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How to effectively run a Black Mirror "Ready, Set, Design" workshop

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The concept of “Ready, Set, Design” is an exercised used to promote outside thinking using basic materials. The exercise holds very few restrictions and unlimited possibilities. The exercise promotes thinking across many different disciplines and is all encompassing of the different minds on campus.  


Working and designing in a tactile manner, using these materials, encourages out-of-the-box thinking, as opposed to the traditional design procedure of sitting down with a whiteboard and dry-erase markers and drawing/sketching out a solution. Physical materials can represent people, devices, etc. and allow the creativity of the students to run wild and unfettered.

Session Warm-Up/Icebreaker

When doing a “Ready, Set, Design” session, or any similar exercise, it is suggested to always start with a warm-up game (an icebreaker) that allows the participants familiarize themselves with each other and get comfortable in the environment of the exercise. Suggested games are a rock-paper-scissors tournament or group charades. These games “break the ice” and allow for better creative output.

Black Mirror Component

Black Mirror is a modern TV show that presents current complex societal issues through a futurist lens, demonstrating in each episode how current societal ills can be exacerbated by technology, presenting what could become, how these current issues can become much worse given the right technology. For example, one episode demonstrates how much worse relationship jealousy could become given contact lenses with integrated cameras that record and allow everyone to replay what they see. The Black Mirror show is used to generate the design problem prompts that the participants of the session are trying to solve. An example given the aforementioned episode may be “how might we redesign social media”. Episodes are cut down to 10-15 mins and shown at the beginning of the session to catch up the participants on the design problem that they are trying to solve.

Materials and Administration

To orchestrate this exercise, you will need to provide a bag of random physical “arts and crafts” type materials. Past examples include popsicle sticks, aluminum foil, balloons, pipe cleaners, etc. Groups are given 20-25 minutes to work using this materials and design a solution to the given prompt of the session. The prompt can be the same for all participants or they can vary between groups.

How to drive engagement/interest

To engage students in the session, start by presenting a thought provoking topic about technology and its ethical implications related to the design project of the day. Get students engaged in dialogue, this gives them reasons whythey should figure out solutions to potential problems with technology in the near future. When students step forward with a purpose and reason, they are better able to engage with the task at hand and ultimately have a much more rewarding experience during the making process.


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