Archive for October, 2011

October 31, 2011

Knit Wall Street

by Edmund Kasubinski

I saw a short little blurb in today’s Metro (one of the trashier free newspapers) about a woman who is knitting clothing for the protesters at Wall Street.  Knitting being a point of interest of the class, I figured I’d post a little about Marsha Spencer, known more simply as Marsha the Knitter.

 

Here is an “ireport” from CNN.com:  http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-692648

And there’s an interesting article on the website, newdomesticity.com, where the terms “craftivism” and “yarn bombing” are used:  http://newdomesticity.com/?p=106

Marsha the Knitter is reportedly knittin’ stuff for the cold occupiers, which is some good old homespun DIY engagement.  Perhaps if all were to knit, then the world would be a more comfortable place.

 

October 31, 2011

Johnny Cash Does DIY

by Edmund Kasubinski
Hear Johnny Cash sing a DIY anthem.  DIY car-makin’.
October 27, 2011

Halloween DIY – Camera Costume

by hstrykdiy

Halloween is my favorite time of year. Besides being into the macabre and full on goth in high school, I love making costumes and seeing what others come up with. I came across this Fully Functional Camera Costume and I thought it was a great, fun example of a DIY Halloween costume. It includes a bit of hardware hacking, a lot of cardboard and creative use of found objects:





We are having a small costume making get together in New Haven on Friday. My costume this year involves sewing, glitter and some hardware hacking. I will document our creations this weekend.

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October 26, 2011

DIT: Do It Together

by StefiaMadelyne

From Do It Yourself to Do It Together

1:16 PM Thursday February 18, 2010
by John Hagel III, John Seely Brown and Lang Davison

Chris Anderson continues to explore the edges of the Big Shift playing out around us.

Having introduced us to The Long Tailand the growth of Free as a business model, Chris has just published a new article called “Atoms Are the New Bits” in the current issue ofWired. This article, highlighting the move from the “long tail of bits” to the “long tail of atoms,” provides an important preview to a new book Chris Anderson is developing.

Chris uses a broad range of compelling stories to illustrate three elements coming together to democratize product businesses:

• Crowdsourcing of design ideas
• Availability of lower-cost design and manufacturing tools
• Options to outsource capital-intensive manufacturing and distribution business activities to more focused business partners

This is powerful stuff and all executives need to read this and reflect on what it means for their business. Much of what Chris describes is a direct result of the foundational forces we identify as the catalysts of the Big Shift (PDF), specifically the digital technology infrastructure and public policy shifts that have been playing out for decades. Without these foundations, very little of the creative activity he describes would be possible.

The additional element that Chris appropriately highlights involves innovations in design and manufacturing tools — such as three dimensional printers, laser cutters, and lathes, not to mention sophisticated CAD design tools. These used to be huge obstacles to building new product businesses. They cost so much that most entrepreneurs had a hard time getting into the game. The price of admission to many product businesses was indeed very high. Now what was once the purview of only the largest corporations can easily be purchased and installed in a small garage by entrepreneurs with very limited resources.

There’s another development that further amplifies this trend. Even instruments that remain very expensive like electron microscopes can now be shared over digital networks in a pay-for-use model and accessed by very small start-ups. As a result, do-it-yourself, or DIY, businesses are flourishing in product categories like cars, drones, and rocket landers — products that were completely beyond the reach of small entrepreneurs for decades.

Given Wired’s wide following among entrepreneurs, the article frames these developments as enormous opportunities, and they are — for entrepreneurs. From the perspective of large companies, however, these same trends represent enormous challenges. The examples used by Chris are tangible illustrations of the broader assertion we make as part of the Big Shift — barriers to entry and to movement are quickly falling. For incumbents, this means more intense competition, mounting economic pressure and, unless significant changes are made, deteriorating performance, as documented in our Shift Index.

As good as Anderson’s article is, it only scratches the surface of what is going on. Now, we understand the severe space constraints of articles (not to mention blog postings like this!) make it necessary to be selective — choices have to be made about what to cover and what to leave aside.

