Feature Researcher: interview with Dr Jaz Hee-jeong Choi

December 10, 2018

Dr Jaz Hee-jeong Choi is a Vice-Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow in the Digital Ethnography Research Centre. She is an advocate for transdisciplinary research, carefully balancing creativity and criticality. Her approach to urban sustainability recognises ‘play’ as the core of transformative interactions in cities as complex techno-social networks. She builds on this to explore how various forms of digital and playful experiences are designed and evolve in different cultural contexts.

What are you currently looking at in your research?

I joined DERC in March this year, so I’m relatively new here. Prior to this, I was directing the QUT Urban Informatics Research Lab, a transdisciplinary cluster working at the intersection of people, places, and technologies. I came to RMIT to focus on care-full design. Here, ‘care’ refers to not only particular health and social domains, but rather, questioning how we might research, and engage with and for care in recognition of the interconnectedness of, well, everything that we’re looking at. It helps us do better applied research, problematising and moving beyond quick-n-dirty methods, often accompanied by conspicuous productivity/creativity (joking about post-its and legos while still using them like unquestionable tools is getting tiring). It matters what kind of questions we ask, but also what kinds of spaces and tools, even textures of materials, we use when we’re working with people who have traumatic experiences, for example. Care-full approaches help us better collaborate, and navigate the messiness of everyday life, and make informed and mindful design decisions, together. This also makes the process really reflexive not just within myself or the research team but with participants and anyone who may have a stake in the futures we’re creating with our research. It matters because my work often involves (co-)creating cyber-physical systems, services, and spaces, and because I often work with underserved communities, including young people with refugee backgrounds, those experiencing homelessness. Specific areas I’m looking at include co-designing around health and wellbeing especially of, and playful engagements with those who are living and dying alone in increasingly connected cities.

What have you been doing or making that addresses your research question?

As part of a project with social housing tenants, Storycards were created. The project involved the development of a creative kit to engage people currently residing in social housing with an aim to 1) Provide accessible and meaningful way for tenants’ voices to be heard, and; 2) Encourage participants to reflect on what participation means to them, their experiences of living in community, as well as needs and aspirations for future change. Based on the key insights, especially the different challenges we might face in articulating needs and desires of community, we created a series of StoryCards, depicting a variety of potential experiences. These may be used as visual prompts for individual reflection, to guide group discussions, encourage dialogues and spark curiosity around community living, or simply as postcards. They can be viewed and downloaded here. So play away and share how you made them yours!