Ylva Svensson

Redrawing the borders of "We" – Humour & Artistic workshops as a means of the formation of intercultural relations
The following report has been informed by the observation of Borderline Offensive
activities in Sweden, to which Ylva Svensson had direct access to. The activities in Sweden started in an artistic residency that took place between 1st and 10th June 2018. The artistic residency was hosted by the Nordic Watercolour Museum, and produced in cooperation with the municipality of Tjörn. The initial question of the residency was: how can humour and art help us to amuse each other and build relationships?

The artists involved were: Abduljabbar Alsuhili, an actor and cultural activist, living in Sweden, originally from Yemen; the anonymous group Creative Destruction, a street and guerilla artistic collective from Sofia, Bulgaria; Ivana Šáteková, a visual and new media artist from Bratislava, Slovakia; and Omar Abi Azar, a theatre maker and director from Beirut, Lebanon. As part of the artistic residency, a 2-day creative workshop for local youth was organised, targeting both newcomers (asylum seekers or refugees) and native-born citizens. The workshop included creative exercises (sometimes ridiculous, sometimes practical) involving drawing and writing, creating stories and acting them out, as well as asking participants to draft a message taken from their experience and share it with society, posted on a memento designed by them: an original t-shirt.

Later on, between 9th-18th August 2019, the activities continued with an arts exhibition at Röda Sten Konsthall, that included the return of some of the artists who had taken part in the 2018 artistic residency, as well as new artists that were part of Borderline Offensive residencies in other countries: Abduljabbar Alsuhili, Ivana Šáteková and Omar Abi Azar, with The Museum of Real History, Petko Dourmana, with Three Migrants on a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Smuggler), Darinka Pop-Mitic with The Long Heavy Road, as well as Škart, with Paper Puppet Poetry.

All the artists gave an artist talk and hosted participatory workshops as a part of the exhibition. Darinka Pop-Mitic and Škart even had the opportunity to mediate creative workshops with local children from Vänersborg – where Sweden's biggest accommodation centre for asylum seekers and refugees is located. These workshops took place in cooperation with Timjan Youth Culture House, as well as Grupp av Knoppar, a cultural association founded and run by asylum seekers. These workshops invited participants to work together on creating and drawing storyboards to make their own fanzine, and later on to direct their own paper puppet play and animated documentary. Due to the ethical concerns of conducting research involving children, Ylva Svensson focused her observations on the project activities of 2018.

A Swedish comedian once said that people on earth will not be united as one
until there is an attack from outer space. The question is, what can we do in
the meantime whilst waiting for the aliens? In this report, results from an
integration project are presented in which people from different backgrounds
interacted in an artistic workshop for one week in Sweden, the summer of
2018. The aim of this report is to explore whether interacting and laughing
together can make people feel connected and integrated, and thereby redraw
the borders of the in- and out-groups. If so, what aspects of the workshop
hinder and what aspects facilitate these processes?

Theoretical background
Several psychological processes can explain why intercultural relations do not
just take place automatically. First, human brains are designed to categorize
and we have a tendency to divide people we meet into in- and out-groups, for
example based on cultural/ethnical background (Tajfel, 1969). Furthermore,
we tend to judge people from the in-group and their behaviour more favorably,
and we overestimate how similar "we" are to "them". This is referred to as the
in-group bias (Tajfel, 1969). Secondly, contact between similar people occurs
at a higher rate than between dissimilar people. The homophily principle
suggests that we have a tendency to associate and bond with others similar to
ourselves, and that similarity breeds connection (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, &
Cook, 2001). As result, people's social networks are often homogeneous with
regard to many sociodemographic, behavioural, and intrapersonal characteristics,
with homophily in race and ethnicity being the strongest divider. Thus,
when given a choice we tend to select friends who we perceive to be similar
to us.
To overcome these processes, we need to make active efforts. In- and outgroup
categorisations are fluid and can shift. We never only belong to one
category, and the aspect of who we are that is considered to be most salient
depends on the context, the situation and how well the others know us. Thus,
in the right circumstances new in-groups might be formed. Furthermore,
contact between people from different ethnical or cultural backgrounds is a
necessary first step for meaningful relations to form, but it is not enough. The
Contact hypothesis (Allport, 1954) suggests that contact should be repeated,
be based on a shared aim, include intergroup cooperation, take place between
people of equal status, and be supported by leading authorities in order to
reduce prejudice against the out-group. Thus, cooperation and personal
interaction, formal and informal, between group members would support
learning about each other and the formation of cross-group friendships (Allport,