In particular, the stories and anecdotes he relates focus on the “access” level of pull that we outline in our forthcoming book, The Power of Pull. This is the ability to find and connect with people and resources on demand. This is very powerful. Chris does a great service in highlighting that pull in the form of access is becoming more widely available for physical products. It is not just the domain of Google and digital media. But access is only the very beginning of the broader forces at work through pull.

Our book builds on the important themes developed in Anderson’s book by exploring additional levels of pull that are becoming increasingly central to success. True to his article’s title, Chris focuses on atoms, rather than relationships. He speaks eloquently about the new generation of 3D printers and the tools available in places likeTechShop.

But he only tangentially talks about the kinds of relationships that foster sustained innovation, performance improvement, or the creation of new knowledge related to these product businesses. He is focused on a largely transactional world — finding resources, doing deals to access them, and gaining leverage from what already exists. Even though in many of his stories pull platforms help to facilitate this access, given the constraints of an article, Chris doesn’t investigate the institutional arrangements (for example, governance protocols) that sustain these pull platforms .

But there are other levels of pull that could be leveraged to amplify the long tail of atoms. For example, in what ways can individuals and businesses (entrepreneurs and incumbents alike) go beyond simple access to actually attract people and resources they do not yet know exist, but that prove enormously helpful once discovered? “Shaping serendipity” in this way is a second and more accomplished level of pull, one which builds on the expanded access to which Chris refers. Taking it even further, rather than simply connecting with existing resources, what about participating in or even designing the creation spaces in which performance improvement and learning accelerate as more and more people join?

This third level of pull is the most exciting of all as it enables entirely new ways to scale collaboration. Perhaps this is the real story, just over the horizon. DIY is powerful because it taps into the passion and creativity of individuals around the world.

But maybe DIY is just a precursor to even more powerful forms of Do It Together (DIT), pulling together larger numbers of diversified and talented individuals to more and more rapidly innovate and drive new levels of performance on a continuing basis. Of course, whenever a team forms, we have a form of DIT but, as we all know, teams are not scalable. What we would really need is an environment where many teams can organize and begin to create and share knowledge across team boundaries.

Now, admittedly the second and third levels of pull required for scalable DIT to really take hold are more challenging to master. They begin to require significant institutional innovation, with deep thought around issues like governance, incentive structures, reputation mechanisms, and how to stimulate and focus productive friction. They definitely move us beyond the world of simple transactions into the more complex world of long-term, trust-based relationships. The pull platforms needed to support these businesses and relationships are far more complex.

But the rewards are enormous. Rather than one-off product innovations, entrepreneurs can start to build the foundations for a growing stream of product innovations with powerful increasing returns dynamics. In fact, the second and third level of pull begin to move us beyond “free-agent nation” stories into a new domain of scalable peer learning that can lead to the emergence and rapid evolution of very large and highly innovative global institutions. Scalable DIT offers the potential to turn the experience curve on its side, generating increasing returns to learning and performance improvement.

Now, is this all fantasy and speculation? Not at all. But to find examples of the application of these higher levels of pull and get a sense of the scale that can be achieved, we need to look beyond the United States. We wrote extensively about some of the institutional innovations emerging in China in such diverse industries as apparel, motorcycles, and consumer electronics in our earlier book,The Only Sustainable Edge.

In some later writing, we also highlighted other promising examples emerging in India in other industries like banking, agricultural products, and automobiles. Closer to home, our new book looks at a little known company that helped to drive the global technology innovation leading to the commercialization of the iPod.

These institutional innovations not only foster the emergence of smaller, entrepreneurial companies but amplify the economic value created by these companies by bringing them together into ecosystems that generate increasing returns so that everyone learns faster by working with others. It’s DIT on steroids.

