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PCA Students participate in (de)escalation room

(De)esculation Room Story Objects

The Context

PCA faculty Alexis Niki ran a (de)escalation room prototype workshop in a Master’s level course on storytelling at PCA. The 9 students who participated are studying Photography & Image-making, Fashion Film & Photography, Interior Design, and Transdisciplinary New Media and Fine Arts. They are from 7 different countries (the US, Poland, Mexico, Venezuela, India, Pakistan, Syria).

The Experience

The experience as outlined in the guidelines worked smoothly and students could easily follow all the steps from the individual stories to the collective work.  They enjoyed developing their own stories as well as collaborating with each other and sharing ideas. Several said that the process of writing a tweet, creating an object, then returning to their stories with the task of looking for opportunities for de-escalation was helpful. It gave them perspective and they felt better about a situation that had previously caused them regret.

Despite having had a positive experience, the students were not sure which direction the prototype was heading. Alexis assured them that their confusion was perfectly normal at that stage of development. The students better understood the potential impact of the (de)escalation room after they were asked to imagine their worst escalating situations in high school, and then to imagine young people who face that level of escalation every day going through the experience.

In the beginning of the experience, their stories could be kept private. Alexis explained the reasoning behind this, as well as the logic of switching between the personal and collective stories at different times throughout the workshop. While it can feel like we’re losing the opportunity for a lively discussion that might come about through the sharing of the personal stories, there is a sense of power in not sharing the students personal stories—or at least not early on in the experience. It allowed for the catharsis that a few of the students experienced on an individual level. And they ended up discussing the process they went through rather than the details of their escalating situations.

The Stories

Storytelling Students

The Selfie That Destroyed The World

Team: Lizeth Villalobos, Hela Al Sharkas, Marta Gawronska

A demon caught in the Upside Down World wanted to escape from that world into ours. But he needed an electrical reaction to open the gate of the Upside Down World so he could get out. One day, a naive guy was taking selfies in the ocean. He dropped his phone in the sea, and it just so happened to be in an area where there was a lot of pollution. This guy was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his selfie set off an electrochemical chain reaction that blasted the gates of the Upside Down World open, allowing the demon to escape. The demon needed a physical body, so he possessed an octopus. The octopus grew and grew and enveloped the whole world with its ever-expanding arms of anger and fear. Religious leaders tried to exorcise the demon from the octopus, but they relied too much on hope and faith and weren’t taking concrete action. With no effective counterpoint to the demon, the demon destroyed the world, crushing it in its hateful embrace.

The de-escalation points:

  • People could stop being so self-involved or could be more cautious when taking selfies.
  • We could become more responsible about the environment and stop polluting
  • We should stop pinning our hopes on faith and wishful thinking and instead work to find real solutions.
Storytelling Students

Drunk at the Music Festival

Team: Paulina Garcia, Scott Kelly, Umar Nadeem

There was this music festival that was in space and UFO-themed. It had a lot of flashing lights, a lot of people, and booming music. It was very disorienting, and our main character decided to drink a little too much. After getting completely blotto, he and his friends entered the maze that led to the main stage, joining the masses of people dancing to the music. In the crush, our drunken protagonist lost his phone. He and his friends spent many hours searching for the phone, but it proved impossible with all the music, flashing lights, and revelers. It wasn’t until the next morning, after the crowd had dissipated and moved away from the main stage, that they were able to use “Find My iPhone” to locate it. After all that effort, and after having missed out on the music festival, our protagonist and his friends were devastated to see that somebody had stomped on the iPhone and broken its screen.

The de-escalation points:

  • The protagonist could have not gotten so drunk
  • The protagonist could have left his phone at home or put it in a locker provided by the festival
The Dangers of Not Listening

The Dangers of Not Listening

Team: Sahil Lodha, Katelyn Bennett, Samarah Fenelus

A house that was supposed to be cursed stood empty for a long time. But finally, a little girl moved in with her parents, who didn’t believe in curses. One day, the girl was unsupervised, and she found an old broom lying around. Soon after, a bunch of strange things began happening. Then the family met another small child. The little girl tried to tell her parents that the other child was a ghost and was haunting the house, but her disbelieving parents dismissed her. They thought their daughter was making it up so they ignored her. But then a witch came to the house and kidnapped the whole family. The parents were so deep in their denial that they decided their daughter had schizophrenia and had imagined the whole thing, including the kidnapping. They ended up sending their daughter to the insane asylum. But as it turns out, the witch had put a spell on the parents to cause them to think that their daughter had been inventing things.

The de-escalation points:

  • The parents could have been less certain about being right all the time.
  • The parents could have supervised their daughter in this new environment.
  • The parents could have listened to their daughter. They could have communicated with her differently and better. Perhaps they could have worked together as a family and found a way to turn the haunted house into a warm and loving home.