Category Archives: Connection on the Line

Iraq / US design exchange: chat summary from 8.18.10

Hi all,

Here’s a summary of today’s chat:

On the chat today we made a small change to the format, as per an interesting suggestion by george.  This week, we will rotate media again:

The Baghdad group will look at the NY media
The NY group will look at the USA West media
The USA West group will look at the Baghdad media

and make commentary / analysis / additions once more.  We will add this material in the comments section of the original media post, to keep everything consolidated. Then, for the final leg, the media will rotate back to its original creators, who will take two weeks to make the final piece from August 25th – September 8th in whatever media they choose, keeping in mind the comments / analysis / additions from the other groups.

I would urge people to add personal statements, comments and images whenever possible.  I think the most powerful media we have are the things that people uploaded about themselves.  This somehow seems the most “real,” how these issues actually affect our daily lives.  Even if you have to go back and add to comments you have already made, as much as possible, it would be great for people to contribute material from their own lives that relate to themes brought up in each batch of media.

Thanks all!  Talk to you next Wednesday the 25th at the same time! 11am California, 12pm Colorado, 2pm NYC, 9pm Iraq

Best :Melanie

Design Phase: Week 1

Hi all,

Very much looking forward to the design phase!  So as mentioned in our chat today, the goal for this week is to:

Meet with your respective groups (check out the attached Iraqi American Contacts Spread Sheet for contact info, which I will also send later via email)

Generate media that your group feels relates the theme of freedom and change to your community.  Subtexts of freedom of speech (my personal fave) and democracy also welcome, its up to you.

Post your media to the blog before next Wednesday, when we will skype chat, same time frame as usual, to discuss next steps.  If at least one representative from each group can be on the chat, that would be helpful.

Please email me with any questions that might arise.  Thanks, looking forward to it!


Design Exchange Project Discussion Tomorrow

Hi all,

I had a lovely chat yesterday with Chris Crews (Parsons, NYC), George Bixby (Parsons, NYC), and Hong-An Truong (about to teach at U of N. Carolina Chapel Hill) about the design project.

An thought that recurred several times was the idea that it would be good to incorporate a personal element into the media that we begin working with in the first stage of the design process.  Photographing people’s daily surroundings seemed one way to do this.  We also talked about the fact that it might be good to start with a common text, but since the US and Iraq groups speak different languages as their mother tongues, perhaps it might be better to isolate ideas from those texts.

For example, maybe we could start with larger concepts like freedom, speech rights, free speech, human rights etc.  In the first week, we could have groups generate some kind of media themselves that interprets what those terms mean in relationship to their surroundings.  Then, as I mentioned in my earlier email, in the second week, material could go on to a different group to re-interpret, analyze, and break down.  One example (I think from Chris?) was that in the first week, perhaps one group, in accordance with the theme(s) could take video without sound.  They would send it on to a second group, who comes from a different place, and would need to try to analyze and interpret how the theme was being applied in that video.  This is one example, but there are many we can do.

So I have a couple of questions & requests for you all:

If you are interested to participate in the design process, and wish to be put in a group, then please get in touch with Lauren and I (either email us, post some ideas to the blog, or participate in the chat tomorrow).  It looks like we will probably break up into 3 groups, organized by location: Baghdad, NYC, and US other, so that groups for the most part can meet together locally in person according to schedules that work the best for them.  Before people can really be put into groups however, we need to know who will be participating.  The timeline will basically be the month of August; we all need to go back to school after all!

If you have ideas to contribute to themes, generating media, or process, or anything else for that matter, please post to the blog in advance of the conversation tomorrow at Cali 10:00 am / NYC 1:00 pm / Baghdad 8:00 pm. We’ll try to finalize form, and once I get an idea of who is officially participating, we’ll put everyone in groups on Thursday so you all can get started immediately.

Please let me know if you have any other questions / concerns,

My best,


Weekly Skype Text Transcripts

Each week Students and Educators from Iraq and the Western and Eastern United States Meet Online to Converse.  First we were discussing how we might be able to use education to support Human Rights.  Now we are currently in the midst of a Design Exchange Project. The transcripts are found here.

1 Week One, 07.14.10, does anyone have a transcript? I am having technical issues with this one, and will get it up soon!

2-Iraqi_American Conversation 07.21.10

3_Iraqi _ American Conversations Week 3 07.28.10

4_Design Exchange Initial Conversation.08.04.10

5 Media Exchange Week One 08.11.10

6_Design Exchange Project Week Two 08.18.10

7 Desgin Exchange Conversation Week Three 08.25.10 Rhinocort

Iraqi / US Student Conversations Week 3

1.  How might we use the class room and education in general to promote change, freedom of speech and human rights? How has this been done in the past in Iraq? In the US?

2.  Do students feel that they have a responsibility to change the environment around them, and if so, what is the boundary of that environment?  Their class room, university, town, city, country?  Should students be involved in international politics?

