Magic Machines for Refugees


Asam Almohamed (Queensland University of Technology)
Jinglan Zhang (Queensland University of Technology)
Dhaval Vyas (The University of Queensland)


Session: 4.1. Understanding user populations

Abstract: This paper presents findings from a set of ‘magic machines’ workshops with newly arrived Iraqi refugees in Australia. The aim was to allow a broad range of response in designing innovative and creative technologies that can help refugees deal with specific challenges. To bring the ‘future’ into the present and to understand their needs and experiences, we asked 12 participants to create low-fi objects from different materials and to enact them in different scenarios. The magic machines workshops helped access refugees’ voices and provided future contexts for them to deal with their challenges. The data analysis of the two workshops revealed three broad themes: information provision barriers, security and ethical challenges, and mistrust and cultural aspects. Our findings show that adopting a speculative design approach has encouraged refugees to have a strong voice– creatively articulated in the form of a set of magic machines. The study offers insights into refugees’ perceptions of the future and current technology. It also informs policymakers of the issues around current policy hurdles newcomer refugees face in their settlement in the host community.