The function of humour in intercultural relations
Allport's Contact hypothesis has been the base for the most diversity and
multicultural initiatives (Rocke, 2015), some of which have used humour
as a component. For example, Rocke (2015) studied the use of humour by
workshop facilitators in a classroom. Results showed that the workshop
facilitators used humour to bridge differences between the workshop participants,
to deal with conflicts that arose, to challenge a participant who made
a derogatory comment by using humour (gentle teasing) without causing the
individual to feel shame. Rocke (2015) then concluded that humour could be
used to make the classroom more open and bring people together, as humour
offered an opportunity to view differences as generative.
Interpersonal humour refers to the use of humour to enhance one's relationships
with others. Humour can have different functions depending on the type
of relationship. In dyads, humour can be used to increase the other's feelings
of well-being, reduce conflicts and strengthen ties between individuals, and increase one's attractiveness to the other. In larger groups, humour can also
be used to raise the morale of group members, enhance group cohesiveness
and identity, create an atmosphere of enjoyment, and to reinforce group
norms (Martin et al., 2003). Humour often serves as "a function of regulating
social interactions and maintaining social harmony and stability" (Martin,
2007, p. 116), and humour can be used to ease tensions and create a safe place
for dialogue across cultural differences (Rocke, 2015).
However, while humour can bring people closer and create a secure environment,
there is also a risk that people will feel humiliated and hurt (Martin,
2007). Thus, attempting to use humour might be risky. The successful use
of humour can increase the sense of status in both new and existing relationships,
but unsuccessful attempts at humour (e.g., inappropriate jokes)
can harm this sense of status (Bradford Bitterly, Wood Brooks & Schweitzer,
2017). The use of humour could then be an issue of balance, one that is sometimes
difficult to find.

The overall project
Artists from 12 European and Middle Eastern countries explore issues
of migration, sociological contact zones, intercultural conflict and
dialogue, collective identity-building, and community cohesion in contemporary
Europe. A humourous and participatory arts approach was
employed to guide interactions, dialogue, and cooperation between
the migrant and host communities in seven European countries. The
overall aim was to use culture and art as resources to develop critical
thinking, social wellbeing and peaceful inter-community relations, within
and beyond Europe.
The overall project was supported by Creative Europe (the European
Union,s programme for the cultural and creative sectors, 2014-2020),
and the local, Swedish part of the project was supported by Västra
Götaland Regionen, and other national/regional sources, such as for
the location of the project, the Nordic Watercolour Museum.

The Swedish part of the project
The workshop took place in Skärhamn, Sweden, over two days in June, 2018.
The workshop was situated at the Nordic Watercolour Museum, situated on
the island of Tjörn, 70 kilometers north of Gothenburg on the Swedish west
coast. The museum hosts, besides art exhibitions, art projects and activities
for children and the youth. The aim of the local part of the project was to create an opportunity for the newly arrived youth and local youth to meet through an art and humour approach, facilitated by artists from different countries, interacting around
issues of belonging, migration and integration.
Four artists were in charge of the current workshop; an actor and film director
from Yemen, a visual artist from Slovakia working on nationalism and
identity issues, a theater director from Lebanon who works with marginalized
groups, and an artistic collective of two from Bulgaria.
The timing of the workshop was appropriate. During 2015-2016 Sweden, as
did many other European countries, experienced an influx of a great numbers
of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum, due to the unstable situations
mainly in Syria, Somalia, Eritrea and Afghanistan. In only 2015, 35,369 unaccompanied
minors sought asylum in Sweden (compared to 1336 in 2017).
Most of them, 88% were granted asylum (migrationsinfo, 2020).

