Jenna Witzleben

MFA Thesis Blog

This blog contains experiments, project and reading reflections, unanswered questions, and more relating to my year-long thesis as part of my Master's design program. From Sept. 2016 to May 2017, I explored rewilding human beings and the environments we inhabit at multiple scales including investigation around individual fears of nature, regional food production systems, and global overpopulation. The final works of this thesis can be found in my portfolio.

Going Wild: a thesis co-creation workshop

On Sat. Oct 22 I held my thesis co-creation workshop entitled "Going Wild".

The majority of current literature around rewilding focuses on the environmental and ecological changes that would be part of a rewilded future. But in order to convince a larger majority of humans that a rewilded future is not only necessary but desirable, we need to start imagining the cultural and social elements of this future. This goal formed the basis of my co-creation workshop. I wanted to understand what people would do for entertainment and leisure in a rewilded world.

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In order to make this futuring exercise more accessible for my participants, I used the framing and visual language of "birthday planning" - inviting guests of my workshop to plan their birthday party in a wilder future. First they were given a cupcake with two scenarios to provide some context for their rewilded future (i.e. rain water collection is legalized and 60% of NYC is depaved). Then, using these scenarios as guides, they were asked to fill out a birthday invitation card planning out the activity, location, and menu for their future birthday party. Attendees with additional time were asked to sketch out birthday wish lists and create party favors. 

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The primary workshop took place in Central Park. However it was a rainy day, and I inadvertently chose a touristic photo spot. The people there just wanted to get in, get their photos, and move on. So I was having difficulty recruiting participants. I shifted and went back indoors, turning my workshop into a mobile interaction and going "door-to-door" within the SVA building. If I were to do this again I would choose a park area with more NYC residents.

The learnings from this workshop were varied. It was interesting to see how few methods of preparation people imagined for green leafy vegetables - everyone just wanted to make salads. Additionally, questions around American food identity started to emerge. What actually is American food? Can we arrive at a more defined and beloved food culture and identity through the restructuring of food production?

Jenna Witzleben