What do you do, with these limitations given to you?
It’s a question we’ve been variously asking ourselves these past weeks. There is no right answer. Not King Lear, not sourdough. But isn’t it interesting to notice where we go?
I went to a hackathon in week two of Level Four, I think it was, but pick a number, in these numbered times. I went because something I read said community and connection and because I was missing that and because I was scared to, so I did. A hackathon is a thing where you tech together to create solutions. You have 48 hours to #HacktheCrisis. No pressure. Actually, lots of pressure. Time pressure. Confusion. What was I doing? I rumbled around in a #general zone until I found myself in a team of eight, six of us at our first hackathon, hacking the heck out of an idea that made my heart sing.
What do you do, with these limitations given to you? That was the question we asked ourselves, and then we set out to find a solution. We were already aware that there are older adults in New Zealand experiencing the long stretch of l o n e l y. Twenty percent, or more, according to the latest pre-Covid stats. And what is it, we asked ourselves, that these people most often use to connect with other people?
A landline. A phone line. A lifeline, maybe. It’s felt like that for me at times.
Also, primary schoolers. Young children. One of our team thought about her mum writing lessons for her classes, and the idea of DrawThis! was born.
This is the explainer pitch we presented for the 48-hour hackathon (forgive us the rough exuberance, we were a team of eight who had never met, running on adrenalin in our own little echo chamber):
The older person is asked to come up with an audio description. This initial contact with the DrawThis! team gives them a human connection and a responsibility. Parents and teachers can direct their kids to DrawThis!, which occupies the kids and helps to engage more users of Draw This!. The child has fun attempting to draw what they hear being described, and likes being able to send it back. The collaborative activity provides purpose and fun to the older and younger generation, reducing feelings of loneliness and worry.
We wanted to show that the idea actually worked. And, well, sparked joy. It was an ambitious ask for a weekend. And yet. While I messed around with words, the team built an actual website. We had a lean canvas (which is basically like a sourdough starter but for hackathons). We had coffee. And we had intergenerational contacts. And then … the first description came in. And more descriptions. And a drawing. And then more.
And although I was there for the words, I don’t have the words for the feels I got listening to these descriptions, looking at the pictures. What did they do, these people, with their current, physical, bubbling limitations? They told a story, they took the time, they made some honest art.
And how did we do that, hack the connections? I’m still not a hundy sure but I’m happy to be a part of this. In my own isolation, I have had highlight days where I’ve been a ‘connector’ – calling people and talking about their stories (and everything else besides), then calling them back to record them describing their chosen scene. I like it when it takes more than one call. I like this taking of time.
What will we do without these limitations?
The thing is, they were there before, the limitations. They’re going to be there for more than a while. Almost 80 percent of us are worried about loneliness for our families. Limitations are like sourdough starters, they’re so everywhere right now. And, although descriptions and drawings are not going to fix the world, I hope I remember, in times to come, how joyful this is, this different economy, this connection of memories to pictures to happy feels.
Liz Breslin writes and edits things, and works in events and as a students-in-the-community co-ordinator. She lives in the Upper Clutha, South Island, New Zealand. Read more by Liz Breslin on Corpus here.
- Arthur Evstifeev: software developer from Christchurch. He has been doing programming for over a decade and likes to tinker on small applications for himself and contribute to various open source projects, as well as hiking, playing computer games, reading and gardening.
- Brandon Kwong: moved to Wellington from Canada in 2018 and works in infrastructure advisory. He stumbled into the startup community through his first Kiwi friend (and Airbnb host) and hasn’t looked back.
- Harsh S Garcha: has worked in the banking sector and agile startups and is currently living in Mighty Waikato and working in Local Government.
- Yu-ching Lee: junior UX designer and ex-pastry chef, based in Wellington.
- Ruth Martin: environmental protection researcher. She moved to Wellington from the UK six months ago after completing a social innovation fellowship.
- Holly Grover: digital producer & experience designer. In her spare time she likes to play football, dance, and get out in the refreshing Wellington wind.
- Medha Bandari: a Year 9 student at Mt Albert Grammar School in Auckland. She makes videos out of her tech learning on her channel @nztechgirl.