Mio's Portfolio of reflections

This is my portfolio summarizing my experiences in the Leiden University master's honours course "Leiden Revisited: Social Control and Social Cohesion in Insecure Times". This portfolio consists of a number of small essays about different topics that were assigned before each lecture and were refined after. Some entries are written long after the lectures are over.

The reason I choose to build a webpage to present this are the pictures I took to go along with the stories. This journal is very visual. That is in part because I discovered I don't enjoy writing this much text. The other part is that at the time of writing I am stressed about another exam (ironically, putting this together takes more time than writing but to me the pictures are more important than the words). Finally, but most important, it is nice to strengthen what I want to say with an image: a picture speaks a thousand words. Hopefully these words can also tell a story and not be an incoherent mess.

Because the pictures are a central part of my reflections it is strongly recommended to view this site on a high resolution screen, however the page should be responsive.

Lecture II - Betwixt and Between, Othering, Liminal Spaces and the Expression of Being the Other

Betwixt and Between

In 2016 I enrolled to the Hague University of Applied sciences, it was the start of my academic path. One year earlier, on September 1st, 2015, the new `leenstelsel' was put into effect. Under the promise of improvements in the quality of education, the government allowance to study was no more: in the `leenstelsel' I borrow money from the government to pay for the cost of living and tuition.

The improvements to the education were not there yet because there was only a year for these improvements to be implemented. I get the same quality of education as the generations before me, but I am in debt now.

The generations after me will enjoy improvements in the education system and possibly another change in the way the `leenstelsel' is implemented. I feel extremely left out due to this. Still, I am very grateful for the opportunity to go to a university even if it costs me the price of a small apartment (which I will not be able to buy anyway in this market).

Othering and Liminal Spaces

The border between the other and the self is by definition where these to groups meet, be that spatially, temporally or socially. This means that the interaction between these groups must happen at the border, giving it a special role: it is a liminal space where conversation and interaction is possible. These interactions are an effective way to change the views that the two groups have of each other. By breaking down othering social inclusion can be stimulated.

The converse can also happen; by visiting the border the view of the groups can be reinforced and othering is stimulated, leading to more exclusion. If one wants to increase social inclusion, the interactions (by definition in the liminal space) must be ensured to be positive.

Expression of being the other

Childish Gambino's `This is America' is a song from 2018 about racism in America. Donald Glover, the person behind Childish Gambino, contrasts melodies of a happy choir with a dark trap beat. The song explains and melodically conveys the inequality persons of color in America face. They are the the other, this song highlights how they may feel.

Lecture IV - Superdiversity


To paraphrase how Vertovec summerizes the notion of superdiversity[1], by using an intersectional lens to view demographics and focusing on the interactions between different axes a richer picture of how a diverse society is made up becomes clear. In his other work ``Towards post-multiculturalism? Changing communities, conditions and contexts of diversity''[2] Vertovec steps away from the `M-word', arguing that the early part of the twenty first century provided challenges to the notion of multiculturalism. That is, `the promotion of tolerance and respect for group identities, particularly of immigrants and ethnic minorities'[2] is a model incompatible with modern patterns of immigration flows, globalization of society and poverty of immigrant and ethnic groups.

Entzinger[3] applies this and points out that differences in policy shape the way society behaves by comparing Rotterdam to Amsterdam. Locally, the city of Leiden is no stranger to immigrant flows. The university attracts a varying population of international students and the neighborhoods outside of the `singels' attract a population more akin to the Randstad's mean demographic distribution; that is to say very diverse[4] . This border is apparent when looking at the percentage migrants with a western background, it spikes in the inner city districts (Binnenstad-Zuid and Binnenstad-Noord), the Stationsdistrict and the Boerhavedistrict. Then there are two districts with a primarily dutch migration background: Roodenburgerditrict and Stevenshof. The districts of Leiden-North, the Bos- en Gasthuisdistrict, Morsdistrict and the Merenwijk constitute of a (barely) majority dutch population and a significant part of Moroccan population. This only explores the spatial distribution of the city of Leiden and it is not enough to properly shed light on diversity. Consider further the gender and age profiles and their spatial distribution: young single students and older academics with a family in the inner city, outside the city center there are young couples buying their first house, older families that have settled down, larger households in families where that is a cultural norm and senior citizen residents at the edge of the city. There are many more axes to analyze and in doing so we step away from a multicultural view and start applying a superdiverse model.

