(a) Describe a problem space that is not serving the purpose it could do, for learning
The orchestra my son was playing in during music camp had a very small podium to rehearse on – about 8mx4m for about 35-40 students including 1st, 2nd & 3rd violins, cellos, violas and double basses. The podium had an upright piano – which wasn’t being used but can be moved but not off the podium. The “norm” would for orchestras is almost double this – a recommended 1.7-2m2 per person – this particularly has to do with health and safety guidelines – for sound exposure (Sound Advice, 2007).
(b) Explain, using some of the suggested reading, why that space might benefit from some thinking on its design
The musicians only come together for four days of rehearsals with the final concert on the fifth day. Most do not speak English, and the average age was about 12 years – an interesting case of “extreme users” as suggested by Brown (2008) where an effective learning space is critical.
Kimbell refers to design thinking as “a set of contingent, embodied routines that reconfigure the sociomaterial world” (Kimbell, 2012, p. 141) – in this case the “embodied routine” of using a podium was limiting the efficacy of the space and not allowing “design in use”. Further the context of a junior amateur orchestra was not the embodied knowledge of the (professional) conductor which prevented a reconfiguration of space and thereby value.
The impact the limited space has includes the fact that it is very difficult for the conductor and the teachers aiding the orchestra to move between the ranks, and individual players – this is normal behaviour in amateur and student orchestras since the players are often too young to just take the instructions and write them in the music unaided, or even sometimes to understand exactly what is meant or asked for so this needs to be demonstrated in situe. All players should be able to see the conductor which was not the case.
(c) Describe the changes, however small, you make to that space as a result, in order to attempt to create a better space for learning
The interesting part of the equation is although the podium is small, the rehearsal space is very big, and there are relatively few observers. Although I made the suggestion to the conductor that there was no particular need for the rehearsals to take place on the podium, and we as observers would be happy to sit in one part of the room while they took over the rest – he wasn’t open to the idea.
However, I saw my suggestion in action on the third day when I went to look at the rehearsal of another orchestra. Voila! This conductor obviously was not constrained by the box! The first violins, cellos and double basses sprawled over the front edge, as did the conductor and the spectators were pushed back.
Compared to the limited freedom of movement which leads to more cramped posture and claustrophobic feeling of the first orchestra, there was more space, and this space was used more often by the conductor and teacher-aides to move around the players and “show not tell” what they were requiring.
Why? I can only imagine that with six cello players needing chairs (as opposed to just three in the first orchestra) they just HAD to move down, it was no longer an option to stay “in the box” in this case the constraint was a source of inspiration, and flexibility of mind and “risk taking” behaviour was exhibited (Kuratko, Goldsby, & Hornsby, 2012).
Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking. Harvard Business Review, 86(6), 84–92. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=heh&AN=32108052&site=ehost-live
Kimbell, L. (2012). Rethinking design thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, 4(2), 129–148. http://doi.org/10.2752/175470812X13281948975413
Kuratko, D. F., Goldsby, M. G., & Hornsby, J. S. (2012). The design-thinking process. In Innovation acceleration: transforming organizational thinking (1st ed, pp. 103–123). Boston: Pearson.
Sound Advice. (2007). Sound Advice Note 12 – Orchestras. Retrieved July 22, 2015, from http://www.soundadvice.info/thewholestory/san12.htm
Funnily enough I did ask my son and his fellow other viola players how they felt as well as the other parents. The students were a lot less indignant than their parents. Is it because they are much younger and have less insight and perspective? Or is it because they are more happy to accept what someone in authority decides? Or do they get less upset and excited generally about this type of thing? Didn’t it matter enough? Would it have mattered more if it went on for a longer period of time? Anyone have suggestions? Do we care too much?