This year has been plenty, plenty of work, dancing, friendships, and frankly, exhaustion.
I do take my time in December to slow down, unwind, and reflect on the year that has been. But this year, December was a frenzy with crazy new tasks, responsibilities, family visits, etc. While it means a life lived full, it also means delaying the reflection, rumination, and planning for hopes for this year a bit.
To keep up the ritual to draw the lines around ebbs and flows, here is a note.
On bridging Science and communities
In the past year, I was able to work on two important projects. Hoping to build on them further this year.
It is an exploration of what is the public’s relationship with science. It was born out of reading of ‘Why trust Science?’ By Naomi Oreskes during the pandemic, and a chance meeting with a now friend and collaborator, Debanshu Bhaumik.
In the pilot, we explored the perception of science that people outside and inside of science have in terms of its potential, role in deciding the future, and more. We did this using data visualisation, interactive data collection, and interactive storytelling. We presented this pilot at the India Science Festival in Hyderabad last year. We got some good feedback on our work that will allow us to make the work richer in the future.
While there was a huge mismatch between the audience we expected and the audience we got, it was still a great place to learn and share.
We also asked scientists at YIM, IIT Gandhinagar to share their ideas and preferences on a mural to understand what kind of resources and references that community relies on.
Later in the year, we presented a part of the work at the Curiosity Conference where the work was well engaged with and well received. We got great feedback on how the audience was provoked to think about important questions not under the limelight.
Fistful of mud
It is an attempt to bridge science and the public by bringing scientific inquiry to our backyards and public spaces. It started with an afternoon lunch conversation and has morphed into its being. With a group of students at Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology, we created a space for the exploration of these ideas, where the students took the imagination and scope of this project further.
We started the project by going on nature walks, organizing nature walks, and then thought of ways to enrich that experience with self-guided exploration, play, competition, storytelling, and debate. There was a whole lot of joy, surprises, learning, and setbacks throughout the project. It in all felt like life lived well, and work done well.
Both these projects also helped me realise that I am more interested in direct engagement with audiences, and want to do work that is beyond content creation.
Some of our work also got featured in the newspaper! Here is the link.
We also presented some of the student work at Curiosity Conference which was also very well received, particularly by educators in the crowd.
Scientists and Drawing
In a pursuit to rediscover drawing as an idea generation tool among scientists, I have been doing some work. In a first, I shared these ideas with scientists at YIM organized by IndiaBioscience in the past year. In this interactive talk, there was a lot of interaction and drawing, which led to loads of laughter and learning. Ankita Rathore from IndiaBioscience documented it here.
Inspired by the drawings made in these workshops, I also made a zine with a compilation of imaginary beings.
I followed up this talk with a workshop at the Curiosity conference at IIT Gandhinagar, where I used multiple ways of prompt generation to build stories and to ask questions. While the prompts were not limited to science, it has the potential to drive scientific idea generation in a focused manner. I look forward to experimenting with it this year.
On ‘Zine-ing’ Science
I made a few new ones that were about experimentation with materials. With Sofy, we attempted to make circuits on zines with a carbon-based pigment. We shared our techniques and tricks with a writing school cohort led by Jamie Barber for Science Gallery.
I also made some zines using transparency sheets, scanning experiments, paper pop-ups, and book forms. It resulted in some zines around cellular layers, knowledge generations, and plant form. Hoping to push on these experiments this year.
On teaching and sharing
This year, besides the fistful of mud, I also facilitated two other courses at my workplace. One of them is around plant ecologies and evolution is documented here.
The other course around information visualization also panned out well. We discovered many aspects of the subject matter together through conversations, debates, tricks, and assignments. We tried many little things from drawing imaginary processes, to understanding perceptions of a class, to making data-based performances and graphs made out of shadows, clothes, or water and ice.
I found a lot of joy in teaching this past year, a revelation.
I also got the opportunity to mentor two students from IISER Pune as part of IISER Pune’s collaboration with SJAI. You can read about the program and project here. Eagerly awaiting the finish pf the project to share the work with you. We are working on a sensitive subject matter where science and human emotions stand divided. Trying to work on something like this allowed for good discussions on whether one is neutral as a science communicator, and if yes, where to hold it in and where to share it with no holds barred.
Continuing with habits, I took a module for scicomm course at IISER Mohali on information visualisation and visual storytelling in science. It is always nourishing to be there, with students and faculty. Hoping for richer interactions like this.
I also shared about science communication and science visualization with students at the Summer School of Women at ICTS and Xavier College, Mumbai. Divya from Azim Premji University and I also recorded a session on Science and Art for an NPTEL course on iThinkBio. I also delivered two workshops on graphic design and illustration for scientists at inStem and LVPEI. The participant enthusiasm and persistence in these workshops were remarkable.
On growing as a human
As this was a year of exhaustion, physical and emotional, the focus on self was limited. I did begin to re-learn tango, which is going well.
I also contributed to projects made by some friends, making space for laughter and joy. I hope to make pay more attention to the communities I have built and nurture them.
I hope to pay more attention to self-care and well-being this year.
Cheers, and A very Happy New Year!