From Code to Craft – Open, appropriate, technology and the design of a new world – part 3

10900111_343478819172598_193884582881854888_oInformation and communications technologies (ICT’s) continue to change and develop at a rapid pace. Increasingly pervasive and networked (both socially and ‘physically’) ICT’s are largely black boxes. While there are indications of movements and trends that attempt to plumb the depths of these black boxes, by and large, most people remain unaware of the ‘mystery in the box’. Digital literacies, hard and soft, offer a way into understanding ICT’s.

The development of a robust understanding of ICT’s leads to an ability to deconstruct, reimagine, and innovate beyond the original boundaries of any given tool or technology. It is possible to see this process at work in communities surrounding the sandbox game, Minecraft. There are ways of seeing the world building, mod creating, and sharing within the Minecraft community as analogs for other processes that can/could have tangible real world impacts. The challenge is in moving from code to craft.

While there is value in knowing how to use software to build vivid and impactful worlds online, the end goal should be to teach literacies that help learners emerge into the world and enact change there. Building the world we want is an exercise in shaping tangible realities. Crafting a more just and equitable world may seem outside the direct goals of any digital literacy learning, but all learning should orient itself towards that goal. The tools and technologies of ICT can be powerful agents acting towards sustainability, creativity, free expression and on and on.

This movement from understanding to intervention informs the Maker and DIY movements, to a degree. But it is time to think about harnessing the energy of such movements towards concrete and meaningful impacts in the world. This is not to say that all activities must be socially useful, just that an articulated goal should include utility towards a more just and equitable world.



We have continually expanding access to new technologies. And yet the issues, problems and plagues that have been with us for decades still endure. And what is even more troubling is that we have largely surrendered the dreams and visions that have the power to animate our work for a better world. This is, of course, not universally true – there are dreamers and visionaries at work today. What we have lost, largely, is the ability to dream as a community or society. The energy of dreams and visions has been transformed into the power that animates fear and loathing. And too many people now cling to fears for lack of any other better emotion to attach themselves to. Because, in truth, what hope is there when we see increasing disparity, increasing selfishness, increasing poverty with no solution, with no path out?

But there are movements and motions that are at work now that could counter this lack of larger vision and hope. Open source, peer movements, plentitude economics are several points of light. But if we are daring to dream again on a larger (some might say grander) scale lets include autonomous technologies, an intelligent world built of objects that speaks to us in multiples of voices and space.

But so long as money is the measure of wealth we will be on the short end of that equation. We need to include, within our new dreams, an alternative measure(s) of wealth. How do we address the fundamental problems of health, nutrition, housing, human rights within a system that is not dependent on money as a measure? To eliminate money, to redistribute the wealth seems impossible but to ignore it – to use it when needed but not let it be the measure of wealth – is that possible? There are so many more of us who are not million(and billion)aires, surely we can come up with something?

This article (Technology Networks for Socially Useful Production) by Adrian Smith began some of my thinking on this. And this (Why communists need moon bases, or in other words, a vision for post-capitalism) added a bit, among other things.

Coming up next…desktop manufactories, surplus workers and space colonies.

Design and Technology Session with Teens – from 2003

Just a bit of archival preservation here. In 2003 we did a 4-H Career Explorations session on Design and Technology. In the past few years I have looked for, but been unable to find, the documents related to this event. Today I did stumble on them and so thought I would preserve the content here.

Session description:

In this program we will explore and re-design common technology tools including cell phones, gps devices, and hand held computing devices.  We will also take a look at the design process and the impact of users on design evolution. Maximum number of students:  15

Wednesday June 25

2-4:30  Information in the Palm of your hand: Exploring the design rationale for mobile information devices. During this period we will look at the evolution of hand held devices and explore evolution of their current design. Issues of form and function and the design decision process will be explored. Design teams will be formed to begin the preliminary design process for a new device. Design materials for this session will include paper, pencils and markers.

Thursday, June 26

8:30 – 4:00

Morning will begin with presentation by the design teams and discussion of their previous afternoon’s design work.  Changes in the design requirements will be made and a re-design session will begin. This will end at approximately 11am.

11-12 short presentation of redesigns and distribution of materials for the afternoon session.

1-4 transfer of paper based design to 3 dimensional model using clay and other materials.

Friday, June 27

8:30 – 12:00 Presentation of design by teams and preparation for closing ceremony presentation

Usage Scenarios:


| A mobile information device that connects you with your friends. This device would have the ability to communicate with multiple people at the same time and might have the ability to locate them, geographically. Communication could be textual, voice or video.

Scenario 1:

Susie, Luis, Emily, Alex and Phil are going to the mall. Susie needs to go to the Gap, Luis to Zumiez, Emily wants to Best Buy and Alex is going to T.J.’s. Phil is just along for the ride. While at the Gap Susie spots a pair of printed side zip capri’s that she just isn’t sure about:Susie wishes that Emily was here to help her make up her mind. How would ConX be useful here?

Scenario 2:

Wanda, Ray, Roberto, Dexter and Mitzi are visiting New York City. After breakfast at the hotel Wanda, Roberto and Dexter head off to Central Park. Mitzi and Ray hop on the subway and head down to the village. While wandering the streets of the village Mitzi and Ray get separated. Wanda and Roberto head into the central park zoo. Dexter is distracted by the game of 3 card monte taking place on 5th avenue.