The current report
The aim of the proposed research project is to explore humour as a means of
social integration and of the formation of meaningful and equal relationships.
It is asked whether activities including an art and humour approach can
change the boundaries of the in- and the out-groups and promote meaningful
interactions, in line with the contact hypothesis. The specific research
questions that guided the research project were;
• Can interacting and laughing together during a workshop make people
feel connected and integrated, and thereby change the in- and out-group
• If so, what aspects of the workshop hinder and what aspects facilitate new
meaningful relationships being formed?

Research design and procedures

A mixed-method approach (Teddlie & Tashakkori, 2010) was judged to best
fit the research aim. This included a survey that was distributed to all participants
at the start and at the end of the project. All activities were observed
and notes were taken about the processes and activities at all times, both
formal and informal. The group compositions, and the way the participants
positioned themselves during the workshop activities and during breaks were
noted using "social mapping". These included drawings of who sat next to
whom, who talked to whom, and who laughed together with whom etc. in
order to explore the social processes of the in- and out-groups. Finally, at
some points throughout the workshop, oral recordings were taken and these were transcribed and analysed for shared themes using thematic analyses
(Braun & Clark, 2006).
The language spoken was English but an interpreter was present at all times
during the workshop (Swedish/English). Three project leaders were also present
at all times, and one moviemaker recorded with video the workshop and
short interviews for the documentation movie, and all were present throughout
all the activities.
Data was collected by one female researcher from a Swedish background
and with an academic background in psychology (the author of the research
report). The researcher was present at all times and did not participate in any
of the formal activities but sat in the back of the room, observing and taking
field notes. During informal breaks and lunch/dinner, the researcher walked
around and observed, talked to the participants when appropriate, and made
notes and drew social maps.
A description of the activities during the two-day workshop is presented in
Table 1. In total, the first day consisted of interactive activities, both in the
larger group and in assigned smaller groups. The second day mainly consisted
of activities carried out by the participants individually. The workshop
ended with a joint dinner.
Participants were recruited through official channels, media and via youth
workers in the specific community where the workshop would take place.
Some were also recruited directly through the location of the workshop, The
Nordic Watercolour Museum.
A total of 15 participant took part in the workshop, of which 11 were part of
all activities over both days, and are subjects for the current report. The participants
ranged in age between 14 and 70, and 4 self-identified as male, and
7 identified as female. When asked about their country of birth, 8 answered
that they were born in Sweden, and of them 5 identified as being Swedish, 1
as Swedish-Greek, one as half Swedish – half Serbian, and one as "Swedish/
European". Of the three participants who were born in countries other than
Sweden, two were born in Afghanistan and one in Nigeria. All of them had
been in Sweden for 3 years, and one identified as being "Swedish/Iranian",
one as "brown, black hair" and one as "Nigerian".

Data collection
Survey. A survey was administered to all participants of the workshop
at the beginning of the workshop and at the end of day two. The survey
included measures about in- and out-group orientation, in the way that
everyone was asked to describe the group, if they had known anyone
from before, if they felt part of an in-group, and/or an out-group, and if
so what these groups were based on (shared background, age, gender,
same humour, common language etc.). The after-survey also included
questions about changed group compositions, whether new groups
were formed, and if so what these groups were based on, and questions
about lessons learned about oneself, and/or others. Finally, questions
about laughing during the workshop were asked and included aspects
of laughing together, jokes, and being or watching someone being
laughed at.
Observations of the use of humour. The use of humour, and laughter that
was observed during the workshop. Also, the language aspect was also observed
related to the utility of humour and notes were taken about the types of
joke that were made, and what types of joke people laughed or did not laugh
at, when people laughed, if they laughed together, with or at someone.
Social network mapping. Social mapping was conducted at six time points
in the course of the workshop, in the structured, formal activities during the
actual workshop and in the informal activities such as the breaks or lunchtime
when participants were free to select their own peers and be seated
where and how they wanted. The researcher drew the positioning of all participants
on a piece of paper, using markups based on the self-defined in-groups
at the beginning of the workshop.
Recordings. One recording was made using the recording function on a
smart phone. The recording was made during the sharing circle at the end of
day one. It was transcribed and analysed using thematic analyses.

