The first section of this essay presents a decade long exploration of implementing a liberal arts approach to interactive design pedagogy. College students in recent decades have been shunning liberal arts and the decreasing number of undergraduates pursuing bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts has led to the weakening of liberal arts in Undergraduate General Education curriculum. As academic prioritization promotes more job-oriented disciplines, this known practice of integrating liberal arts component into technological-focused courses was applied to help fill the gap. Furthermore, it was in this teaching experience that I, a design educator, also became educated through persistent learning and searching for wisdom. Not only does this gradual intellectual transformation helped my students to reach better learning outcomes, but also inspired me to embark on an unexpected journey of creating two award-winning projects—Jiang Jian and Cradlr—involving interactive design and research. The second section consists of case studies of the two interconnected projects completed during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. On the one hand, it unveils the forgotten story of an extraordinary woman Jiang Jian—the “Chinese Nightingale” and the “Mother of Wounded Warriors and Refugee Children”—who passed away at age 38 during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Through her evocative story, the project sheds light upon the Mothers’ Movement in China—a women’s movement rescued and educated 30,000 refugee children during the war. On the other hand, it presents the rationale, implementation, social and cultural influences, and historical background of Cradlr: A Design Project for Refugee Children, a human-centered digital network concept designed to keep displaced children—the most vulnerable group who doesn’t have cell phones—connected with their families, resources, and heritage. In search of a humanitarian solution for a complex social challenge, Cradlr was inspired by the Mothers’ Movement and European countries during World War II. It envisions a global network preserving a collective memory that might help displaced children to overcome many adversities and receive more love and brighter futures.
Jing Zhou is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, researcher, and professor in the US. She works at the intersection of visual communication design, interactive media, data visualization, and animation/video. Her work has been shown and collected internationally including: Triennale Design Museum, Milan; British Computer Society, London; Asian Cultural Center, New York City; SIGGRAPH Art Gallery; ISEA; IEEE GEM; CAA; Ars Electronica .ART Global Gallery; Les Abattoirs Museum, France; Mons Memorial Museum, Belgium; Royal Institution of Australia; Danish Poster Museum; Golden Turtle Festival, Russia; GAMeC Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery, Italy; Athens Digital Art Festival, Greece; Taksim Republic Art Gallery, Istanbul; FILE, Sao Paulo; Korean Visual Information Design Assn.; Goethe Institute Alexandria, Egypt; Hungarian Electrographic Art Assn., Budapest; Yale University; Brown University; Aalto University Design Factory, Finland; ArtCenter College of Design; public collection of the WRO Media Art Center, Poland; Waikato Museum, New Zealand; Moravian Gallery in Brno, Czech Republic; The 4th Block Museum, Ukraine; SDAI Museum of the Living Artist, San Diego; and Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco. Jing received the Creative Work Award of the 2020 Design Incubation Communication Design Educators Awards and many more in the US, Europe, and Asia. [www.jingzhoustudio.net]