Category Archives: fablab

New Experiment: Working on Agency in a School Class

In the coming weeks I will be working with a Dutch school class (group 7, so 10/11 yr olds), in collaboration with the Provincial Library Friesland and their FryskLab team (a mobile FabLab).

Last summer I wrote a series of postings on how I see a path to significantly increase agency for various group in various contexts, if we succeed in lowering the adoption threshold for existing technologies and techniques. Then any group can recombine those technologies and techniques to create a desired impact in their own contexts and environment.

With a little bit of funding from the Dutch Royal Library, the Provincial Library Friesland and me will work with a school class of the Dr. Algraschool and later with people in a neighborhood to put that model to the test.

In collaboration with the NHL, a university for applied sciences, we will use the results of the experiment to propose a follow-up project as part of the NHL’s lectorate on ‘agile craftsmanship’.

The first session is Wednesday, where we will start with the class to discuss the type of things they would like to change or improve around themselves, and what capabilities they feel they themselves and classmates have. In a follow-up session we will combine those ideas and their talents with the facilities of FryskLab, and then work with the children to build their own prototypes, solutions and projects.

I’m looking forward to it. It’s been a long time since I worked with primary school kids. Back in 2007 I worked with 12 primary schools to integrate digital literacies in their regular lessons, where we explored what children were already doing online, and how schools could help guide that, and build on it in their lessons. And it will definitely be a pleasure to work with the FryskLab crew (who were such a great addition to our 2014 Make Stuff That Matters birthday unconference)

Frysklab in da house!
The FryskLab mobile FabLab, parked in front of our home, 2014

Sunday Serendipity Reading Links

Every day I save a bunch of links from my explorations over the interwebs. Stuff that passes my radar, may become fodder for my writing at some point, but often gets piled and forgotten.I thought maybe it is good to share some of the unsought links I encounter, and some of the notions why I bookmarked it. Blogging of course used to be linklogging, sharing links to your blog neighbourhood, so let’s say it’s returning to a respected tradition. Here are a fistful of links from this week.

    Distributed web

  • IPFS, a distributed way of delivering webpages and files. Pointed out to me in the context of my postings on distributedness and agency. Napsterizing/torrenting everything. Also seems to want to preserve everything on the web better.
  • Steem is a blockchain based social media platform. Aims to ‘pay’ you for contributing, and do the bookkeeping in a blockchain ledger. Not sure that may work, nor that permanent records of each social media utterance are desirable. Like with IPFS mentioned above, ’not forgetting’ may not be a feature but a very concerning social bug. My friend Boris Mann is trying it out, looking forward to reading more of his reflections. I may not understand, I never understood the purpose of Medium either, which superficially seems to be the same thing but without the bookkeeping.
  • Anil Dash reflects on the lost infrastructure of social media. This resonates strongly with me in terms of what made blogging so exciting 10-15 years ago, as well as with my recent writings about agency. Part of the picture is weaving a tapestry of functionality across different services and tools that together are a potent mix. It needs plumbing like RSS, trackback and discoverability over the lines of conversations distributed over the individual blogs of the participants. My friend Lilia did her Phd on those distributed conversations. And as Hoder wrote seeing the web again after six years in an Iranian prison: much of our web now, such as Facebook, is just TV, not coffee house interaction.

  • Free private cities. Sign up to live in one, so you have an ‘equal’ position based on contracted service provision. Because tinkering with democracy and the fact that others have different needs is bothersome, or such. Apparantly the social contract isn’t good enough. This has high overtones of Snowcrash Burbclaves, and the micro-democracy states (100.000 people each, and with every election there is freedom of movement globally to pick the government (corporate, value or ethnicity based) of your choice in the very entertaining near-future SF book Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older. These private city contracts don’t seem to account for the cost of leaving if you cancel your contract, as it is still territory bound, so finding a new service provider means physically moving. With all the social and monetary cost of doing that. Also seems to me that the Principality of Monaco held up as a good practice example, incorporated US towns, or the City of London for that matter provide ample demonstration of why this may not be the way forward to a more inclusive global society.

  • The Ribbon Farm, a blog by Venkatesh Rao, newly added to my feed-reader. His recent newsletter edition on premature synchronization as a cause of problems, chimes with a lot of my experience. Converging too early (because there are just 10 minutes left in the meeting), or forcing convergence in a group doesn’t help much usually. The leading example in the link being military reminds me of an anecdote I once heard about “the world championship of armies” where the US military units were failing because they waited or tried to confirm orders continuously, and the Dutch fared better because they upon receiving others did what seemed worth doing based on context and observation, not seeking further orders and disregarding the literal meaning of orders in the process. Desyncing, as a practice seems valuable advice, and similar to making stuff distributed by design, or probe-based evolution. Seek out new perspectives and let yourself be challenged as part of your routines.

Looking back on 3D Camp

We had two beautiful sunny days in Ireland this week. One spent touring the country side and the coast with our kind hosts Gabriela and Ray, and Adrian McEwan (one of the other speakers, active in IoT and running a makerspace in Liverpool). And one spent at the event we were here for: 3D Camp.

It was the 7th edition, and it’s not a full barcamp, in the sense that the program is set beforehand, although all sessions are still volunteered by participants.