Ethical considerations
Participants were informed verbally by the researcher orally at the start of the
workshop about the aim of the research, what kind of data would be collected,
how it would be used and stored, and that no results would be presented
at an individual level to ensure their anonymity. Furthermore, they were
assured of the confidential treatment of their answers and that participation
was voluntary. No one declined to participate, and all the participants gave
their active consent by filling out a contact information form, separate from
the survey.
The participants were asked not to sign the survey questionnaires with their
real names but to come up with a "nickname" and sign both the pre- and
post- workshop questionnaire with the chosen nickname, making it possible
to match the two questionnaires without identifying who had written what.
Due to the small number of participants, background data was collected
using a separate survey, thereby assuring that answers could not be matched
to a specific participant.
Allmost all participants were above the age of 15, except for one participant
who was 14. As this participant came along with some of his/her friends, it
was not possible to ask for parental consent prior to the workshop. The participant
assured that he/she had parental consent to be part of the workshop,
and chose to stay in the study when informed about the possibility to not be
included in the research project but to still participate in the workshop.

Survey Results

Group composition changes.
The participants were asked, both in the preand
post-survey, a question on how to describe the group composition. In
the pre-survey, 3 out of the 11 participants answered "as one big group", 7 "as
several smaller groups", 1 as "two groups". To the follow-up question of what
these groups were based on, the participants answerd that this is due either
to knowing each other from before, being of the same age, having the same
interests or speaking the same language. In the post-survey, distributed at the
end of the final formal activity and before the dinner, 7 participants answered
the same question with "as one big group", 2 with "as no groups at all, only
individuals"; 1 answered with "as several smaller groups" and the other "as
two groups". Thus, comparing the pre- and post- answers, there seems to have
been a shift as more participants perceived the group to be composed of one
big group by the end of the workshop.

New friends.
In the post-survey the participants were asked a question about
new friendships formed during the workshop, and one question about feeling
closer and more connected to the group. All 11 participants answered that
they have found new friends, and nine answered that they felt closer to the
group at the end of the workshop. Those who felt closer to the group were
asked the follow-up question of why they thought that was the case and their
answers mainly concerned the nature of the activities, doing things and spending
time together, getting to know each other, and the openness of others.
The example answer sums it up perfectly:
"Because the activities we did forced us together and you had to cooperate"

Lesson learned.
that is what they learned about themselves: 9 participants
answered that they had learned something new about themselves and 2 had
not. Those who reported learning something about themselves mainly described
lessons about daring and being brave, and about realizing what it is to be
a social person, example answers being: "that I can" "be more daring" "to be
" and "that I love culture and social interactions" and "that I like being
part of a group
Concerning lessons learned about others, 8 participants answered that they
had learned something new about others, 1 had not, and 2 did not answer the
question. Of those who learned something about others, the lessons mainly
concerned new and different perspectives, ways of being and living, and the
value of the others. The answers were: "that we are very different shy", "that
everyone is so lovely"; "that there are extremely smart and nice people working
with workshops"; "about others interests and lives"; "the interests and what
drives others"; "how they look at the world and how they interact with others"
"that everyone is super nice" and "to have eye contact".

Laughing together: 9 participants said that they had laughed together with
others during the workshop, 4 participants said that they had laughed at
someone, 2 that they had been laughed at, 7 participants said that they had
made a joke. No one said that they had felt uncomfortable due to being
laughed at, or when someone else made a joke, or that someone made a joke
about something one should not joke about. One participant answered that
he/she had not understood a joke that had been made, and wrote that this
was due to language differences.

