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Visual and Other Low-Tech Messaging

During the second world war (no I'm not quite that old) resistance networks used all sorts of techniques for passing both messages and people. By comparison with today's technology theirs was unsophisticated by often effective.

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I'm sure many of the techniques from the past are already in regular practice but it probably doesn't hurt to think of a few that might still be useful.
Pre-arranged signals are possibly amongst the most reliable but coded messages can probably be deployed effectively in situations where detainment is carried out through unsophisticated agents. Afew ideas:

  • Word of mouth (properly reinforced) can be reliable at times;
  • Signs in windows, especially shops where, for example, normal open/shut signs might be black and white but red, blue or other colours might indicate various conditions or circumstances. Trusted members of networks would be trained to recognise visual cues and spread the message accordingly;
  • Semaphore along with morse code (which can be visual as well as auditory) are simple technologies that have fallen into disuse. As such they are potentially useful in clandestine communication;
  • Letter boxing - like the window signs pre-arranged coloured paper or (eg.) 3 red lines on white background (even messages with lemon-juice??) slipped under doors, placed in letter boxes and other strategic places;
  • Clothing with visual cues (not blatant but subtle) and blended with customs; and
  • Smoke signals, signal fires and other signals like whistling, singing or playing particular instruments/tunes etc.

Just a few of a huge variety of ways to let people know what is going on. Depending on the circumstances of detention some of these approaches could be used to give messages of hope to detainees

What kind of resources are needed to get this idea off the ground and/or support it over time?

A good trusted network, clear and unambiguous pre-arranged signals, and simple materials and techniques that blend with the culture. Obviously the biggest component is the people costs for the materials or equipment would vary depending on the level of sophistication.

How could this idea also be adapted to work in low-tech situations?

Apart from equipment for morse code or semaphore there are so many ways to use simple or 'everyday' materials and objects specifically but unobtrusively.

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Hi Paul, interesting post! Any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story with higher impact. We know occasionally people have issues uploading images so let us know if you face any problems. You should be able to use the 'Update entry' button on the right of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring ideas on OpenIDEO.