Creating Technology for Social Change

Putting Voldemort into the Guardian: Remixing the News with Hackasaurus

Hackasaurus is a great project by Mozilla which makes it easy to see the structure of a web page and remix it. In education, it’s a great way to combine learning about composition with learning about how to make.

Today in the Media Lab’s class on Technologies for Creative Learning, we met with Andrew Slack of the Harry Potter Alliance, an organisation which mobilises Harry Potter fans for social good. We also had a great conversation on the ideas of Henry Jenkins about participatory culture and participatory learning (for more, see this report by Jenkins funded by the MacArthur Foundation).

In the class, one concern which was raised is that there are special advantages gained from learning how to make which might get lost when we overly value participation in fan cultures– especially where technology is concerned. I don’t think anyone’s worried that producers of fan art aren’t learning how to draw and paint– it’s very obvious that they are. But when it comes to digital technology, the easiest software tools are often the ones which shield us from their underlying workings.

Hackasaurus stands in contrast to those black box technologies. It uses the experience of remixing to expose users to technologies underlying the web. It’s also very fun and easy to use. As educational software, Hackasaurus may not convey as many opportunities for deep learning as a well-funded, mature project like Scratch, but it’s an exciting and important move in the right direction. In this two minute video, I show you how to put Voldemort onto the Front Page of the Guardian without installing any special software onto your computer.

Super thanks to the Hackasaurus team, especially Atul and Jess. This is an amazing technology! Also, Dan Schultz at the Media Lab is starting a new project around using Hackasaurus to remix the news. Do contact us if you’re interested!