Observations of the use and function of humour
The use and function of humour were analysed based on the observations
and notes taken throughout the workshop. The examples of jokes and laughter
and the different functions they played in connection to the different
activities, both formal and informal, will be summarized here.
One function that the use of humour played was to reduce tension during
some of the activities, especially at the beginning of the workshop. Laughter
could then be seen as the individual expression of insecurity, nervousness
and of feeling uncomfortable, but laughing in the same way in an interaction
with others could be seen as a way to connect and to share the atmosphere
and the mood of others. Responding to insecure laughter with insecure laughter
could be seen as one way of indicating closeness, like saying: I feel you,
you are not alone, and thereby sharing responsibility for the situation. In that
sense, humour functions to connect people in insecure situations.
Though the participants said funny things on many occasions, few actual
jokes were made. One exception to this is from activity 7 during the first
day, when the participants made short theatre plays in groups of three. One
participant then said: "Look at grandma, she is a pro" when one of the older
women in the group was acting like a youth. Everyone, including the woman
laughed at this comment. Another example of a direct joke, one that failed,
happened during the first day when one of the artists/leaders made a joke
about his background being the reason why he is lazy. The joke was told in
front of everyone and was followed by total silence and confused looks since
no one seemed to understand it. The artist tried to explain it by referring to
his background, but he gave up when no one still followed and said: "that
was a joke… never mind…
.". This scene could be seen as an example of when
humour functions as a divider due to cultural differences. At other times,
some participants made private jokes to the person next to them at which
they laughed, sometimes in a language not understood by everyone which
could create a feeling of exclusion amongst the rest. Then humour functions
as a divider due to language differences.
Another example of how humour was used, also concerning language differences
again, comes from activity 7, the short theatre plays. At one point
one participant said: "I don't mob" instead of saying "I don't bully" (bully in
Swedish is "mobba") which made everyone laugh. This line was then picked
up by the others and used several times afterwards outside of the activity by
different participants, and always resulted in laughter from the entire group.
This could be seen as an example of humour functioning as a social reinforcement,
and the line helped everyone to connect to something common
and shared. It is however unclear how the person who originally made this
mistake experienced this situation, but he/she laughed together with the
The workshop leaders/artists used humour in different ways. For example,
they said things like: "we are not laughing at each other, we are laughing
together" during the different activities. They also made jokes out loud in
front of everyone, thereby seeking to include everyone and connect the group
with a shared cause to laugh and moment of understanding.
Finally, humour was also used by the participants to reinforce and support
one another. For example, encouraging laughter and remarks (such as:
"Haha, that one looks really funny!") were used when participants showed
their results in the different activities, like the texts in activity 3, the made-up
characters in activity 5 and the theater plays (activity 6).

Thematic analyses
As presented in Table 1, day one ended with a sharing circle. Everyone,
including the artists and the workshop organizers gathered in a ring, facing
each other and one of the organizers asked everyone to "share the meaningful
interactions that they had today, and if something had bothered them".
All answers were transcribed and analysed with thematic analyses (Braun &
Clark, 2006). Three themes were identified based on the comments made by
the participants at the end of the first day.
Theme 1: participation as a means of personal growth
This concerned the personal development of the participants as a result of
taking part in the workshop. Several of the participants mentioned stepping
out of their comfort zones and described themselves as shy and introverted.
Some also mentioned stage fright and others described feeling insecure about
being with the other participants and what could happen, especially before
the workshop started.
"I liked most in the beginning when we started with the introduction and the
voice thing… because I am a little shy, you know, so… I think it was difficult
to do…"

However, all of them also mentioned overcoming these feelings, resulting in
a sense of pride and courage. Those who had talked about first being unsure
about attending the workshop then felt happy that they had, or in the words
of one young female participant;
"… I was not sure I would come or not, like there are new people and you
were not even sure what it would be and you know, and who would be there
and … but I am really happy that I came because all of you are super amazing
people and it was such a good experience getting out of the comfort zone
and just getting to know each other a little bit, it was really amazing. "

Theme 2: the activities as a means of becoming one group
The second theme included those experiences of the activities which had
been fun, involved laughing and sharing funny moments. One female participant
expressed it like this:
"Especially I enjoyed laughing together today, I think that was great –

Some also mentioned that the activities were successful in bringing them all
together becauseas everyone participated and was engaged, not just the leaders,
and since there had been a nice dynamic and feeling of generosity in the
group. Many referred to specific activities to which they attributed feelings
of connectedness and that there were certain aspects of these activities that
brought them together. A male participant expressed it like this:
" I really enjoyed all the exercises that we did, it really helped us to ... get

One thing that many participants seemed to enjoy was the group's diversity
and how the workshop gave them the opportunity to meet different people,
not only in terms of background but also of experience and of different ages.
One male, a recently arrived participant ended the first day by saying:
"I really learned something from you, and I liked especially that we are from
different parts of the world, and we are young, very young and … a little
older… (laughter) …it was awesome for me."