As I was speaking right after the opening key-note, I had the rest of the day to listen, learn and have conversations. Some random take-aways from the day:

A great concept where children get to play by coding up stuff is CoderDojo. A room full of kids with one or both parents working together: the CoderDojo Limerick was in session. Groups are active in over 20 countries. These types of things can be life changing. I still remember getting my hands on my first computer when I was 12, and learning to code BASIC on it. I was immediately fascinated by the technology. Still am. What if my teacher hadn’t gone through the trouble of arranging a few machines for us to experiment with? I would probably have encountered my first computer only upon entering university. A very different stage in life to have your eyes opened to a range of new possibilities.

3Dcamp 2014
CoderDojo Limerick at work

Aine Behan of Cortechs shared with us some of the current things going on in measuring brainwaves and using it to control things, like games. Very interesting to hear about games that reward and give feedback on the amount of focus and calmness your brainwaves convey. It is being used to e.g. condition ADHD children towards better focus skills. Reminded me of the brain wave controlled helicopter I encountered at TEDxTallinn last year.

Makey Makey
Definitely the most funky stuff present at the event. Build upon Arduino you use Makey Makey to turn everything into a key. Like bananas to play music on. Intended for kids, but fun for anyone really.

Heaps of Rapsberry Pi goodness was the demo of the PiPhone by David Hunt. A phone built from Raspberry Pi and other components. A bit clunky, but it works. And while the question whether this is something that will take on the major mobile phone companies isn’t of much relevance, it does mean you can build your own without them, without needing an engineering degree. Another case in point of disruptive tech creating new affordances for individuals.

Oculus Rift
James Corbett, with Gabriela the organizer of 3D Camp, demoed the Oculus Rift. It’s a somewhat disorienting experience to wear it. As what your eyes perceive is different from what all other senses, including your entire body, are telling you. Although the visual quality isn’t all that good (pixelated), the sense of being in a 3d environment is complete and convincing. When I was standing on a balcony, I automatically tried to grab the railing to better look over the edge. My hands were surprised to not find anything where my eyes were telling me the railing was. Luckily there was a table edge I could grab, which then reinforced the reality of being in an experience with just one of my senses, but otherwise still in the event venue, as it was thinner than the railing. Looking down you are surprised to not see your feet (I didn’t have an avatar in the demo). Because of that disconnect between your various senses, it is a very different experience from e.g. being in a VR cave. In a cave you are more fully immersed, with both sound and sight, and you have your body with you. On the other hand, in a VR cave I never forgot that I was in a room with projections around me. With a VR headset like Oculus Rift I was more convinced to be someplace else, as my eyes were telling me only that, but you’re not completely there at the same time. Adding a ‚cochlear rift’ with surround sound will likely make the experience even stronger/stranger.

FabLab Cloughjordan
Anthony Kelly of the Cloughjordan sustainable village project talked about the FabLab called WeCreate they have started there. He talked a little bit about how to make it financially feasible to operate a lab. The FabLab is part of the village co-working space and business center, which makes a lot of sense. Adrian McEwan of the Liverpool Maker Space told me they’re doing the same thing. The co-working space is a main source of income, and at the same time it is a good pool of people from which new makers emerge. A stand alone makerspace will more easily end up with a fixed group of users, where the point of course is to expose more people to the possibilities of digital making. WeCreate has an interesting event lined up for September, OpenEverything (no link yet)

3Dcamp 2014 3Dcamp 2014

I had pleasant conversations throughout the day, on open data, internet of things, fablabs,
talking to the Coder Dojo dads, etc. Elmine rounded off the day with sharing the ‘How to Unconference Your Birthday’ story, and the upcoming ‘Make Stuff that Matters‘ event (Facebook group). She called upon all to actively spread making literacy, and that an event like ours may help. At least two people seemed to have caught the bug.

Thanks to Gabriela for inviting us over, and to her and Ray for being such great hosts to us. We’ve seen quite a lot in just two days in Limerick!

FabLab Opens In My Home Town

FabLab Cakes!It took over two years, but this week a FabLab opened right in my own home town, to both my and Elmine’s considerable joy.
FabLab Enschede has been a long time in the making, with the lead of the project changing hands several times (also between different institutions), but with the consistent and persistent support of civil servant(s) of the city, guiding the project through the various administrative hoops to secure funding. I wasn’t involved directly but on behalf of the FabLab Foundation added our experience with starting other labs, and helped the plan evolve.
In the end, the FabLab has ended up under the umbrella of Saxion Hogescholen (the local university for applied sciences), and has a focus on smart materials and textiles. It is housed directly adjacent to Saxion’s materials lab and product testing lab.
The formal opening was a great and festive event, with a lot of interest from the business community, and also a lot of people showed up who were eager to start making things. That however is not quite possible yet. Machines are still to be delivered (for the opening they borrowed some machines from elsewhere), and there is also still a job opening for the FabLab’s coordinator. So I am curious to see when it really opens, and how quickly it will gain traction in the local community here.
For now I am just extremely pleased that I as a board member of the FabLab Foundation BeNeLux could sign the license for FabLab Enschede, and that there is now a FabLab in my own city.
opening puzzle completed Official Opening