December 2012 – October 2013

You won’t have heard of Professor Albert Dedalus, private inventor, and his mission to design Perfect Robot Children. If you were an investor or in the robotics press, you might have received this message.

Albert’s estranged son, Tom, is concerned to help change his dad’s mind about the notion of ‘perfect’ robot children. He enlists the help of his old primary school to ask the real experts- the pupils.

Their mission is first to document the everyday existence at home of a Real Human Kid aged 5 or under, whether a younger sibling or their own remembered younger self. Tom gives them a box with a scrapbook and a bunch of creative toys to take home.

But when Tom fails to convince Albert himself, the children pretend to be investors to bring him face-to-face with the most compelling evidence: themselves.

Coney was commissioned by the Design Council to pilot an adventure as a tool for research that would be creative and child-centered, as part of a wider ethnography on the factors affecting the well-being of children under the age of 5 in the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth. We adapted the format of Adventures in Learning where the motivating goal for the children was to find evidence to prove that Real Human Kids, because of all the mistakes they might make, the downs as well as the ups, were better than the ‘perfection’ of robot children. The adventure was offered to children aged 7 and 8 via two schools in Lambeth, whether they had younger siblings or not. The materials returned in their scrapbooks were part of the findings, along with interviews conducted with the children after completing the first part of the adventure and the evidence they presented when confronted with Professor Albert Dedalus in person.

The research helped shape a brief from the Design Council for The Kneehigh Project, a challenge for ideas to help the long-term well-being of children under 5 in these boroughs.

Credits

Coney was here represented by Henrietta Norton, Tanya Dean, Tassos Stevens & Tom Bowtell.

Director and research: Tassos Stevens
Writer: Tom Bowtell
Designer: Tanya Dean
Project manager: Henrietta Norton
Research assistant Susanna Davies-Crook