In Leiden

The diverse city of Leiden thus has to mesh many different cultures that all interact. A multicultural view is not adequate, if policy makers want to keep up with the city they need to adopt a superdiverse view, the reality is not that simple. Multiculturalism allows people to live past each other, discretizing society into quanta in its analysis. Vertovec supports this, mentioning how The Report paints a picture of groups living parallel lives, calling it social breakdown.

The reality is that these quanta interact and cannot be viewed as independent, this is evident from the fact that cultures mix. By shifting to a continuous view of a high dimensional, entangled society it becomes possible to embrace the interconnectedness and stimulate it; increasing social cohesion in the process.

For science this means new tools of analysis need to be developed in order to understand society better, as Vertovec points out[1]. Because, as he goes on, ``The future; immediate and long-term, will inherently be typified by diversity issues". To deal with them we need to be able to understand them.

Social bulimia of society

Jock Young introduces the idea of `social bulimia of society', a society that preaches inclusion and equality but in practice practices exclusion[5]. This meshes with the multicultural view presented above: quanta of unconnected society. But the argument then goes that multiculturalism is no way to view modern society, does the idea of social bulimia of society still hold?

In some ways, yes. In a situation where a group is socially excluded to such a degree that the multicultural view is a valid approximation social bulimia keeps the exclusion going. However, this is reserved for extreme cases such as the one of the American black underclass that Young bases his case on. In most situations the reality is more nuanced than the multicultural view and with the notion of multiculturalism, social bulimia also breaks down.

In a superdiverse framework it is difficult if not impossible to point to a well-defined `other', implying the self does not exist either. But this caricature of the self is needed for the concept of social bulimia; it is impossible to gorge on the self, thereby othering, if the self does not exist. Is this endpoint what we see in reality? No, othering takes place.

[1] S. Vertovec, “Super-diversity and its implications,” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 30, no. 6, pp. 1024–1054, Nov. 2007, doi: 10.1080/01419870701599465.
[2] S. Vertovec, “Towards post‐multiculturalism? Changing communities, conditions and contexts of diversity*,” International Social Science Journal, vol. 68, no. 227–228, pp. 167–178, Mar. 2018, doi: 10.1111/issj.12191.
[3] H. Entzinger, “A Tale of Two Cities: Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Their Immigrants,” in Coming to Terms with Superdiversity, P. Scholten, M. Crul, and P. van de Laar, Eds. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2019, pp. 173–189. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-96041-8_9.
[4] “Leiden in Cijfers | Gemeente Leiden - Inwoners naar migratieachtergrond 2021 - Wijken.” https://leiden.incijfers.nl/jive (accessed Mar. 30, 2021).
[5] The Vertigo of Late Modernity. 1 Oliver’s Yard,  55 City Road,  London    EC1Y 1SP  United Kingdom: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2007. doi: 10.4135/9781446214831.

Workshop I - Deep Listening

Deep listening and the notion of empathy

I found it easy to listen, because that aligns more with how I behave in a conversation. I did notice that I listen with my head, always. While talking I ran out of steam, however later than expected. My partner was nodding, that was a reassuring signal to me.

In the second round I actively tried to listen with my heart. This empathic listening went okay, I found it very difficult to listen to a story that way; I kept ending back in the head. I don't think that is very necessary for me, I like listening from the head. It keeps me calm and you can tell me anything.

When my partner vents to me about her frustrations I also listen with my head. I am a problem solver and will offer advice, however I am aware that some people just want to vent. That is why I ask my partner if she wants to hear it or just vent, because either is fine. Luckily for me she often appreciates advice.

