As Salvatore Zingale, Project Semiotics professor in Milan Polytechnic University, and former X (2013) and XY (2014) teacher, said when commenting the morphology of the XYZ glyphs:
X is a crossroad, a dialogue.
Y is a split, a choice.
Z is a road going anywhere, an exploration.
XYZ is that thing where people dialogue, choose and go for an adventure.
As well emerging out of these words, XYZ comes out of the X and XYlab experiences (*), two research and co-design workshops which took place in 2013 and 2014.
Summing up: an immersive didactic format, where for 12 days everyone (teachers, tutors, staff and participants) works together working on specific outputs:
X – IDENTITY: Strategy, Identity system, Website, Editorial processes and products, Video;
Y – TOOLS: Realizations of a h24 secure access system, Design of an internal currency system, Spaces set-up, Co-living / open data, Designing the concept for a School Management System;
Z – PROCESSES: Definition and formalization of processes and methodologies for the 4 key activities: teaching, research, community, spinoff, Setting the concept for a management system, Website functionalities, Documentation processes (video + publishing), Co-living / open data.
From 9.30 to 19.30. With a lunch break, without rigid hierarchies, sharing a vision, tools, goals and strategies.
Throughout the 12 days, the teachers will guide the process from a methodological perspective, sharing competencies and notions with participants (also through short, open keynotes). Tutors themselves do the same, mainly focusing on notions and information with a technical / technological character. Participants as well, if needed, can hold short keynotes to share ideas, reflection points, intermediate output.
The three environments work sharing tools, methodology, notions, spaces and people. This format, in fact, promotes cross-pollination and a multi-disciplinary approach. We chose to borrow the voice of some of the X and XY participants to tell you what it is and what it aims to be.
We start with Silvio Lorusso, designer and researcher, and his words around his experience in the 15 workshop days in Castrignano de’Greci:
"I joined XYLAB as a teacher in the so-called “open table” together with Alessio D’Ellena, Emilio Macchia, Piero Molino ,Jacopo Pompilii and Salvatore Zingale. This is already something huge: it doesn’t happen everyday to work in close contact with graphic designers, interaction designers, semiotics and IT people of such talent. The participants were around 20, them as well competent, passionate and coming from different worlds such as journalism, entrepreneurship, curatorship and so on. In this sense, I believe the most interesting challenge was that of building a common language, as we were often required to give up on our cultural and subject-related dogmas. In order for this to happen, we needed several “leaps of faith”. We had no program, no specific topic to address (besides “new publishing”), we had to face the anxiety of collectively defining a territory to observed, and found out how much freedom you can get by choosing day after day your path inside of it. But, having already described my school experience in detail, I would like to catch this opportunity to think about the way in which the two XY weeks influenced my following year. Such reflection also allows me to indirectly answer to the next questions (as “what does ‘doing research’ mean to you?”) which I would then skip. Specifically, I don’t think that the two developed mini-projects, or the competencies acquired during those two weeks were the most influential things; it was instead the environment itself in its complexity and the relationship it enabled, aspects that are difficult to measure from a production- or CV-focused perspective. I therefore believe that building this temporary ecosystem was the greatest merit of the XYlab’s organizers. One year after XYLAB, Davide and Valerio interviewed numerous protagonists of the independent digital archiving scene, publishing the results on several blogs, included that of the online experimental editing archive, which I manage. In order to discuss around the project’s future development we met in Loaeneburg and Brussels, in this way building small XY colonies. Davide and Valerio also went to Berlin and Bratislava to deal with their research object hands-on. They even presented the preliminary results of their result to the independent archivists community gathered in Zagabria, by doing so building relationships with them and effectively joining such community.
We also have the story of Eugenio Battaglia, bio-hacker, one of the 2014 workshop’s tutors:
XYLAB was a unique experience among those in which I found myself on the other side of the podium, as a teacher. Truth is that there’s no such thing as a podium in XYlab, every student, every participant, every passer-by can activate processes of knowledge transmission. Everyone, in fact, contributed to make XYlab pure contamination. Each table contained huge flipcharts, drawn and written with formulas and concepts from very diverse fields. Some others were filled with electronic components, welders, cables of all sorts. You spent some time at a table, exchanged some small talk, thoughts, projects – for a few instants, or for hours – then for some kind of magic, when everyone found his own place, people stopped and went deep in the topic. The result is well documented. Of course it was an experimental process which still has a lot to learn and implement, but considering the extremely scarce resources available, when compared with other more academic experiences I’ve had in Universities and Research Centers, the collaborative spirit and the multi-disciplinary approach that emerged during XYlab have been unique. On one hand, the spirit of the organizers, which all in all just facilitated a self-organization process by supporting the participants; on the other hand, the number of participants itself. Well, when you have a critical mass of people interested to learn and get to know each-other, together with the right parameters, unpredictable and wonderful things emerge".
We asked teaches and tutors (given the economic restrains we were facing) if we could just pay their travel, food and accommodation. They all accepted.
The reason behind this apparently non understandable choice is that none of them, usually, can practice teaching in a similar way. They all also underlined that, in their institutional career (for those who are professional teachers or professors) they never had the chance to work together with so many different colleagues, all coming from different backgrounds. This is important, as it allows teachers as well to keep on learning, continuously.
Maybe the secret behind XYZ is exactly that one, working according to a “generative” logic, where no final result is expected, just a continuous succession of phases, as described by K. Lunch.
The process is the project.
And then again. And again.
In the Sixties, someone called this “design based research”. We believe it is something similar to a philosophical principle, and we chose to embrace it, with no remorse.
Now, rather than autonomously defining how SOS would work, drawing our cool logo and building our little toys solely helpful to our short-termed goals, we decide to invest everything, really everything, on people. Facilitating their meeting (some of them would have never met, otherwise), the exchange of knowledge and the exploration of the Other, of the unknown. That, for we are convinced that products, services or objects are just an excused, the true challenge – the one transcending our individual existence – being that of leaning to live together, generating value for everyone.
This is our flag.
These are our goals.
We just need to pull the anchor and sail on.
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