« Sabbatical project: Critical Toys | Main | Whole (new) Mind: reflections upon reading Daniel Pink's book »

November 10, 2008

Sabbatical project: Critical Toys - progress report

I've engaged in a vigorous reading program during the months of September and October, trying to see the shapes of the terrain(s) of the contemporary toy industry, the (sub)set of designers making toys, (new) material research, and (new) production methods. I've created a private Twine to record what I've seen so far. I've also set up a public Twine on the subject of Humane Games and continue to contribute to several others – most notably the one set up by Dolores Reig to aggregate information about Online Communities of Practice.

My family and I are organizing a working family retreat to Costa Rica. We have committed to spend six months in relative otherness there. We will hope to create an environment of renewal for me, and one of adventure for our kids. We are pursuing a desert island strategy that is enforced by recent airlines baggage and weight restrictions. It is a "working" retreat, and so we will take our laptops and one large hard disk.

We are limited also by budget. We have the standard academic deal on sabbatical, to get the freedom of time I am receiving half of my normal salary. We have sold one of our cars to help "capitalize" the trip, and will likely sell the other before we leave. We have found a tenant to sublease our home – furnished. We will rely on public transportation once in country, and for a time upon our return. We will find a place to live in the first week of our expedition. We have the comfort of staging the first week in San Jose at my mother-in-law's home. She has some concerns for our security, which we hope to allay.

The desert island strategy means that any new prototype critical toys that I create will have to be rendered by hand. I won't be able to carry my 3D printer/plotter with me.

I will continue to play in Scratch, and expand my play with Processing. I've committed to teaching a weeklong workshop at Anderson Ranch in August of 2009, and I'm preparing already. I will also work in Greenfoot. Fortunately, these threads can be brought together on my laptop, and so I can make progress so long as there is electricity and an internet connection.

Ah! Yes! The twist on the desert island is that we will need to remain connected. My wife will continue her work, writing and editing textbooks to teach Spanish in the US at all grade levels. My sons are making arrangements to contribute to their classrooms in Denver via VOIP, even as they make new friends at a school in Costa Rica. It's not quite Robinson Crusoe. I suspect that I will have MacGyver moments as we try to "make do without" one thing or another.

Posted by SWEAT at November 10, 2008 10:10 AM