Going beyond the basic notion of access to focus on the broader promise of pull helps move us all beyond the romantic view of the individual entrepreneur working in a garage. In the end, DIT may be the real story to tell about the democratization of production: how the long tail will generate very large product businesses that will not only co-exist with smaller entrepreneurial businesses but, through their institutional innovations, actually help to catalyze even more of these smaller businesses.

What do you think? Is free agent nation our destiny? Or are we simply in the midst of a shift to a very different kind of scalable institution? Could you imagine an institution that would help you to get better faster by working with others? What would such an institution look like?

Lang Davison is the former executive director of the Deloitte Center for the Edge and was previously editor-in-chief of The McKinsey Quarterly. He is co-author of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Set Big Things in Motion.

http://blogs.hbr.org/bigshift/2010/02/from-do-it-yourself-to-do-it-t.html

October 26, 2011

Become a Switcher

by StefiaMadelyne

SwitchTheSong

Broadcasting Voices.  Inspiring Agency.

This is a storytelling project that collages the many voices of the current social awakening. We seek to broadcast these voiced expressions, in all their forms – guided by our Manifesto and culminating in an Anthem and a Book. SwitchTheSong connects and amplifies the voiced hopes of all Switchers alike. The Switchers recognize their agency and take action to envision the world they wish to inhabit – contributing their own, personal version of the Song. The power of being lies in free will. To claim the right to live in a creative environment, outside the status quo of mindless conformity, is a radical act of freedom.

Follow us on Twitter:  @SwitchTheSong
Contact Us:
Stephia Madelyne Kascher
  • stephia@switchthesong.net
  • stephiakascher@gmail.com

Ariana Stolarz

  • ariana@switchthesong.net
  • stolarz.ariana@gmail.com

Athena Llewellyn Barat

  • athena@switchthesong.net
  • athenallewellyn@gmail.com
October 26, 2011

‘Elf Girl’ Book Release Party Tonight!

by Tom Tenney

Of all the people I know, I think Rev Jen Miller best personifies the DIY ethic, aesthetic and lifestyle.  Performer, prophet, painter, preacher poet – The Village Voice voted her the Best DIY Go-Girl Over 21 in 2002, and I know some of you caught her reading at the RE/Mixed Media Festival kickoff party last Friday.  Tonight she is celebrating the release of her 3rd published book, Elf Girl (Simon & Schuster) at 10 pm at Bowery Poetry Club.   I can’t recommend this event highly enough, as there will be performances by some of the best DIY (and some not so DIY) downtown artists like Hi Christina, Jonathan Ames, Sean T. Hanratty and several others.   I will be there dressed as the door to room 6 of the Midway Motel in Pennsylvania – a reference to one of her stories in the book – and other costumes and weirdness will, I’m sure, abound.  It’s free and my guess is it will be fairly packed, so get there early.  Hope some of you can make it!

October 26, 2011

Open City Dialogue @ Pete’s Candy Store

by Nick Brewer

Open City Dialogue  (OCD) is a bi-monthly lecture series unraveling on alternating Mondays in the backroom of Pete’s.  Short (35-40 minute) lectures are woven together from the common thread of people’s obsessions, with guests coming from all over Greater New York.  Whether academic or crackpot; celebrated or unsung, our lecturers all have something to tell you…
Lectures are on Mondays at 7:30pm

The one coming up that I expect to be packed but looks really interesting is Posterboy on December 12th.

NOTES FROM UNDERGROUND: Re- purposing NYCʼs adscape w/ Posterboy#

Street artist Posterboy covertly reconfigures NYC subway ads into eye-popping collages that poke fun at Big Brother and consumptive celebrity culture. Posterboy will be on hand to discuss his work, process and how making subversive art can land you in Rikers.

October 25, 2011

Design with the Other 90% Exhibit

by Lily Antflick

Design with the Other 90%: CITIES presented by the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum is currently on view at the United Nations.

I highly recommend checking it out as the exhibit presents innovative social and environmental design solutions to severe problems facing many poor and marginalized communities around the world. The exhibit displays the recent trend in the field of Design toward identifying urban global issues and alleviating them with the limited resources available.

