In this activity, students design, implement, share, and discuss a communications technology that defines the terms on which others can communicate.
This two part activity is designed to be used and to build upon the concepts from the Software Freedom/Communication. In particular, it aims to help frame questions including:
For Part I, you will need:
For Part II, you will will need:
The activity is divided into two parts. Part I is non-technical and can be done without computers. Part II requires access to computers and to a specially modified instant messaging client which is available as free/open source software. Both issues attempt to drive at the same core concepts.
The teacher should explain to the students that, for the duration of the experiment, students can communicate in any way they desire except by showing each other the drawing. That may translate into gestures, faces, works, etc. They should be encouraged to be creative.
Students should split into groups of two. In each dyad, one student should be given a photograph. Sitting across a table from each other, the student with the photograph should describe the photograph to the second student. The second student should do their best to replicate the drawing on a piece of paper according to the first student's description.
After the students have finished their drawings, the student who drew should be given another photograph and the process should be repeated with the roles repeated. Things should proceed identically except that the medium of communication should be changed. This process should be repeated several times. The medium may include:
Student should reassemble in class and compare drawings within in each medium and between different mediums.
Discussion should proceed from these drawings on the nature of the communication medium and, ultimately, the nature of the quality of the final product produced with each medium.
Students should be given a modified version of the Gossip instant messaging client on their computers and then asked to join a chat channel with every other student in the class or lab. Students should familiarize themselves with the chat client but should already be at least somewhat familiar with the mechanics of messaging and chat.
Students will then be introduced to the concept of filtering. Students will see how to block message by keyword and by user, how to delay messages by keyword, user, or message frequency from a particular users, and how to alter messages en route in a variety of simple ways including keyword expansion and emoticon or image interpolation.
Students will then be asked to create their own set of filters that makes the chat channel different: either more entertaining, more efficient or more difficult. They will then be asked to explain their filter to the rest of the class over the chat channel.
Students will reconvene in the class and will again briefly present their filter. They will compare their in-class explanation to the explanation they made in the chat channel. The initial presentations will have, of course, been mediated by the filters that the student wrote. Students should reflect as as group on a number of questions:
Discussion should happen after both Part I and Part II but should culminate in a larger discussion at the end of both activities. In both sections, discussion should be framed and led so that students focus on key concepts in this theme. Important questions may include:
Also, students should be asked to reflect on the effect of their filters with questions that might include:
Students should also be encouraged to connect the processes in the manipulation of media to the idea of censorship -- ideally if they have covered this in other work before and it does not need to be introduced again. They should ask: