I have always loved the poem Warning, read here by its author Jenny Joseph.

When I started thinking about the design of this square, in my mind was my experience as an IT Buddy at my local library helping, generally older (like myself), people to access the Internet via their phones, laptops and Library computers. I have observed their different experiences, some of which I presented at #OER19 .  In the context of digital technologies, those with ipads and home wifi often have a very different voluntary digital experience from those who have had to travel to a library to satisfy some local or national bureaucracy that they used to do by post or telephone that has now “gone digital”, <link to blog post from my OER19 presentation>.

I wanted to contrast the submissive way older people are expected to conduct transactions online for the convenience of bureaucracies and megacorps, with their capacity for fun, resistance and independence of views.  My handicraft group are having real fun with their Whatsapp group, sharing their crafting whilst staying at home but some may have little idea of what’s happening to their personal data. Do any of us know that absolutely?

I have witnessed older people being exposed to messy assemblages of inadequate digital infrastructures, poorly designed cheap tablets and public wifi scouring their data. And family members can get a bit impatient with their older relative’s capacity to navigate the mess presented by the tablet given as a Christmas present that was supposed to fix everything.

As the quilt project grew and consumed my time, I hadn’t got back to my early ideas of making a square based on Warning, partially because of my lack of confidence in drawing. 10 days before the FemedtechQuilt Stitching Day when all the squares would be assembled, I was at an Embroiderers’ Guild stitching meetup and I took the opportunity to seek advice on composing the image. I spoke with a dear friend Margaret, an ex-Art teacher and independent-minded woman in her eighties. I told her what I hoped to achieve and she helped me by sketching a composition that really made sense of the concept.

Sketch of Warning Design

Warning Design

In honour of the SPLOT that powers our digital quilt, I used a piece of calico that had splots of paint that had dripped off an experiment in washing calico with paint. I transferred Margaret’s design from her sketch to a 7 inch square of the calico. I cut an applique coat from my trademark purple mohair tweed coat (recently worn out), a hat from red velvet and a flower from a scrap of Liberty Tana lawn. The next morning, I brought the assembled materials to my art class and made progress in stitching it, with free-motion embroidery and appliqué. My favourite part (this may gross you out) was making the hair from my own hair, securing it with a film of water-soluble stabiliser, stitched on then dissolved. A week later, the day before the Stitching Day, the square was still unfinished, and I realised that it was in danger of being left out and I’d be sorry at the missed opportunity. So, I dropped everything else and finished it. I wanted my statement to be included. One of the last things to do was the earrings made from beads.

I think I was learning a lesson in self-care that can help see me through the difficult times we now live in.

I said in the video I played in The FemEdTech Quilt OER20 session (details at http://bit.ly/quiltfutures )

My learning takeaway is that a collective piece of work like a quilt requires a degree of trust between those who work in different stages of creation and assembly of an imperfectly beautiful or beautifully imperfect artefact.

The stories here at http://quilt.femedtech.net reveal the complex process of creation, often collaboratively and in social settings, of squares and then quilts.

I recently discovered that though Jenny is reading the poem in the video in her old age, she actually wrote it when she was 29. She was anticipating and framing the old age she wished for and thinking about how she could start that when she was young.  I am offering you my square and my story as a counter-narrative to older people as passive consumers of technology, passive victims of COVID-19 and a general drain on resources. They still have much to offer and know how to have fun in different ways.

This post is dedicated to Margaret for her lovely design, Alan Levine for his SPLOTtery and general awesomeness, and to Anne-Marie Scott for putting together this site with skillz I can only imagine.

Shared by: @francesbell
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