A couple of case studies stood out pertaining to DIY practices, specifically, COOPA-ROCA which is an initiative in Rochina, Brazil, focused on activities with groups of women, generating a small production force aimed at developing decorative craftwork products by reviving traditional Brazilian craft techniques such as drawstring appliqué, crochet, knot work and patchwork. The Favela Painting project in Rio is also a unique DIY art project in which a Dutch Design Firm decided to brighten up a local slum by having community members paint it. The Dutch artist duo Haas&Hahn started developing the idea of creating community-driven art interventions in Brazil in 2006. Their efforts yielded two murals which were painted in Rio’s most notorious slum, in collaboration with local youth. The artworks received widespread coverage and have become points of pride and gratification both in the community and throughout Rio.

Check out the entire exhibit on view at the UN until January 9, 2012 (it’s free!)

 

October 25, 2011

Connected

by StefiaMadelyne

Documentary explores the effects of being wired

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-15436421

 

Connected, a documentary by Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain, explores the global implications for being wired in the 21st Century.

The film, which took four years to make and partly focuses on Ms Shlain’s connection with her dying father, attempts to explain the underpinnings of why humans choose to connect with one another through technology.

The film is now being played at select theatres in the US.

After exchanging a series of roughly 30 emails with Ms Shlain and her production staff, the BBC’s Matt Danzico spoke to the film-maker about the broader implications of staying wired to the internet.

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October 24, 2011

How’s the world feeling right now?

by Ariana Stolarz

Check this article on Gizmodo, on how to build yourself an Arduino-powered, Twitter-parsing LED mood light–The Twitter Mood Light promise to be an actual reflection of how people are feeling (well, how the ones with access to Twitter are).

DIY — Here is the how-to.

What you need:

  • An Arduino
  • A WiFly wireless module
  • An RGB LED,
  • Twitter.com, and
  • A9v battery

 

 

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October 21, 2011

Valpo Surf Project Silent Auction Tomorrow

by Edmund Kasubinski

A friend of mine helped start this unique DIY initiative in Chile.  The Valpo Surf Project is a program designed to teach surfing to underprivileged folks in Chile.  Even though a city like Valparaiso is near a beautiful, surfable ocean, the high cost of surfing equipment keeps its citizens from enjoying such a hobby/sport.

From the website:

In Valparaiso, a city comprised of homes built on the hills surrounding an industrial port, there is a disconnect between its youthful inhabitants and the ocean. Although most see the ocean everyday of their lives, many of the city’s youth have never had the opportunity to experience the Pacific Ocean and Chile’s beaches. We wanted to create a way that Valparaiso’s disconnected youth could learn to engage with and protect the local marine environment.

The resulting idea evolved into the Valpo Surf Project, a community organization that engages its young participants with the surrounding marine environment through weekly surf outings and focus on fostering three distinct components: personal character development, environmental consciousness, and English language education.

And every so often the folks at Valpo take their initiative to the Big City to hold a well-organized fundraiser such as this weekend’s silent auction.  Here’s a link to the event:

3rd Annual NYC Silent Auction at Crop to Cup

For 25 bucks you get beer, wine, snacks, and door prizes, plus a chance to bid (silently) on some local art; plus you contribute to a good cause.

I’ll be stopping in tomorrow for a bit, maybe I’ll see you there!

October 18, 2011

Help Donald Reed !!!!

by diydonaldreed

Hey there I’m writing this post to simply ask if anyone knows any DIY projects for children. I am a nanny or “manny”, or whatever you call it, and I watch a very sarcastic and honest 8 year old. He is great but when he is bored, or whenever a dull moment happens during conversation he has no problem letting me know that I am boring him. So I have decided to look up some DIY project for him to do. But I can’t seem to find any that would amuse him. He is hard to please, to the point where if I even make him crack a smile I feel my day wasn’t a complete fail. I even thought of taken notes from the readings and letting him use my camera to make up a story or a game where I ask questions and he answers with film. I remember hearing that there are some people in class that watch children, so please I would love some advice. I have to watch him and one of his friends for 12 hours next week. So I’m planning a day, so I don’t go completely crazy.

