I designed a critical making workshop week for students in my Internet and Society course (COM 487). This in-class activity asked them to create a spatial representation of the internet’s history. To accomplish this task, they had to reflect on the content learned in class and to decide which events to include or exclude. They also had to experiment with the constraints and possibilities of Google Maps (adding pins, attaching videos, images, and text to a pin, using map layers, etc.).
This exercise served as an overview of the first portion of my course and as a practical demonstration of two points that I made about the internet over the semester. I emphasized that the internet is not only a communication tool for transmitting messages, but also a space for interaction (boyd, 2014; Hine 2015). Also, I highlighted that embodied and virtual realities intersect (de Souza e Silva, 2006), so it is not possible to establish a rigid separation between online/offline lives.
Students highlighted that the activity allowed them to recap some key concepts from our course. They also provided examples of how their collaboration unfolded across online and offline realities. For instance, a student said that the information on Google Maps was very fluid because they were updating the map at the same time. Therefore, it was important to write some ideas on the board because the group needed this stability to organize their work. They also gave examples of how the online platform played a role in defining their final product. For instance, Google Maps offered addresses for locations such as CERN laboratories or the University of California (Berkeley). However, they admitted they took these suggestions for granted at did not check their accuracy.
You can see the workshop’s handout here.
boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. Yale University Press.
de Souza e Silva, A. (2006). From cyber to hybrid mobile technologies as interfaces of hybrid spaces. Space and Culture, 9(3), 261-278.
Hine, C. (2015). Ethnography for the internet: embedded, embodied and every day. Bloomsbury Publishing.