For our first post, we would like to begin with great thanks to the DML Trust Challenge for recognizing and awarding our project OurNet. It was exciting to meet the organization and other recipients at the conference in Los Angeles earlier in the summer. And thank you HASTAC for hosting our updates on the blog. We also appreciate the great responses to our project from the community. Our project was even profiled in a recent Fast Company story: This Mesh We're In: Why Communities Are Building An Internet That's More Local.
OurNet is a project designed to show that trust can happen even in anonymous internet communities. We are building a safe space that encourages free expression. This project will empower students with a basic understanding of the key components of network infrastructure, while at the same time enabling them to develop their own private networks. We are designing two workshops for students grades 6 and up. One will enable students to build a simplified social network that will be unique to their classroom; the second would help them build a private internal network without using an internet service provider (ISP). Both projects are inspired by networks that could have been created more than a decade ago. These two platforms are safe spaces by default, because everyone participating in building the networked environment is located in the same physical space. Students can compare their experiences with these trusted safe spaces to their experiences with the World Wide Web or commercial social networks like Facebook. The project also provides an historic context to understand how the internet was created and continues to develop. Video and written instruction will be provided so even non-technical students can understand and participate.
The first workshop will show students how to create a website with shared hosting where students can learn how simple it is to start their own social network and edit pages with a shell account. In the second workshop, students will build a “darknet” or private network independent of the Internet. Using a simple wifi router, students will be able to communicate in an anonymous forum.
The first workshop is inspired by Dan Phiffer's Occupy.here
The team (Dan Phiffer, Eyebeam, and myself) is looking forward to launching a series of preliminary workshops this fall that will inform the instructional material, handbooks, and other written material that will be composed for this project. Feedback is incredibly important to the success of our project so we hope these early workshops will provide us with a good sense of common misperceptions or places of confusion.
Our goal for this project is to make network infrastructure less scary for people without technical backgrounds. We want to develop a new conversation around technology and ownership. We want students to name the networks and decorate the hardware because it is so important to understand how much independence you have or — or don't — in internet communications.