ANY IDEAS???!!

Donald Reed

October 18, 2011

Collage Lab Part II

by StefiaMadelyne

Ariana posted her beautiful photographs in an earlier post and eloquently explained our fabulous, community-engaged, DIY Collage Lab at Creation Nation’s headquarters in Newark, NJ.  It is such a large, beautiful space and while we created, so did others around us.  There are many photos here, and I hope they do justice to the beauty of the space, the collaborative creative atmosphere, and the wonderful experience of transformative works of art in action!  Enjoy!!

 

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October 18, 2011

The Importance of Failing Often

by Nick Brewer

From NYC Resistor’s blog

Catarina helped me build a prototype of a “Nixie” tube illuminated with electroluminescent wire. Unfortunately the wires are too dense and too dim to work well with the ten layers of thickness, so the prototype is a beautiful failure.

I think this is an excellent example of failure in DIY education. I have found over time that I tend to make a lot of mistakes and that is completely ok. Not only am I learning in my attempts to build things, but I usually break something and have to overcome that problem to finish the project. I really like the look of these nixie tubes that Hudson was trying to go for, and he has a really good design, but the overall product just didn’t work… making it “a beautiful failure.”

Anybody else have any lessons they’ve learned through failure?

October 18, 2011

autonomous accredition

by noah

Wednesday night I took the opportunity to sit in on an incredibly intimate discussion titled “An Autonomous Alternative Accreditation Agency” led by a young Syracuse professor Thomas Gokey. The general idea of accreditation being restricted to universities is a myth so rarely questioned with such constructive criticism, and the two hours spent on our hands and knees scrubbing towards a collective yellow brick road was oh so satisfying. Before recapping the discussion it should briefly be said that developing an autonomous accreditation system is, simply said, dreaming up how to integrate a formalized education with the practice of everyday life. It is a move towards understanding academics as life and life as academics, making clear that our knowledge is extended into all that we do. Majorly, this move also invalidates the role of high tuition universities and allows for education to reflect classic equality. It is not the hope to see these institutions shut down, but rather become a democratic force than a job coupled with debt machine. Since 1978 tuition in America has raised 900% as universities have adapted into the role of banks, and if we do not collectively conceptualize a new form of education then tomorrow we won’t be able to afford the time we wasted today.

In introducing his own reimagination Thomas shared how Mozilla has embraced a network of merit badges [more info] among software developers. These merit badges can be collected from anywhere on the internet to share a history of what one knows and has achieved, adding a little prestige to one’s digital endeavors depending on the reputations of their parenting firm. Now what if we applied a similar model to our physical communities? In a reputation economy no two badges are created equal, and badges are assessed in a network of trust and reputation. Achieving badges is comparable to building a portfolio, and this portfolio of scholarship will eventually become a degree. For the remainder of the discussion we shared ideas concerning free schools and ivy league community colleges, and we eventually shared #occupytogether stories. The occupation in Los Angeles launched a free school this week, curated by Antioch’s Urban Sustainability Program and faculty of UCLA. When asking students in NYC if they have even been able to visit our #occupywallst there are frequently “no’s” excusing the experience with either school or work to pay for school when this is a moment in history affecting the way the symbolic order of the everyday is acknowledged.

A theme I’ve taken to this is a notion of time and control. What is the necessity for stabilization, homogenization through fundamentals, and the breaking of the individual spirit? Education is a pursuit of knowledge and a self-discovery in comprehensiveness, of practice, and of understanding. Let’s reflect that appropriately.

