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The Low Tech Social Network – an amazing experience

At the recent Design Jam Oxford I was introduced to the Gamestorming book and have been pretty much obsessed with it ever since. Given the slightest opportunity I have been putting its ideas to use and one fantastic success was at a recent event in Nottingham in the UK.

We are a group of artists called Livescribes and we have only just launched ourselves into the world of Visual Thinking, Graphic Recording and Graphic Facilitation. When you begin a new venture – I quit my regular 9-5 web job to do this – you never quite know what might happen. The first event we were due to attend as Livescribes was called ‘Show Off’ at Antenna in Nottingham.

Antenna is a studio and office space for creatives based in and around Nottingham. We decided one thing we wanted to do to show the people there we do things differently was to instigate the ‘Low Tech Social Network’ straight out of the Gamestorming playbook (page 105). We would ask people to take a Post-It, draw themselves, write two things about themselves on it and ‘upload’ themselves to our piece of paper.

The event had businesses associated with Antenna as well as visitors all with stands showing their wares in a large, and very nice, bar area which forms the main networking spot within the building (it does coffee and beer). We unfurled a giant piece of paper and masking taped it to a large wall on a slightly raised area in the bar area. And after politely negotiating with some hairdressers to move their stand so we could be seen awaited the first arrivals.

As it was the hairdressers next to us became our first additions to the social network. We even drew a cartoon of them cutting hair. They went from a bit put out at moving to our new friends. Already the power of the social network was having an effect. We got everyone we could to ‘upload’ themselves and draw connections to other people. You can have a look at the final result on our site here (I have used the cloud zoom JQUERY plugin to create that effect incase you’re interested).

We managed to collar nearly everyone who walked into the room over the course of the day. Not only is this an excellent ice breaker its a fantastic way to get talking to potential clients at an event like this. Once the penny dropped that we were not trying to get their credit card details for some ‘New Facebook’ people smiled, grabbed a sharpie and connected. And once the network had grown into a significantly large collective artwork it became one of the main draws of the event.

My favourite moment was when I accosted a thin slightly stressed individual who was inspecting the work. After giving him the spiel and placing a Post-It and pen in his hand he got to it. Although one odd thing that struck me was, as I was speaking, he looked over my shoulder and made that sort of ‘no it’s ok’ hand gesture to someone. As the gentleman uploaded I noticed he wrote ‘politician’ on his Post-It, I looked around to see a coterie of sharp suited business delegates and political types holding clip boards and a few photographers all looking at us. It turned out I had button holed the head of Nottingham City Council. When he asked me how he should cut £20m from the city budget I immediately thought of the ‘Anti Problem’ Gamestorming session and was about to suggest we figured out how to spend £20m and then not do that – but he was whisked away by his army of followers before I could get him to a flip chart.

My tips are for this are: it’s a highly effective ice breaker, a great way to get talking to people and it can run all day. Get a massive bit of paper to do it if you can, people like the tactile nature of it. And over the course of the day we only met one person who didn’t want to do it, so we drew one for him. I wonder if you can guess who…

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Lo-Tech Social_Network…Explored

Inspired by GameStorming and looking for a new content piece for a 2 day workshop I was facilitating I decided to facilitate Lo-Tech Social_Network.

And for some reason I called it Social-Network-UN_Plugged…so both are used interchangeably. Why?  Because I forgot the name when I introduced the activity.

Below is a write-up created with Lo-Teach Social_Network in mind and I am calling

Social-Network Un_Plugged 


  • Team process of creating connections.
  • Getting to know others while finding similarities and developing common strengths.
  • Visual Representation of known and un-known connections, dependencies, and accountabilities within teams


  • Flip Chart Paper or Large Roll of paper
  • Post-its (multi-colored preferably)
  • Markers or pens (the more colors the better!)

Group Size:

  • Can be accomplished with groups of 3 – 1000’s
  • For smaller groups use flip chart paper, for larger groups you are going to need a MUCH larger space and sufficient amounts of paper.

team building & leadership


Social-Network-Un-Plugged is effective with groups of people who know each other well as well as those who do not know each other well.

The objective is to find connections, then to continue to explore how people in the team are connected. By graphically illustrating connections people begin to feel and understand that the similarities and accountabilities are more alike than they at first thought.


Prior to beginning this activity with small teams; ensure that you have at least one sheet of flip chat paper/per team of 10 or less.

For team of 10 or greater I recommend using another sheet of flip chart paper for every 10 people.

If the group is large for example 100+ there are 2 variations;

1. Break the group into teams of 10 people and each team sits with their own piece of flip chart paper. Teams can be Heterogeneous (do not know each other) or Homogenous (know each-other well) the facilitator and decision maker determines this based upon the program objectives.clip_image006

2. The team stays one large organizational group and a large roll of paper is rolled across an available wall. With this variation everyone is finding connections with everyone else.

Additionally you will need at least one Post-it per/person and each person will need a marker, or something to write with.

Instructions and Facilitator Script:

Hand out the flip chart paper and ensure that everyone has a post-it and a marker or pen.

If using the large group method have the paper secured to a wall.

Below is how I generally explain the initiative;

clip_image008“Within this room today we all share connections, connections of managerial authority, accountabilities, backgrounds, futures, trainings, families, hobbies, etc…

It is vital that these connections grow and we see that the similarities are greater than the differences. Once we explore how similar and inter-connected we all are then we can grow and develop solutions to enhance what we are doing.

Please in the top portion on your post-it write your name, below that you are going to draw a picture of your face. Below your picture write two ‘tags’ about yourself (one word skills you possess, sometime I have them write where they were born and if they work together number of years with the agency.)

clip_image010Great now place you post-its randomly on the paper. Using the markers draw lines connecting you, to other people. Label these lines what the connection is. For example one line may connect 2 people who were hired together, another may connect people who worked in the same office, and another may connect people who like to eat chocolate ice-cream. The connections do not and should not be all work related, look for hobbies, personal preferences, vacation spots, sports teams, etc…”


Allow 20-30 minutes depending upon how interactive the groups are being, with larger groups you will have to allow more time. Some people walk away and come back; it is alright if everyone is not into the activity. Once the action has calmed down lead the group in some processing and reflection.

Processing & Reflection:

Here are some ideas;

Active Processing;

Ask each person to find their post-it and count the amount of connections that off-shoot their name.

Once they find their post-it and count connections ask people to read the connections and reflect on how the connections were;

  • formed
  • broken
  • strengthened
  • changed

Following the personal reflection ask the people to forms groups of 2-3. Ask each person to share one connection for each of the following terms above (formed, broken, strengthened, changed) with the group.


Possible questions for the group;

What was your initial reaction to the challenge?

How many connections were formed?

What surprised you about the connections?

In what ways did you form connections?

Who are you connected with that you did not know you shared that connection?

What can we learn from this?

How can these ideas be brought to the office, home, community, classroom?


Original idea from the book; GameStorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers: Lo Tech Social Network game; p. 105

And reminded of the excellence of this activity from the GameStorming Blog 


michael cardus is create-learning