Theme 3: political aspects
The third theme included taking different views on the political aspects of
some of the activities. Some participants did not want talk about such issues
and said that doing so made them feel uncomfortable while others viewed
it up as a positive aspect. One episode on day one especially highlights this
ambiguity in which one of the young female participants and one of the
artists started a discussion during the activity about political issues and continued
it over lunch. This was mentioned by both the young woman and the
artist at the sharing circle at the end of day one. The participant said that she
was bothered by the fact that not everyone wanted to talk about politics, and
the female artist replied:
"…I actually really enjoyed the conversation about politics (big laugh from
the group). I was really surprised, I was not sure if you are only 15… you
know so many things and you have your own opinion and your own statement,
and it was great to have lunch with you …"

Social maps were drawn up at six occasions during the workshop, covering
both formal and informal activities over both days. All six maps were
analysed in terms of how all the participants and different in-groups
(those who knew each other from before) seated themselves, and how the
artists positioned themselves in relation to the participants. Three maps
are presented as examples in the figures below, to illustrate the different
in-groups and how they change over time.

Look at the social map of the last formal activity (map 3) on the second and
last day of the workshop, when seating was freely chosen. The assignment
was to print t-shirts and activities took place in different parts of the room.
This map is from the seating arrangement when the activity was first introduced
and even though the participants moved about during the activity, they
returned to this same seating arrangement when sitting at the table. As can
be seen, the various groups have returned to their original groupings again,
visualized in Social map 2, based on knowing each other from before the
This was the common pattern across all activities during the workshop since
most participants returned to their in-group when the chance arose as in the
lunch breaks or when the participants themselves formed working groups. A
few participants remained close to their familiar in-groups throughout the
workshop, partly due to language difficulties.
Based on all the social maps, new and temporary groups were formed
throughout the workshop, especially during those formal activities when the
groups were assigned. These groups fostered a spirit of interaction and of
"forced" collaboration and the interactions continued to some extent after the
formal activity ended and the assigned groups were dissolved.
The social maps highlight the role of the leaders/artists, as it became visible
that they functioned as "social bridges" throughout the different activities by
positioning themselves between two out-groups and inviting both groups
into the conversations, as is visible in Social map 3. Additionally,, on several
occasions in the workshop, the artists sought out participants sitting by themselves
and started conversations with them, thereby including them into the