October 17, 2011

Participatory Learning…Virtually.

by alexandrakellyg

Josephine Dorado is a professor at Parsons and an expert in the field of “creative collaboration and theatrical performance in virtual worlds.”  I attended her demonstration on Participatory Learning Through Performance at MobilityShifts on Saturday afternoon.  Dorado explored, most specifically, improvisational dance in the virtual world of Second Life as a tool for participatory learning.  I must admit…I’ve always been a Second Life skeptic.  This is partially why I chose to attend this demonstration.  How does Second Life work?  What is the appeal of using my computer to transport me away from my immediate environment into an atmosphere of aliases that interact in real time?  What makes this virtual world of improvisational dance more fascinating and effective then my neighborhood contact dance group?

Photo credit:  Josephine Dorado

The demonstration displayed Second Life aliases (including Dorado’s alias) dancing to music that was being mixed by a DJ in the physical Orientation Room at Parsons.  The physical audience could sometimes be seen on a big screen within the virtual world.  We could watch ourselves watching the dancers.  The dancers performed many moves which seem physically impossible in real life; such as rapid fire upside down splits.  At one point, colorful ribbons were received by the dancers as props to use in interaction or alone on a corner of the floor.

A photograph I took at the demonstration - Josephine Dorado at center

The element of individual ‘choice’ and experimentation is still very much alive in the virtual world, but it seems less intimidating to choose to approach another dancer on the virtual floor then on the physical floor.  In Augusto Boal’s approach to participatory learning through improvisational performance, he gradually works with people to allow them to slowly start to grow into their own bodies and connect with other bodies onstage; at their own pace.  In Second Life’s dance world, there seems to be a much lower threshold to full body participation and collaboration, right from the beginning.  It is not as intimidating to throw your body onto a virtual dance floor, but in what ways does that test your comfort zone?  What does “embarrassment,” “shyness,” or “tentativeness” feel like online as opposed to on Boal’s stage?  And, what sense of accomplishment does a person feel when they have worked through Boal’s exercises (mistakes and all!) as opposed to ribbon dancing for twenty minutes with a group of anonymous people from around the world?

I left Dorado’s demonstration – my first official viewing of Second Life on a screen – feeling even more curious about this new notion of participatory learning through improvisation.  It tests many of my own definitions (mainly those formed through personal experience) of what performance is and what it does to inspire dialogue and create community.  Boal’s theater inspires community dialogue and individual senses of agency.  What are the post-effects of an online dance collaboration on a virtual community and within the physical lives of the people on their computers?

October 17, 2011

PART I – Lab: DIY collage workshop

by Ariana Stolarz

This past Saturday, from 12-4pm Athena, Stephia, and myself conducted a DIY collage workshop in Newark, NJ at the Barat Youth Initiatives headquarters. Watch all the photos here.

We were  joined by a community volunteers, in the creation of a big banner for the upcoming Creation Nation Parade. 15 highschool students joined the session along with numerous community artists and volunteers. We used Art Basel fine art catalogues (2008) and  deconstructed them into collage.Our collective artwork will  march on October 23rd in the parade with thousands of students, and stand in Washington Park for a youth music festival at the end of the parade!

 

 

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October 17, 2011

Publishing Disruptions at Mobility Shifts

by Lily Antflick

This past Friday, I was pleased to attend the panel discussion entitled ‘Publishing Disruptions: Extra-Institutional Publishing Tools’ which was conducted as part of the Mobility Shifts Conference. The panel was moderated by Morgan Currie, of the Institute of Network Cultures and included, Sam Gould of Publication Studio, Amanda Hickman of Document Cloud, Michael Mandiberg of Floss Manuals and Simon Worthington from Mute Magazine.

Each member of the panel presented their individual domains and organizations which share similar philosophies in regard to open-access and publishing as a social practice.
The panel introduced multiple newly-invented platforms for authors who are interested in publishing outside of traditional academic infrastructures, demonstrating that the act publishing can also be seen as a critique of existing institutions and copyright licensing.