Lecture V - Research Ethics & Positionality

29 August, 2019

I am tripping balls. A few hours ago Ava and I took drugs at my place. I just moved to a studio apartment: for the first time in my life I don't have to deal with people, if I don't want to. It is a pleasantly warm summer day and the two large door-size windows are open all the way. A breeze causes a wave in the curtains and I seemingly feel every individual air molecule gently pet my skin. I am sitting on the couch, Ava is laying on the bed. She came out to me as trans about three months earlier, our friend-group knew but the world didn't yet. When she told me, by sending me a meme, I felt an enormous pressure to say the right thing while also not making a big deal out of it. ``Oh! Ok\'e! Nice'' was all I could muster up. Of course it's not nice, but I didn't realize that back then: I was happy that she found a piece of herself. I tried to understand, however I couldn't imagine why or how she could feel this way. Then I realized what it means for her: a life of being an other, discriminated against, being seen as a pretend woman, fearing for her safety, not taken seriously by even the government.

It was the last year of high school and I knew significantly less. I was out of touch with my emotions and rarely empathetic. Roos had caught my attention and after a six month pairing dance we finally dared to hold hands. Back then she already was a fierce feminist who took every opportunity to make clear that women are oppressed. I thought it was bullshit. She has the same rights, we go to the same school and on paper we have the same opportunities. I treated women like equals! And the wage gap? If women are paid less for the same work why wouldn't companies exclusively hire women? No, it was obvious to me that men and women were equal and I simply wouldn't listen to anything else.

But I would not feel comfortable if she cycles through the city alone at night. The constant physical threat women face from men is the thread that caused my bigotry to unravel: slowly but surely I realized exactly why feminism is still needed in today's society. This thread triggered a domino effect in the following years.

That year is coincidentally also the first year I consciously experienced the `Zwarte Pieten discussie'. Roos brought it up and forced me to formulate an opinion. I never experienced black Pete as racist, therefore it cannot be racist. We were both convinced this silly detail of an old tradition was blown out of proportion by hyper-sensitive views on racism blown over from the US.

Going to university exposed me to a wide range of new people, though still within a subculture. I study physics and the stereotype of a beta person is there for a reason. Most people, including myself, are not very sociable and those who are can be socially awkward. We are male-dominated, clinical, analytic and to the point. To me it's efficient. I met a lot of new people and made friends, some of which happen to be from oppressed social groups. I got out of a bubble and I grew upwards. The thread, which was still unraveling any unfounded opinions, was securely anchored to the ground. When the `Zwarte Pieten discussie' arose again a year later I too thought it is racist. Another year later I felt strongly about it, how is it possible that this was once so normal?

I am proud of the couch I am sitting on, I made it myself. I asked a construction worker building the neighboring apartment complex if I could take a few empty pallets, to which he replied ``only if you're making a sick lounge sofa!''. I did, but the wood was too hard on my butt. To make it more comfortable I put a winter duvet and a blanket to protect the duvet on the wood. I decide to lie down to look at the patterns on the ceiling. My mind drifts and I wonder how Ava reached the conclusion that she is trans. Because I don't understand trans people I tried to educate myself in the past three months. On YouTube I stumbled across ContraPoints which I watched and digested, I think I understand her points. But I can't wrap my mind around gender dysphoria. I cannot imagine what it would be like to `feel like a woman'; I don't feel gendered, I am just me.

Feeling has always been something I struggle with. As a child I would go into fits of anger, because anger is an easy emotion. Any feeling would make me cry, and if I couldn't identify what exactly I was feeling it would leave me frustrated and angry. I still struggle to identify my own and other people's emotions. Being empathetic is an active process for me, it does not come naturally or with ease. Due to this I can be perceived as rude and insensitive, it's something I am aware of and very cautious of.

After I cut contact with my mom I finally had room to grow. When I met Roos I had someone I could talk to about my emotions, and I got to know her emotions. She helped me link the physical sensation of an emotion to what emotion that is. One day I asked her what the tight feeling between my heart and belly is. ``Anxiety'', she told me. That cleared up a lot.

Today I am not anxious, I feel great: so far the day has been very introspective, it involved a lot of hanging around and enjoying my thoughts. Did I gain a better understanding of myself? How do I see myself? I imagine the ceiling to be a mirror. What do I expect to see? If I stand up right now and walk to the bathroom mirror, there is an image of my actual self that I will see. It is not the same image of myself that I imagine on the ceiling: I imagine blindingly white skin, deep dark brown hair and brown eyes. A stubble beard with that stupid hole which won't grow shut. The blue shirt I was wearing makes my face look a little rounder. Shockingly, I realized I expect to see a man in the mirror. Does Ava expect to see a woman? What image does she have of herself? If I were her I would hate the sharp edges of my face. My beard would go. I imagine how I would look as a woman. I imagine how I would feel if I expected to see a woman in the mirror, only to be disappointed by a man each time. I sigh. In response Ava asks: ``what's up?''

