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 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.