Michael Mandiberg discussed Floss Manuals, a collection of manuals about free and open source software, encouraging open-source publishing as a technical and social practice.
Mandiberg discusses Collaborative Futures, a book which he worked on that was created during a ‘Booksprint’ (where many contributors come together for a few days and collaborate on a book.) Floss Manuals has a ‘remix’ option where the public can actually change/add to a book once it is formed. Mandiberg sees the hard copy as an artifact of the digital version which is constantly changing. This problematizes the notion of the book as a fixed entity by encouraging constant feedback, editing and alterations. Here, the book can never really be seen as a finished product, but rather, a malleable object which the public can engage with and adapt.

Sam Gould discussed Publication Studio, a Portland-based laboratory for publication which prints and binds books on demand. The most pertinent message of Gould’s address was his explanation of how PS does so much more than merely the production of books, but more importantly is concerned with the creation of a public. Through a consortium of studios, commissions, artists, authors, etc., PS creates a space for public collaboration. Publication Studio thus offers an expanded notion of what publication can mean, book publishing here is a social act which agitates for dialogue and as a result, forms a public around it.

Both of these speakers’ initiatives complicate traditional academic infrastructures by introducing alternative modes of publishing and collaborative pedagogy. This is central to the DIY ethic which proposes the creation of a new discourse, fracturing authority and encouraging openness, public interaction and individual agency.

October 16, 2011

Scrapyard Challenge at MobilityShifts

by Farah

When I signed up for the Scrapyard Challenge workshop at MobilityShifts, I took to heart the organizers’ claim that no electronics experience would be necessary to participate. Although I’m completely clueless in that department, I wanted to give it a go anyway in the DIY spirit of the class. Jonah Brucker-Cohen and Katherine Moriwaki conduct these workshops all over the world where they have participants take old electronics and other “junk” and use the parts to make something new. For this one, we were making simple sound machines.

I had expected the workshop to be more instructional, but its loose structure actually works in its favor. Rather than a complete step by step tutorial, we were given a brief lesson on how electronic switches work and how we could make our own; then, the workshop leaders essentially let us have at the table of junk. I wrote in my reading reflection paper about Vygotsky’s ideas on the importance of play for the development of children and mentioned that I thought workshops like the Scrapyard Challenge sounded like a good example of that for adults. Sure, you can probably teach people (or teach yourself) how to hack electronics through classroom style lessons. It’s more fun to learn by playing, which for me ended up being trying and failing and trying again.

A friend had given me an old boombox to work with, and a trash artist named Todd helped me in disassembling it and figuring out what we could do with it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a power supply that worked with the interior motors, so we decided to try something else. I ended up making a switch by soldering some wire to a metal Slurpee tin, which we had tested to see if it was conductive. I attached the wires to the organizers’ Arduino board and made some sounds by opening and closing the tin. Admittedly, it was quite lo-fi compared to some things others were making.

Just as Vygotsky says that children have differing levels of proximal development, I think that adults do too depending on the field. However, seeing what others do and being guided by someone with more knowledge helps bridge that gap. The ultimate success of these workshops is that through play, they enable newcomers to learn basic principles of electronics and gain confidence that they can DIY. No, I’m not an expert after a couple hours of tinkering, but I’m a lot less wary of trying something more complex another time.

Below are a few of pictures I took. You can see more here:

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And here’s a video from the workshop:

October 15, 2011

DIY & Crowdsourced Documentaries

by stephaniecorleto

I came across these two documentaries that are interesting examples of DIY documentaries.

Tarnation is the earlier of the two, released in 2003. Director Jonathan Caouette documented 19 years of his life with his schizophrenic mother. With a budget of $218 (edited with the free iMovie program) and two decades worth of super 8 film, photographs, answering machine recordings Caouette was able to create a world renowned film that received accolades from  Independent Spirit, Gotham Awards, National Society of Film Critics, and London International Film Festival.

Life in a Day was released this year that was directed by Kevin Macdonald  and produced by Ridley Scott. Life in a Day is made up of YouTube submissions from people who filmed their lives on July 24, 2010. Thousands are included in the final product.  While I have only seen the trailer and various clips from YouTube there is something so powerful about bringing together all these strangers who are willing to share a little part of themselves. May I suggest a screening day?

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