, with particular potential for promoting positive affective responses and attitudes towards subject matter and ways of doing things. As a first step, this team is designing an interactive mural that community members will engage with as authors and collaborators. The goals here, as they iteratively revise the mural so that it encourages youth engagement with others in civic issues, is to move towards developing guidelines for designing other installations that could also promote such engagement. This project represents work in its early states on an untested but potentially transformative idea and is likely to catalyze rapid and innovative advances in the use of public spaces for promoting learning and civic engagement goals.

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