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Boardgames and graphic animations: creative ways to present academic information

“Your roommate tests positive for COVID but you don’t have any symptoms and haven’t been in close proximity with them, do you still go out with friends the next day?” This question is part of a boardgame, designed by bachelor students cultural anthropology. For an assignment for the course Medical Anthropology, students were asked to choose a theme related to the Covid-19 pandemic, find information and present their work in a creative way. The results are impressive.

The game resembles the Dutch boardgame ‘Ganzenbord’, but now with the purpose of getting players to discuss Covid-related daily-life dilemmas. If you are unlucky in throwing the dice, though, you’ll “test positive” and end up skipping a turn to stay in quarantine. The board game is one of the results of a creative group assignment in Medical Anthropology – taught by Dr. Annemarie Samuels and Dr. Natashe Lemos Dekker - this year. The students that made the board game got staff and fellow students reflecting on ethical and social dilemmas.

Documentary film and Instagram posts

Another group vividly displayed how people make choices amidst such dilemmas by creating a short documentary film featuring interviews of four people approaching Covid-19 regulations from very different positions. A different approach was taken by the group who studied resources on long COVID, and made a visually attractive series of Instagram posts based on academic literature and one in-depth qualitative interview. Problematizing the global distribution of vaccines, another group presented their research on vaccine equity and accessibility, informing the class on the vaccine strategy of the European Union and on the problem of counterfeit vaccines. With a graphic animation the students showed what the COVAX program is doing in terms global distribution.

Boardgame designed by a group of students

Online survey and infographic

Focusing on a national context, one group studied the effects of COVID-19 on homeless people in the Netherlands, which they presented in an infographic. The final group conducted an online survey on social media use during the pandemic addressing topics such as humor, and loneliness (on the latter topic, see also this recent post on the Leiden Anthropology Blog).

What would you do? Putting dilemmas in the spotlight

With much creativity and resourcefulness, the students demonstrated how scientific knowledge can be made engaging, accessible, and even fun. Finding creative ways of thinking through a medical anthropological topic that effects all of us may help to bring broad awareness to social scientific approaches of health-related issues, and puts the difficult dilemmas we are facing there in the spotlight. Because, what would you do if faced with the following dilemma (derived from the boardgame): “It is one year into the COVID pandemic and it has also been over a year since you last hugged your grandma. You are visiting her and she keeps asking if she can get a hug. You both are not vaccinated yet, but you see your grandma longing for a hug. Do you give her one?”

The assignments were made by a total of 25 students, including Asia Aiello, Luna Aiello, Sanne Akkersma, Dionne Brouwer, Amber van Dam, Ilham El-Masoudi, Isabel Freie, Kaja Heijnen, Rémi ten Hoorn, Lola Kurpershoek, Tamara Maijers, Aloíta van Maris, Robin Matheeuwsen, Nancy Remezond, Thirza van ‘t Rood, Elleke Schreur, Selina Tartaglia, Lotte Tas and seven other students.

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