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robertogreco : immaterials   5

Networks Land
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This website is a collection of educational activities and material explaining how the internet works, at levels that generally don’t get thoroughly covered in introductions to the internet. The activities are designed to mostly take place offline using physical objects, field trips, and games.

Who is this for?

Technically, this material is for anyone who doesn’t totally understand how the internet works, but that kind of just means almost everyone in the world (including us!). We developed this material for audiences between 11 and 14, focusing on that age range for the following reasons:

• if it worked with that age range it could probably scale up
• we wanted to work with students just young enough to be unfamiliar with a world before the internet, but just old enough to be capable of considering more complex critical questions
• middle schoolers are just the absolute best. (except when they’re the absolute worst.)

That being said, while we had a totally great time workshopping these activities with students, a lot of the material on this site is for the educators who might use this material. That’s why in addition to the actual descriptions of the activities, we have reference sections that go into further detail than the activities themselves.

How did we develop this material?

This project is the result of a Knight Prototype Fund grant received in summer 2015. We workshopped this material in workshops coordinated with the Point Arena Technology Center in Point Arena, CA, at the Radical Networks conference in New York, and with the afterschool program LeAP at MS 51 in Brooklyn, New York.

The original name of our grant was Network Geography 101. We’re not really sure Networks Land is a better name, but, well, the domain was available. Naming things is tricky. We welcome better suggestions.

And why exactly are you doing this?

In the United States, there’s a growing understanding that internet access is a basic necessity for living in a modern society. It’s where jobs are sought, where bills are paid, where relationships form, where content is consumed, and where memes are rendered dank.

With this in mind, more and more organizations and institutions have embarked on campaigns and development of curricula for “digital literacy” or “code literacy”, tools and resources to get the newly online comfortable and savvy with the network.

For the most part, these initiatives focus on the experience of the web–what a browser is, how to search for information, how to make an email address. Sometimes digital literacy education gets into maintaining security and privacy with living online, and sometimes it’s an on-ramp for teaching people how to code.

This is all well and good for making people feel comfortable manipulating interfaces on a screen (and yes, that’s the majority of what coding education looks like too, fight me), but very rarely does digital literacy education get into what’s happening behind and beyond the screen. Where does that information loaded from Google actually live? How does it travel from that location to my computer? Who owns all this stuff?

There is something missing between digital literacy and code literacy. That something is mostly made of objects.

While the wireless signals that connect a user to the internet may be imperceptible to the human eye, the cables, antennas, data centers, and other physical objects that make up the internet aren’t. They are, however, easy to ignore and increasingly obscured in explaining how the internet works. Similarly, the mechanisms of governance and ownership of the network aren’t entirely hidden from public view, but they are often relegated as “impractical” knowledge much like the physical infrastructure. Understanding ICANN or where “the cloud” lives won’t help you navigate a website or learn to write code.

This attitude is a problem. When neither a computer scientist nor an eleven-year-old can coherently articulate how, on a tangible level, data travels through the internet or who owns the top-level domain my website uses, that’s a problem. When the internet is understood only through its screen components, it’s reduced to a dystopic interface for absorbing content and involuntarily feeding advertising engines.

“With every receding seam, from cable to code, comes a techno-political risk. Without edges we cannot know where we are and nor through whom we speak.”

(Julian Oliver, “Stealth Infrastructure”)

The point is, the internet is an increasingly crucial component of how people throughout the world live their lives. Understanding the systems and infrastructure that make the internet function, from the levels of protocol, physical objects, and governance isn’t necessarily going to make a generation of better programmers and it isn’t going to make anyone better at using a browser. But you don’t need to be a plumber to appreciate understanding how the sewer system works, and you don’t need to be in Congress to benefit from understanding how government works. Understanding systems and infrastructural elements is a useful part of being an informed human being and a useful thing to know when trying to figure out if and how those systems could change or are changing.

Who Worked On This?

This material was developed by Ingrid Burrington and Surya Mattu, who both live in New York and do weird things at Data and Society Research Institute. We had some amazing design assistance from Disk Cactus, an excellent studio of excellent humans based in Oakland, CA.

This website lives on Github."
classideas  internet  curriculum  education  infrastructure  immaterials  ingridburrington  suryamattu 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Making Visible – Timo Arnall
"My PhD thesis called ‘Making Visible’ was submitted in December 2013 and successfully defended on 12 June 2014. The thesis reflects upon the design material exploration research from the Touch and Yourban projects. It uses these explorations to situate design research with technology as a cultural, material and mediational practice:"
darkmatter  design  interactiondesign  rfid  timoarnall  2014  visibility  immaterials  visualization 
june 2014 by robertogreco
Matt Jones & Jack Schulze, “Immaterials” on Vimeo
"Matt Jones and Jack Schulze will explore a cross-section of recent and ongoing work from BERG, examining how the design of products and services comes from working intimately with the materials of your domain, even if they are intangible—like radio or data."

[Diagram at 16:33 mark reminds me of my interest in audiences of one.]
design  materialsim  jackschulze  mattjones  weakties  dunbar  dunbarnumber  materiality  audiencesofone  berg  berglondon  immaterials  smallgroups  groupsize  stongbonds  2011  data  comics  michelgondry  time  radioactivity  touch 
november 2011 by robertogreco
Week 27: Scattered, and rolling. | Urbanscale
"the course also included some reading…we decided that compiling and designing a newspaper with all the reading for the course would be a better route to success. We had a 20-page newspaper printed by…Newspaper Club…The very fact of having a physical artefact, laying around on the desks in the studio, is a constant reminder that there is related reading to be done, and it invites browsing in a way a list of links or open tabs does not. It also has the advantage of being print — there’s much greater control (albeit with commensurately more effort) over presentation, of curating a selection, of removing distractions, no links, of considering what sits next to what. Texts from blogs can sit next to more historical texts, forcing the ideas to bounce and spark off each other. Not to mention, it ends up being a rather nice object to keep around, to glance at or refer to later.

Find below a list of the content in the newspaper we handed out as a form of shortened reading list."
urban  urbanism  urbanscale  adamgreenfield  toread  readinglist  tomarmitage  jackschulze  timoarnall  greglindsay  janejacobs  italocalvino  copenhagen  denmark  big  bjarkeingels  georgeaye  mayonissen  rongabriel  muni  williamhwhyte  danhill  2011  networkedurbanism  networkedcities  urbancomputing  immaterials  urbanexperience  systems  layers 
july 2011 by robertogreco
YOUrban — Immaterials: Light painting WiFi
"The city is filled with an invisible landscape of networks that is becoming an interwoven part of daily life. WiFi networks and increasingly sophisticated mobile phones are starting to influence how urban environments are experienced & understood. We want to explore & reveal what the immaterial terrain of WiFi looks like & how it relates to the city.

This film is about investigating & contextualising WiFi networks through visualisation. It is made by Timo Arnall, Jørn Knutsen, Einar Sneve Martinussen. The film is a continuation of our explorations of intangible phenomena that have implications for design & effect how both products & cities are experienced. Matt Jones has summarised these phenomena as ‘Immaterials’, & uses sociality, data, time & radio as examples. Radio & wireless communication are a fundamental part of the construction of networked cities. This generates what William Mitchell called an ‘electromagnetic terrain’ that is both intricate & invisible, & only…"

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timoarnall  jørnknutsen  einarsnevemartinussen  wifi  urban  urbanism  cities  immaterials  mattjones  williammitchell  visualization  wireless  networkedcities  invisible  maketheinvisiblevisible  electormagneticterrain  radio  sociality  data  time  design  context  landscape  invisiblelandscape  networks 
february 2011 by robertogreco

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