Research in refugee areas

Year2016 – 2017
LocationLebanon, Uganda
As researcher forButterfly Works
Collaboration Butterfly Works, War Child Holland
Aboutrefugees, education, children, belonging
Methodsphoto observation (6)
social mapping (16)
communication mapping (8)
collaborative storytelling (6
visual mapping (87)

Can’t wait to learn is an education game for refugee children to continue with maths and literacy also when they are not in school. The game environment and the gameplay asked for extensive research into the lived experiences of the young children. The world they see in the game needs to feel like their own, it needs to feel safe while at the same time exciting and different. With Butterfly Works and for War Child, I did photo observations and mapping activities with children in Lebanon and Uganda to understand their daily life, lived experiences and their idea of joy, fun, play and learning. The different research activities together resulted in insights and recommendations for the game world.

Social mapping

The social mapping, in which kids drew their social environment in circles of closeness, gave a concrete idea of what their day to day life looks like, who they interact with and how they feel about that. It gives an idea of who they share their lives with. It helps us to understand in what kind of social setting we should place the game.

Collaborative storytelling

In small groups we asked the kids to create a typical friend. What does he/she look like, why is this your friend, what do you do together? We told them ‘together with the friend you can go on an adventure. Where do you go, what do you do?’ It is a story written and drawn together, to understand their idea of play, friends and adventure. It is a direct inspiration for the game story and game characters.

Visual mapping

To get a sense of the children’s visual culture, we presented children with a set of images and asked for their favourite. It helps to understand the drawing style and the kind of images they feel comfortable with and excited by. With enough visual maps I was able to report on differences in age, gender and background.

Photo observations

Photo observations showed the different layers of daily life. It is an exercise in seeing before thinking; taking photos before consciously registering what I’m taking a photo of. On the basis of hundreds of images I searched for patterns; what defines life in these areas. The different patterns give an outsider perspective from the inside out.

Communication mapping

The communication maps are tools that we used while interviewing parents. Parents place the communication means in circles of closeness, representing which ways of communicating they use most often. We discussed what they use them for and with whom. It gives deep insight into people’s worries, daily thoughts, daily interactions and how people receive information.