Workshop II - Storytelling


Abdalla welcomed us at the Niewplaatz. Almost surreal, the class met in person for the first time.

An exercise we did was draw, on a piece of paper folded in six squares, six things of our life on specific dates. After, we all told what they mean and made a story out of it. It was very nice because we got to know each other at high speed. Essentially, I shared a random slice of my life and I received the same from my peers.

Abdalla asked us again to take our six squares and proceeded to tell us an outcome: a suicide. In the first square, we drew a person standing on the edge of the roof of a building. Five other prompts were given sequentially to expand on this situation on which we could build our own story. I found it really difficult because I could not plan how my story goes. The sixth prompt closed the story while at the fifth prompt I did not know where the story would go.

Given our drawings we told each other our story. It was very surprising how diverse the stories were while they still had some unprompted overlap.

Lecture VI - Leiden throughout the Ages

Leiden as a city of refugees

We asked over thirty people the question "Leiden is also called the city of refugees. What does that mean according to you?" But what does that mean in a historical context?

In the seventeenth century the pilgrims who eventually ended up in America spent eleven years in Leiden. This is described in the video from the assignment and summarized on this rather mysterius webpage

What is the modern role of refugees in Leiden? There are refugees like in any other Dutch city. From the interviews it appeared that people don't run into them, I have not met one.

Alice the movie

Alice the Movie is the trailer of Leiden European City of Science. It features shakey camerawork which is attempted to be compensated by too much editing and 'ethnic' music to bring across their diversity prioritizing policy. Because science is for everyone. What were they thinking? "Let's do one of those African polyrithms and then we are worldly!" You can tell that they care for diversity by the non-white main character who is instructed to have a vacant look on her face the entire time. Obviously, she is here to learn from the white scientists. If she isn't on a swing in the church, that is. What an awkward shot. I will point out that a committee probably watched and approved this video.

Unfortunately this whole video is teenenkrommend (welcome!), but I will stop writing about it in such a negative way. I already mentioned the token non-white girl Alice, however let us take note of who she is and what she represents. Alice is 'brown enough' while still being pretty by western standards. Science is for everyone, but there are really only two persons in the video. Alice doesn't have a story, she simply exists. This makes the video not engaging.

Then instead of showing diversity by, for example visiting research groups (the bulk of the group often consisting of internationals), the focus is on the now deceased white men who once did science in Leiden. This video is not about inclusively and accessibility or sharing with the world. It simply contains an empty sentence about diversity and does everything else wrong. This really shows in the lack of closed captions, if they really cared about diversity and accessibility it would have been so easy to add.


The sculpture Vooruit by atelier Van Liesbout depicts a figure running away from a weaving rig. Very topical for Leiden as the city got rich from textile. To me, the piece contrasts this with a figure running away but can't, it is connected to the rig. The dark vibe could represent the living conditions of the people weaving. It invokes emotion in me; disgust, fear and hopelessness. I quite like it for that because I can imagine a worker would feel like that back in those days.

Lecture VIII - Participant Observation & Field Note Taking in urban spaces

An observation on the pedestrian bridge over the Willem de Zwijgerlaan

On April 19, 2021 I carried out an observation at the edge of the Leiden neighbourhood Noorderkwartier, between 15:30-16:30. More specifically, I set up on the bridge over the Willem the Zwijgerlaan, where the Daendelspad and the Zwarte Pad cross. This is a public space with lots of traffic: behind me is a high school and a mosque, right to me is another neighbourhood, left of me is the Willem de Zwijgerlaan and the part of the neighbourhood closest to the singels.

The people passing through look very diverse and from all walks of life: there are high school kids, old people with a helmet on e-bikes, old people on old bikes, young people on a swapfiets and middle aged people on a cargo bike passing by.

