This workshop commenced with a standard Chinese Whispers activity.
“Chinese whispers is an internationally popular game, in which one person whispers a message to the ear of the next person through a line of people until the last player announces the message to the entire group. Errors typically accumulate in the retellings, so the statement announced by the last player differs significantly from that of the first player, usually with amusing or humorous effect. Reasons for changes include anxiousness or impatience, erroneous corrections, the difficult-to-understand mechanism of whispering, and that some players may deliberately alter what is being said to guarantee a changed message by the end of the line.”
Chinese Whispers (Illustrated)
As a variation of the standard spoken Chinese Whispers, we then, as a class, repeated the activity, this time with a pair of drawings. By the time the original drawings had gone around the room, each person being shown the drawing for a few seconds and then drawing from memory, they had changed out of all recognition.
This activity certainly highlights the unreliability of memory and the mistakes that can occur when working to a time limit. Also, the more participants that are involved, the greater the likelihood of mistakes and changes being introduced.
This activity involved working in pairs. One person would give instructions to the other in order to create a drawing. The instructor could not see what the other person was drawing and nor could they give explicit directions, such as ‘draw a tree’. Instead, I received prompts such as ‘draw a line east for two centimetres’, ‘draw a quarter circle towards the west’, etc.
This exercise highlighted the value of clear communication and planning and how relying on other people to realise a plan or vision can be problematic if instructions are not explicit. There is also a tendency in the person doing the drawing to complete emerging elements of the drawing they think they recognise before being instructed.
For this part of the workshop, we were asked to just start writing. We were instructed to to think about what we were going to write, just to begin writing. Here is what I produced:
“Nevertheless, it was something I couldn’t see and all was darkness to me, washing at the shoes, lapping at my feet. The sun was above, in all honesty, it was all I could do to hold it together. The buttons had fallen from my coat, lost coins around someone bereft of money.”
This technique can be used as a means to overcome creative block and to generate ideas. I am quite pleased with some of the imagery in the above paragraph and could, potentially, develop the piece into a longer work.
This group exercise involved a number of attempts at collaborative drawing (some not that collaborative!). There were four of us in the group for this activity.
For the first drawing, we were asked to each contribute to a single drawing, but without drawing complete elements of the drawing, just parts.
The second drawing was a result of choosing a subject and then all four of us wielding a single pen to create that subject.
The third creation was born out of the group all sharing the single pen as before, but this time no subject was chosen and we decided what we wanted to draw as we went along.
For the last exercise, one person from each of two groups of four were bound together with string around their wrists and this string held by other members of the group. Those whose wrists were tied were given whiteboard pens and placed in front of whiteboards. The idea was for everyone else in each group to maniuplate the strings in order to move the hand of the people holding the pens and, in so doing, create a collaborative piece of work.
The results are below:
There are certainly some lessons to be learned about cooperation, coordination, communication, delegation and planning. These exercises made it clear that it’s very easy groups to descend into ad-hoc contributions to an overall aim which do not progress the group to their goal. Dominant or assertive personalities can influence the outcome of a collaborative effort, not always to the benefit of the team.
Creating a Communication Protocol
For the final activity, we were requested, in groups, to create and demonstrate a novel communication protocol. Here are some of the communication technologies and techniques that we brainstormed:
We had to demonstrate the protocol worked, so one member of our team walked to a destination that only they knew, taking a photograph of their current location every minute for fifteen minutes until they reached their destination. The photos were sent them back to the rest of the group via Facebook Messenger.
After fifteen minutes, the group had to use the photos to locate the fourth member. We agreed on some rules for the protocol, such as how often the photos would be sent, for how long the lone member would walk and what to do if we were unsuccessful in locating them.