Art 511 Art & Telecommunications
Assignment 1: Low Tech Communication Technology
Human cultures developed distance communication technologies long
the current electronic era. Examples include drums, fire, smoke,
flags, etc. Many of the same issues important in the analysis of
communication can be seen in prior technologies. Furthermore,
of these non-electronic technologies can yield insights for artists
to work with and understand communications technologies.
The class will divide up into several teams of 2 persons
Each team will develop a communication technology capable of flexible
of messages at a distance of 600 yards and beyond. Think of it as
beyond the range of yelled human voice. The system can be totally new
a derivation of known pre-electronic technologies.
The system should not rely on any electronic components.
Each team should practice so that they become adept at sending and
messages via the system they develop.
The system should be flexible enough to send a wide range of messages.
Each team should decide if they will develop an l. alphabetic system
words made up of letters) or a 2. non-letter based system that sends
kinds of units (you will have to determine what kinds of messages might
- Arrange for someone in the class to take digital pictures of the
Create a short Web Based Documentation of your event with a
description and image
- Upload that page into the sfsu archive as explained on syllabus
- Upload a link to that page on the class yahoo groups site into
the 2007.ass1.lowtech folder with short description of concept of the
Consider all the following communication issues in designing the
Accuracy (does the receiver understand what the sender sends?)
Redundancy (is any redundancy built in?)
Noise (how immune is the system to various kinds of noise?)
Speed (how quickly can a message be sent?)
Efficiency (how much effort is required to send the message?)
Saliance (what kinds of information is the system best and worst at?)
Elegance and aesthetic appeal
The test event:
On the day of the test, the class will observe each team use their
to send a message. Team members will separate to a standard distance.
team will be given a chance to demonstrate their system. Then they will
be asked to send a test message.
Those using an alphabetic system will be given a message they have
seen before and asked to send it.
Those using a non letter based system will need to provide a pool of 30
possible messages, out of which a few will be drawn.
The message sending event will be timed and observed by the class.