A group of high school children bike by, loudly laughing. They are coming from the northern part of Noorderkwartier, maybe from the nearby high school. Sometimes a child bikes by on his own, looking very angry. I got stared at a few times, it made me very uncomfortable. Another man around his twenties bicycles by playing music loudly from his Bluetooth speaker.

I saw a lot less e-bikes than in the rest of Leiden, and if there was an e-bike it was either a delivery person or an old person with a helmet. The bikes I saw were either nice bikes or really beaten up and well used. There were a lot less swapfietsen than I am used to, presumably there are less students (that can pay for a swapfiets) in this area.

As I was taking a picture an older woman with a dog walked up to me to have a chat. She asked me what I am taking a picture of and we briefly talked about the old energy plant and the old building of the PTT. She did not ask what I was doing, so I did not tell her.

A helicopter flew over; I don't know what it was doing.

I noticed that a lot of people are carrying shopping bags or other purchases. I saw a person with a bag from the spar, another with a new grill pan, someone with a bag from Dirk and a man carrying a white bag full of raw meat. Usually they moved from the city center to above the Willem de Zwijgerlaan.

Children and people in their twenties moved through this area running, as they were having a jog. Sometimes older people would cycle by on a racing bike, but they would not necessarily go fast or be dressed to go sporting. One man cycled by in a full suit on a thin-rimmed racing bicycle.

A man around his thirties listening to music passes by on his bicycle singing loudly. I smile at him and he laughs.

I walk around and find a tree on top of the bridge. It is a wishing tree, you can hang a wish in the tree. There is one wish by a young girl.

Workshop III - Implicit Bias

Implicit bias in relation to seahorses

As part of the honours course we followed a workshop on implicit bias, given by Marius van Zandwijk. To prepare we took an implicit bias test and reflected on the results.

Before the workshop

I took the skin tone implicit bias test at https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html. The test consists of words with positive or negative associations and faces with dark and light skin tones. The subsets of both the words and the faces are linked to two keyboard keys, one word and one face subset for each key. A word or face pops up on the screen and the task is to press the key linked to the subset. Then the skin tone subsets are permutated. Supposedly the bias is measured through comparing the number of wrong answers in the test for each permutation.

I also took the race test, which works similarly but with monochromatic pictures of faces of black and white people instead of drawn pictures.

I took the skin tone test twice. The first time I took it I was tired and felt physically bad. I scored a strong implicit bias against dark skin tones. This surprised me, but I felt too bad to give it more thought. Later that day I took it again when I felt better; the test now suggested no automatic preference between dark and light skinned people. This was more in line with my expectations. However I suppose bias is usually something you don't think you have.

The race test I found a lot more difficult, I had a really hard time discerning faces from black and white people. This is no surprise to me, my social environment consists of almost exclusively white people. The way society in the Netherlands is set up there is a bias towards white people. It is not really a surprise to me that the test result was a moderate preference to white people. This result makes me very uncomfortable though. I feel like I did something wrong and now am a bad person. I do want to add that my concentration slipped halfway and I feel like that skewed the test result, though I realize it sounds like I am making up `excuses'. In general, this was very uncomfortable.

I think the test can be very useful as a tool to expose bias, during the test I found myself questioning the associations I have. It is in my opinion a clever way to expose bias. Coming from a physics background I like to measure and make things quantifiable as much as possible. However, measuring unitless quantities is a difficult thing. For example, who decided the score associated with the discrete levels at the result and for what reason? The result might be quantifiable, but how can we be certain it is an appropriate measure? Is there a relation with other bias scores, and are they even directly comparable?

After the workshop

The workshop had us drawing seahorses without being allowed to look up how a seahorse looks. This was in a group of about 15 people. First we quickly drew a seahorse, then another one with some more care. We compared our seahorses and of course, they were very different. Some had fins, some had things sticking out of its head, some had scales. Does the curly bit go forwards or backwards? Mine had a crown on its head because I felt like there is something there but I did not know what. After looking at eachother's drawings we drew another seahorse. We repeated this once more, ending up with four drawings.

Together we formed a hivemind and drew a pretty decent seahorse, all of them a side view. How does a seahorse even look from the front? But we also drew a stereotype of a seahorse, in some sense. We formed an opinion without asking the seahorse.

