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The Project in Covid19 Times

As we write this post, COVID19 is no longer a new thing. From the beginning of 2020, like many others, our project was highly affected by the pandemic. In fact, our project kick-off meeting was held the same week the distancing measures were recommended here in Finland (mid-March), forcing us to move most of our work online. Still today, we have not physically met our partners at Umeå University in Sweden, and most collaborators have only met through digital means. The distancing is the largest single factor affecting the project’s implementation, even for collaborators within Finland.

As communicated by the title of this collaborative project, all activities are based on “dialogues” and face to face “encounters” in settings favourable to discussions and exchanges, like a Sámi lavvu for instance. As one can imagine, this type of setting and practice has been very limited or even banned for now. We were lucky to be able to carry out the Sami Aim Day’s workshop in Sweden on March 2, 2020. However, most if not all other activities had to be modified in some way. This being said, we have achieved many outcomes despite the situation, but at a different pace and in different ways than originally planned. We assume many others face the same challenges in trying to carry out their projects this year.

Here is how we have adapted so far, for example a series of in-person workshops were planned around the themes of environmental observations, food sovereignty and security, and creative use and innovative Indigenous design. Evidently, these have not been possible to implement and our workshop format had to be quickly adapted to online modes of delivery. A few tests were conducted in the spring to explore how storytelling methods could be used online and in a way that worked in our context. Some of these tests were done through WhatsApp by sharing video and photo materials, supported by descriptive texts. Another experiment was conducted with partners on Zoom, where participants were asked to bring an object that was meaningful to them and speak about it. This allowed collaborators to get to know each other in a more personal way as well as to identify potential uses and limitations of storytelling through online platforms. We also used the online collaborative whiteboard tool Miro to help support our online work and participation during meetings and workshops.

During the spring, a skilled Sámi craftsperson who was hired by the project, Arto Saijets, worked closely with his partner Marina Falevitch to document various aspects of his work in a personal and educational manner. Their craft and filming activities accumulated dozens of hours of filmed raw material from the Sámi Duojár’s work since April 2020. The material will be analysed and edited for the workshops and outputs as they address all the key themes of the project. One short film has already been used as part of storytelling practices in our September online workshop, which we will describe in a future post. Some sample photos of the Duojár’s work will be most likely available on this website!

Image: Screen capture from an online workshop in May, where Arto Saijets and Marina Falevitch present some of the footage they collected.

COVID-19 has forced us to adopt distance work and plan online meetings and workshops. The reality has certainly been different and challenging but it also made us more creative. While we are still hoping to be able to organise face-to-face encounters in terms of interviews and workshops at a cross-border level, we know that only time will tell. We are wrapping up the activities and work conducted this fall and will be soon sharing more about specific activities in this blog.

Has your project also been affected by Covid19? How have you adapted to remote and online collaboration? We would love to hear from you in the comments.

- Project Leader Mika Aromäki (Sogsakk) & Project coordinator Caoimhe Isha Beaulé (ULapland, Service Design Research Group)

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