The aim of this report was to explore humour as a means of social integration
and of the formation of meaningful and new relationships. This was
addressed by the two research questions, the first being: Can interacting and
laughing together make people feel connected and integrated, and thereby
change the in- and out-group compositions? Based on the combined results
of the collected data, the answer seems to be: to some extent. Results from the
social mapping suggest that new relationships can be formed, at least temporarily,
and that groups that are assigned during formal activities "spill over"
into informal and less structured activities. Most interestingly, new friendships
seemed to be sought and formed when in the company of someone from
an in-group, someone whom one already knows from before. These results
could be understood based on the homophily hypothesis (McPhearson, Smith-
Lovin & Cook, 2001). We tend to stay in the company of those whom we
perceive to be similar to us, and interacting with others similar to us is easier
and smoother because of a common ground, a shared language and background.
That is, interactions with in-group members require less effort, less
explanation and lead to fewer misunderstandings. Thus, it requires efforts to
step out of the known and one's comfort zone. This was further supported by
the results because many of the participants mentioned feeling insecure and
hesitant before or at the beginning of the workshop. The rewards for overcoming
these fears are clearly expressed in the formation of new friendships,
personal growth, and increased knowledge about one's self and others.
Further, the results from the surveys shows that group compositions changed
during the workshop and at the end of the workshop the participants perceived
themselves to be part of one big group as compared to a part of the more
and smaller groups before it started. All participants answered that they had
made new friends and all but two participants said that they felt closer to the
group by the end of the workshop. This supports the idea that cooperation
and intergroup contact can change group compositions and facilitate the
formation of new friendships, at least temporality.
The second research question concerned the aspects of workshop which hindered
and facilitated the formation of new and meaningful relationships. The
results show that the connections that formed were closely tied to the activities
of the workshop. On the first day, the activities were group-based and
included aspects of cooperation and a shared goal which brought the participants
closer together and the appearance of initial out-group connections can
be seen. During the breaks on the first day, the mixing of the in- and out-groups
could be seen and at the end of the first day, the participants expressed
strong feelings of connectedness. At the end of the second day, the activities
were more individual in nature and required no interaction or cooperation
with others. This seems to have affected the feeling of connectedness and
the experience of some participants was that there had been no groups but
only separate individuals at the end of day two. This suggests that the actual
activity is important to the experience of a shared in-group (a "we") and to
the feeling of connectedness to the other participants. Thus, in line with the
Contact hypothesis (Allport, 1954) choosing activities with a common goal
and a shared aim which require collaboration seems to be one aspect that
promotes the formation of new and meaningful interactions.
Another important aspect of the chosen activities seems to be striking a
balance between co-operation or working together and wanting too much
freedom of choice in terms of social interactions. When given a free choice,
most if not all of the participants fell back on their pre-existing social relations
and if new groups were formed, they were exclusively formed during
formal activities in which the groups were assigned. These spilled over into
informal settings such as the discussions continued into the breaks. Thus,
a mix of formal and informal, free and assigned groups might foster the situation
in which new relationships are formed.
The results also showed that the topic related to the activities of the workshop
seems to be important and that a balance should be sought when selecting
the topic. Some of the activities encouraged the appearance of political and
more serious issues. For example, the texts in Activity 3, the writing list in
Activity 6 on day 1, and the t-shirt printing on day 2 (activity 11) opened up
these issues but were not limited to them. Only one or two participants chose
to discuss these issues whilst the others argued against doing so and some
others chose more neutral topics. As these can be sensitive topics, it seems
important to leave them open to interpretation and give the participants the
freedom to decide their level of involvement in discussing them. At the same
time, many stated "stepping out of their comfort zone" and personal growth
as being what they had gained from the first day and the main lesson they
had learned, as reported in the pre-survey, was to overcome insecurities.
Thus, the activities that challenge the participants seem to facilitate the emergence
of positive feelings, both about the self and others. Sharing and overcoming
insecurity together with others in the same situation and supporting
each other seems to foster a spirit of closeness and connectedness.
Laughter seems to have a double role in that it brings people together and
closer to each other, while some jokes can divide the group if the joke is
not understood by everyone (due to language or cultural differences) or if
it is at someone's expense. Thus, it seems that understanding the dynamics
of humour and the appropriate types of humour that should be used is an
essential form of knowledge and skill for any facilitator (Rocke, 2015), or
the workshop leaders in this case. Furthermore, the workshop leaders/artists
played an important role in facilitating social integration by seeking to include
everyone, making jokes and talking to everyone, spreading the "word"
and making sure that everyone has a say and in functioning as "social bridges".

Conclusion: Take-home-messages
- We stick to the people we know and feel safe with, if given the choice
– mixed groups should be assigned if possible during structured
- The type of activity is crucial – working together in groups, not
individually fosters social interactions, with a shared goal - laughing
together at the same thing, not scattered laughter in small groups in
one's own language and other goals
- Humour can function as a means of social integration, bringing people
closer and fostering a feeling of "we", but can also function as a
divider; this is due to language differences or cultural differences, and
when a joke is only told to some, thereby excluding others.
- The workshop leaders/artists can foster a spirit of social integration
by functioning as "social bridges" and they can actively use humour
to bring the participants closer together and create a common,
shared goal.

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