Using a seahorse to discuss the notion of stereotyping and biases depoliticises the discussion. This makes it a lot easier to talk about without heavy emotions mixing into it. For this group it worked, there was an open discussion and nobody felt attacked. Compare this to the test: it feels like you're taking a test that will judge how racist (a terrible person) you are.

I tried this exercise with some (physicist) friends too. They made the implicit bias test and reflected on this, then we did the seahorse exercise. They ended up liking the implicit bias test over the seahorse exercise more, because the seahorses were too far removed from the goal of the exercise. They took the result of the test a lot less personal and properly reflected on their result, it was very effective on them.

Lecture IX - Street Interviews

Interview 1

I conducted these interviews in the inner city of Leiden. After getting a coffee and walking around a little I started looking for people to interview. To me it seems like I would want to interview people who are either waiting or just enjoying the weather and who are alone. The first few people that fit this description I did not approach. Finally I mustered up the courage to do it and I approached an older lady who was just done eating a loempia in front of the Hoogvliet.

To summarize the interview, she feels at home when she is comfortable and has no cares. The people around her accept her. She lives in a hofje in the inner city of Leiden and has a social bubble of 9 other women at the hofje. She likes where she lives and wants to stay there, just as she has lived in Leiden for all her life. In particular what is great about the inner city of Leiden is that everything is close and she can go to the shops, out for dinner, etc. The interview was more like a pleasant conversation than an interview, though I had to steer back to the questions I needed to ask. She opened up a lot to me and told me her family had gotten covid and are struggling to get back to full health. She did not explicitly mention a partner but she did mention kids and that she lives alone. Sometimes I felt uncomfortable and unsure of how to respond.

Interview 2

I found my next subject not far from the first, on the other side of the park I spotted a student playing with his phone

The interview with him was a lot faster paced and ‘efficient’ as he had limited time. He lives on Flanorpad, so did I for the first two years of my studies. That was a connecting point for us.

He explained to me that he feels at home at Flanorpad but not in the neighbourhood because there is a divide between the two. While cycling to the shops he feels as if he goes “through [the neighbourhood] as a tourist” (translated from Dutch). He feels like he can’t be rowdy in a neighbourhood that he describes as full of young couples.

I really liked this interview because it was to the point. After the first I was surprised at how fast it was over. I connected more with him and had an easier time talking with him rather than to him and him to me.

Interview 3

After the interview I continued my stroll towards the Kamerlingh Onnes building. Behind the building there is a row of houses and I stumbled upon a woman watering the many plants in front of her house. She did not consent to having a picture taken. She looked like a later-part of middle-aged white woman and was very talkative.

Having lived in Leiden for most of her life she feels very at home. That means to her a sense of commuity and feeling comfortable with the people around her. To her the neighbourhood feels like a lot of communities mix and the highly educated population enhances social cohesion in her view.

This interview I found by far the most difficult because I did not agree with her views. I found her to be very prejudiced and nit-picky. I did not want to go against some of these opinions because I wanted to hear her opinion, I think the deep listening workshop paid off.

Lecture XI - Art & social transformation

Theory and practice of social transformation through art

The story Abdalla told us about his work in a village near Alexandria is just amazing and a beautiful example of social transformation through art in practice. But why does this work? This is what Jasper Visser talked about and I found that to be by far more interesting. I also think that this course failed to take his lessons home.

It was a beautiful day so I went on a bike ride. When I stopped to change my music I noticed I had an email from Maartje: why was I not at the lecture? Oops, I thought it was tomorrow. On the bike I enjoyed the last half of the lecture which I found to be most interesting by far. Jasper Visser talked about the role of museums in the art world and how art can be a representation of a community.

The main point I took from his lecture is how museums in the traditional sense are being replaced by new initiatives. Initiatives that are delocalized, dynamic and not so dusty. People are having a hard time calling them a museum. Why do they inspire social change? Because they stand much closer to the community. Out with the top down approach of the Rijksmuseum telling you that van Gogh makes pretty paintings and in with a bunch of graffiti pieces scattered throughout a neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Because the community decides. If they don't like a piece they can vandalize it. They can add a piece. These initiatives attract artists to create new art in these locations. These organizations involved closely with the community and often coming from the community are a powerful tool to instill change.

