The (educational) case for Exchange Dublin

This is the first post that is not directly about some aspect of a user interface or other interactive technology. Rather, it’s a post about something that just happened in Dublin. Dublin City Council decided to close Exchange Dublin. The reason given was “anti-social behaviour“. You can sign the petition if you wish to see it alive; if you don’t have a clue what it’s all about, you can just read the comments by the people who signed the petition. They say how awesome a cultural space Exchange has been.

Education and “21st Century Skills”

Since all these people say a lot about the contribution of Exchange to culture, and since I’m no artist, I’ll talk about what I personally know. Exchange has helped young people with some things which are key skills, as experts say: working with others, communicating, and being creative. And, if the Irish State is going through all this work to reform the curriculum to follow these principles, shouldn’t Dublin City provide its young residents with the opportunity to practise these key skills?

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Processing Dublin was a monthly event in Exchange Dublin where student got to talk and showcase creative technology projects, per Dublin City Council “anti-social behaviour”.

How do I know that this behaviour took place there? It’s because I’ve participated in organising a couple of events there. One, called Processing Dublin (part of the Processing Cities project), was a monthly meeting organised by myself and @saorog (to whom I haven’t talked about this blog post and might as well be disagreeing with whatever I’m saying here). It was about creative technology, and myself, Stephen, or students were talking about or showcasing projects on graphics, data visualisation, or other interactive audiovisual applications.

Thus, I personally know that students there were engaged in creative technology, and with each other. The skills that the NCCA is just starting to apply for the junior and senior cycles, were already there. Of course, these skills were partly there, as it’s one thing to have a meetup of already interested in technology students, and it’s different to try to work with every student. And that’s why Exchange is awesome, because interested students can could get together and make a creative project happen. And Dublin City Council appears not to want this.

Double Standards

The Council say that they appreciate Exchange’s work but that they worry about “anti-social behaviour”. To begin with, define “anti-social behaviour”. No concrete explanation was given, but the assumption at last Wednesday’s weekly open general meeting at Exchange was that it was about some loud people by Cow’s Lane, totally unrelated to Exchange itself. No incident inside Exchange, an open, no-alcohol, social space happened that would be considered by any sane person as anti-social.

However, let’s assume for the sake of the argument, that there had been an incident in Exchange. Shouldn’t the Council see to addressing the incident rather than closing down the space? Whenever there is an incident in Dublin they close down the place where it happened? If drunk people fight in a pub do they close the pub down? No they don’t. If there is confirmed massive abuse by the Church do they close the Church down? No they don’t. They try to address each incident separately. And rightly so.

Of course, they cannot do such a thing with Exchange, because no such incident happened. That’s why the double standards. At the end of the day, I don’t think that creative people will take it, I’m sure that a new space will be found to house Exchange’s activities. However, it’s a shame that the Council gets in the way of activities it should seek to promote. It’s a shame that the Council shuts down a space whose activities have been one step ahead of national educational strategy.

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One response to “The (educational) case for Exchange Dublin

  1. I’m the Stephen mentioned in the article. Although I haven’t been able to avail of the Exchange recently (new job), it was always a great venue to host our educational user groups. The (volunteer) staff were respectful and eager to help. I don’t know why the Exchange is really being closed, suffice to say I never witnessed anti-social behaviour there, but plenty of anti-social behaviour from ‘revellers’ in Templebar on my way home.

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