Using Creativity to Connect

It’s easy to think about how anthropology can help artists and other creative professionals create more meaningful connections with their audiences. But what exactly can creativity do for anthropology? That’s what Jeff Hall, Elizabeth Gin, and An Xiao Mina explored with their storytelling project with young homeless people in Los Angeles.

They helped the youth to create a timeline of events that occurred in their lives. By working in this format, the team hoped that the youth would able to express themselves in a new light, and not just repeat the same story they’ve told to multiple adults in the past.

Each timeline initially contained three types of cards. The first type of card held a milestone, which were the biggest plot points in their lives. The second type was a memento, which was an important event, but not quite as influential as a milestone. The third type of card was a memory, which were moments that weren’t influential, but were nonetheless remembered. Finally, the youth did not want to present their life stories as a completed work, so they later added a fourth type of card, which was a milestone for the future.

They created a feedback system in which the youth could receive critique on their timelines in a safe and constructive environments. After all the timelines were completed, the youth wrote their stories out and worked together to combine them in a group presentation.

In the future, Hall, Gin, and Mina noted several areas where they’d like to improve their project- they’d like to make the final presentation a little more interactive, as well as explore other formats for the timeline itself, such as hosting it online or writing it on pocket-sized cards. Overall, though, they think their project was widely successful, and are releasing it under a Creative Commons license.