If you allow me to grossly oversimplify it all really boils down to participative initiatives. And in this respect I really think we failed as a group. From the neighbourhood we took interviews, observations, inspiration and pictures. We made the art, of- and about the neighbourhood. Then we walked through the neighbourhood, with each other instead of the people who live there. We did not involve them in our artistic outing, we merely forced it upon them by walking through their space. All while patting each other on the back: well done.

Yes, this is difficult to do in the middle of a pandemic. Then maybe we should not have invited friends, but interviewees instead. Because for who are we making art? Us? Or are we making art to inspire change in the neighbourhood, we do it for the people who live there. Let's involve them next time. Let them interact with the art. There is a philosophy in web design called 'mobile first' where you make sure your page works and looks nice on small screens, the place where most people will interact with it. If it happens to work on a large screen then that is even better. I think this is how we should have approached House of Misconceptions 1.0: neighbourhood first. Bottom up. Grassroots.

We still have a lot to learn.

My experience doing fieldwork and making art

Course reflection

I think following this course sparked a lot of personal growth. I was dragged outside of my comfort zone and I am very happy about it, this is exactly why I applied for it. One of the things I learned is the value of qualitative research. I won't go into depth about it here because my blog is already about it.

Doing fieldwork

I really disliked doing the observations, I probably missed the point of them and I feel like that ties into my still slightly skeptical stance on examples. Maybe there was not a lot happening at spots I choose but it was just rather uneventful. In part due to covid, in part due to the limited nature of the spaces in the neighbourhood, there were not many interactions.

The interviews however, woah. I really enjoyed doing them. The chats with so many different people were really lovely. I noticed that people were thirsty for smalltalk in these times. We got recognized by people in the neighbourhood, whenever they saw us they would wave. This is all definitely thanks to the amazing people I was teamed up with: Carlota and Karolijn. I feel like we really balanced each other out: where I was too mellow they would make sure things happened and when they were stressing out I could place things in a less terrifying perspective. I think we also benefited from my gender during the street interviews. For example the first interview I did was with an old, rather sexist man. He kept making jokes about Carlota and Karolijn, at one point even suggesting one of them joins him since "I had two already." Though that was not a great interaction, the other ones were all positive. Each interviewee was special in their own way and the individual really stands out to me. I could tell a short story about every person I talked to. This diversity and uniqueness of the individuals was something I did not expect at first.

Artistic outing

Another thing I discovered is how much I like taking pictures. This ended up being my artistic outing and it still had so much potential to be better. The sad fact is that past semester has been very difficult for me due to covid. Intrinsic motivation only takes me so far, after a year and a half it had run out. At least for physics. This course offered something different to break the slur of waking up and sitting in front of a computer for ten hours every day. In the beginning I was very happy to break the slur with something other than physics. In the end I was very happy to go outside and talk to people by doing the interviews. They gave me so much energy as well as inspiration. I talked to Sufyan and Ali in their garden, I was invited inside by a student who was sitting in her window (she ended up being a new person in the house of a dear friend, I only realized that I knew the house when she opened the front door).

Fueled by this energy I went out and took so many pictures of people, animals, streets, nature... Anything in Noorderkwartier and outside really. People living in Noorderkwartier hang out in the Kooipark and the Huigpark so I went there. I really enjoyed the process, what was holding me back is the stress experienced from my other courses that I could hardly put myself to do. Because I would have liked to make it more participative. For instance place my pictures in a park and talk to people about them, take pictures of their reaction.

I just did not have the time and mental space to do it. That's fine.

The artistic outing was in some sense participative, just not with the neighbourhood. An aspect one needs to be wary of is vandalism though. Questions are asked to the audience and their answers were to be written on the artworks. This opens up a path of people thinking they are funny and writing down an inside joke or flat out mean spirited things. It happened in a very limited and light hearted way in House of Misconceptions 1.0 but it is definitely possible to happen in a worse way in the future. But maybe this should be taken for granted or perhaps as a sign that our initiative is unwanted, if it is heavily vandalized.