3.  Do students make their voices heard in your present or previous school systems?  If so, does it have an impact, and can you list examples of how?  If not, why not, and what changes do you feel must be made so that they would have an impact?  What do you feel must be done for those changes to occur?

4.  If you were to create an ideal student political body, how would it be structured and how would it function? Lozol

Iraqi / US Student Conversations Week 2 Questions

Hello All: The general overarching topic for this week concerns curriculum and pedagogy: about the political nature of what information is taught vs. what is left out, and _how_ things are taught. How do these choices and methods affect the ability to create political change through education?

Some of the suggestions for questions thus far have been:

  • What is the relationship of censorship to curriculum?  Have you ever been part of a school system where particular books, subjects or conversations have been banned or discouraged?
  • How has the internet affected teaching & learning?  How do you feel it has affected morals, maturity, access to information and attention span of students?  Have your teachers incorporated it in interesting ways in their teaching practices?
  • How do you see the effect of democracy on teaching, whether conceptually or practically?
  • How was the Iraq war was spoken about in the class room?  Was it taught?  Referred to?  Ignored?  Was its portrayal in the media analyzed?  What types of sources were used, if any?  Did your teacher make their personal opinion about the war known to the class?
  • Have the subjects of war and terror been introduced in classroom discussion, and if so, how?

Please begin your posts by introducing yourselves with 2 or 3 sentences if you haven’t already.   Please tell us how old you are, what subject you are studying and at what level, what your major interests are, and where you are located.  This will be helpful for everyone to know how we can all work together.

Any other suggestions for questions, the next chat, or anything else are also welcome. Thanks!! Melanie

Here is some background to contextualize the spirit of the first round of questions and dialog:

The classroom is not the world, but the classroom is its own world.

Perhaps you think of politics as a process used only to a select people of power who go to important meetings. In fact, politics is all around you. The governing of our bodies, the establishment and reinforcement of rules, displays of power–all of these concerns occur even in your own classroom. In past or present experiences at your school, where do you feel you have experienced imbalances of power, whether between teacher and student, administration and student, or between groups of students themselves?  How were these power imbalances symbolized? 

Iraqi / US Student Conversations Week 1 Questions

Shape of Change: Iraqi American exchange design project questions

Phase One: Experiences in the class room

Based on experience in he classroom, that might lead to a larger conversation about society. Questions may bring out differences that manifest in culture, language and behavior, so we can talk about power more in terms of power structures rather than political parties.

  1. What is the relationship between teachers and students?
  2. How is power symbolized in the classroom?
  3. What behaviors are encourage or discouraged?
  4. What language is used? Is the language that is used most people’s first language?
  5. What is the relationship among you and your peers?
  6. What are the injustices that you witness on a daily basis in the classroom?

Please post your initial responses on the blog now.

Do not forget to add your contact information to this spreadsheet if you plan to  join us for a Skype conversation Wednesday July 14th: 10am California, 1pm New York, and 8pm Iraq.

Iraqi / US Student Discussion Project Description

Iraq & US student conversation, exchange and design project

To have a conversation about how power and authority might be structured in class rooms, in this case in Iraq and the US.


  • To investigate how education some times involves its own power structures that can reflect cultural norms
  • To promote intercultural understanding
  • To connect groups of groups student activists, so that they might discuss issues of free speech

A.  Conversations

  • As per both groups interests, we might have 3 conversations, one per week, about teaching, curriculum and student activism.
  • This first week we are focusing on Experiences in the Classroom. Please respond to the questions with a blog post as soon as possible.  The first week’s questions are found here:
  • The basic structure would be to post a list of 3-5 questions at the beginning of the week.  Participants would have one week to post their answers to the word press blog site.
  • Depending on availability, participants would try to log on to skype on Wednesdays starting Wednesday July 14th at 10:00 am California time, 1 pm NYC time, 8:00 pm Iraq time for a 30 – 45 minute conversation of that weeks material.
  • Because of the difficulty some people may have with electricity and logging on to skype, the center of the conversations will be text based.

B.  Design Project
Then, we might do an exchange based design project, based on rules the groups in Iraq and the US would mutually agree on.
Project concept examples:

  1. One idea would be to do something based on the Surrealist’s idea of the Exquisite Corpse, which was a game played on slightly altering text, images or ideas as they passed from person to person.  This might be executed by having all participants in all 3 locations (California, New York and Baghdad) read a single text concerning education, politics or philosophy.  Then, each group would interpret that text in a design project of their choosing.  They would pass their work off to the next group off in the next site, would reinterpret the work according to differences in their site.  The project would end after 3 rounds.
  2. Another idea would be to do something based on humor, which is very difficult to translate.  Perhaps the group in Iraq would find images and texts associated with a transcript from a beloved Iraqi political comedian, whose work they would translate into English (realizing the work might loose much of its humor when translated).  Then perhaps the Americans would try to reinterpret this work according to their local context in NYC, and translate the work into Arabic, etc.

There are many such design projects that are based on education, power, translation, image, site, youth, media and politics.  Ultimately, the project should be decided by the people doing the work, these examples are provided as starting points.