Unfortunately my intervention evening last Friday gathered a hopelessly small amount of people. This means that I was not able to observe and analyse how people might respond to interactive storytelling through affective objects, in the way I had hoped.
People showed interest in the intervention but eventually only 4 people attended the event, and two of them were the owners of the venue. Sometimes the most difficult part of an event is getting people to come, and I suspect that the location and insufficient marketing were the main reasons for the low engagement rate.
However, there is always something gained. Although the event may briefly have felt like a waste of time, there were useful things to learn from both the evening itself and preparing the event.
There was a positive response to the self-portrait studio – a separate room with a tripod, remote-control for the shutter, mirrors and a few other props – which indicates that this may be a concept that is worth exploring and developing further. At first people did not seem tempted by the idea but after I encouraged them to try it they were positively surprised at the experience. Quoting one 22-year-old female participant: ‘My first reaction was doubt and mild panic, but afterwards I was excited to try similar pictures at home.’ She said the self-portrait studio was a curious exploration in creativity, and has prompted her to think about the way she is used to interact with the camera lens and in what ways she views her self as the subject of an image. Her experience illustrates how a creative photographic approach can provide a means to translate and evaluate personal experiences through a creation of original photographic artwork (Simmons 2013).
In addition to the self-portrait studio, I also created a word puzzle to inspire poetic word play during the event. Based on my personal experience this is a useful tool for starting the process of poetry creation. Arranging and rearranging a chaos of random words is an effective brainstorming technique. The words ‘kitchen’ and ‘lake’ inspired me to write a poem almost entirely out of the blue. I believe this word collection will be useful for the next intervention, which is going to be a poetry workshop at the Poetry Café.
I did also notice that selecting and bringing in a personal item inspired a general conversation about emotions, memories, personal narratives, and identity. One dress that an older woman once wore to a 50s themed secret cinema triggered a whole range of memories and self-reflection, not just in the owner of the dress but others as well. This suggests that affective and mnemonic objects are powerful devices for self-reflective, and potentially therapeutic, storytelling.
Although there were moments of self-reflection on Friday, they were superficial and no noticeable in-depth exploration happened during the event. It is of course possible that the theme will prompt self-reflection at a later stage, but it also does show that trying to reach people who already have a desire to investigate their own emotions may result in more significant change.
Strengths: the self-portrait studio was a success, and caused notable change in at least on participant; spending time selecting an item beforehand prompted more reflection than not choosing one; random word play can act as a simple and efficient tool to inspire poetry writing
Weaknesses: the activities were not clear enough and people needed to be encouraged to interact with them; the event inspired very little in-depth exploration, which may partly be because of the personal and intimate nature of the subject and the empty room
Opportunities: using elements from the event in a structured workshop and reaching the ‘right’ people could result in more significant self-reflection and interaction with the activities
Threats: a small amount of participants has an overall negative effect on the atmosphere because it does not encourage story-sharing and spark curiosity; by not targeting a specific group of people (by choosing the right venue and marketing channels) there is a risk for the story-sharing to remain casual rather than deeper exploration within the stories