Ray turns down Bleeker street and finds a perfect café. He wishes Mitzi were with him…..

Dexter realizes he has lost Wanda and Roberto……

How can ConX help?


Open, appropriate, technology and the design of a new world – Version 0, part1.

lb2I recently returned from two weeks in Nicaragua. During my time there we conducted some tech workshops with kids using littleBits (more about that in a future post). While I was there I began to think more closely about the relationship between things like open source, cultural and economic constraints, and so on. I’ve worked with kids and young adults around tech issues for a long time now – sometimes here in New York and sometimes in Nicaragua. I still harbor the firm conviction that tech literacy is now a fundamental need if one is going to take part in shaping a new world, the world we want.

But what became startlingly clear to me (perhaps I am a slow learner?) this time around was the basic powerlessness of teaching tech, so long as it is disconnected from a political orientation, or a political platform. This is perhaps a troublesome thought and possibly poorly articulated. But what I’m trying to get at is something about the point of using technology as a toolkit to build a better, new world, necessitates that tech itself is politicized, contextualized within an operating framework that engages not just tech but the whole social/economic/cultural ecosystem. Because I don’t think it’s possible to build a new world using the constraints of our current system.

Open source is a great concept, but in the context of the political systems we currently work within it is a privileged concept. Access to tools, supplies, even knowledge is unevenly distributed due to a particular system(s) – to enact open source as a robust technology system demands it be a part of a new ecosystem that includes the social, political and economic workings (inner-workings, networkings) across the board.

All of this arises from thoughts about free association and knowledge sharing that I began to put down on January 2nd while in Managua. It was deepened as I moved to the Atlantic coast and began working with kids there. Thoughts of open educational resources, open systems, and networks soon became mired in the realities of daily life – which I only experienced as a spectator. But it rapidly became obvious that the untidy, sometimes ugly, nest of interrelationships between economics, politics, culture and technology cannot be sectioned off and dealt with as autonomous entities.

Each bit of tech we carry, each new thing we teach about, carries with it this intertwined web of economics, politics and culture. The challenge is to be able to use this tangled tool as a lever opening the door to another possibility. Add to that the additional difficulty of respecting difference and diversity and culture and it becomes daunting. But not impossible. I keep coming back to the image of handshaking (in the IT sense of the term). There has to be a negotiated connection that can establish common boundaries and parameters, that does not overwhelm one side of the connection but finds an equilibrium that allows participants to move forward together.


Makers,making,diy and hacking citations

As of December 9, 2014: Journal articles I’ve gathered around the topic of makers and making. Many read, a handful left to work through, and more to discover. Does not include books – update on those coming soon.


Bevan, B., Gutwill, J. P., Petrich, M., & Wilkinson, K. (2014). Learning Through STEM-Rich Tinkering: Findings From a Jointly Negotiated Research Project Taken Up in Practice. Science Education, n/a–n/a. doi:10.1002/sce.21151

Blikstein, P. (2013). Gears of our childhood: constructionist toolkits, robotics, and physical computing, past and future. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on …, 173–182. Retrieved from

Blikstein, P., & Krannich, D. (2013). The Makers ’ Movement and FabLabs in Education : Experiences , Technologies , and Research, 613–616.

Buchholz, B., Shively, K., Peppler, K., & Wohlwend, K. (2014). Hands On, Hands Off: Gendered Access in Crafting and Electronics Practices. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 21(4), 278–297. doi:10.1080/10749039.2014.939762

Dawkins, N. (2014). Do-It-Yourself : The Precarious Work and Postfeminist Politics of Handmaking ( in ) Detroit. Utopian Studies, 22(2), 261–284. doi:10.1353/utp.2011.0037

Fox, S. (2014a). Third Wave Do-It-Yourself (DIY): Potential for prosumption, innovation, and entrepreneurship by local populations in regions without industrial manufacturing infrastructure. Technology in Society, 39, 18–30. doi:10.1016/j.techsoc.2014.07.001

Golsteijn, C., Hoven, E., Frohlich, D., & Sellen, A. (2013a). Hybrid crafting: towards an integrated practice of crafting with physical and digital components. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 18(3), 593–611. doi:10.1007/s00779-013-0684-9

Goodman, E., & Rosner, D. K. (2011). From Garments to Gardens : Negotiating Material Relationships Online and “ By Hand ,” 2257–2266.

Hemmi, A., & Graham, I. (2013). Hacker science versus closed science: building environmental monitoring infrastructure. Information, Communication & Society, 17(7), 830–842. doi:10.1080/1369118X.2013.848918

Hemphill, D., & Leskowitz, S. (2012). DIY Activists: Communities of Practice, Cultural Dialogism, and Radical Knowledge Sharing. Adult Education Quarterly, 63(1), 57–77. doi:10.1177/0741713612442803

Kafai, Y. B., & Peppler, K. a. (2011). Youth, Technology, and DIY: Developing Participatory Competencies in Creative Media Production. Review of Research in Education, 35(1), 89–119. doi:10.3102/0091732X10383211

Kuznetsov, S., & Paulos, E. (2010). Rise of the Expert Amateur : DIY Projects , Communities , and Cultures, (Figure 1), 295–304.

Lindtner, S., Hertz, G., & Dourish, P. (2014a). Emerging Sites of HCI Innovation : Hackerspaces , Hardware Startups & Incubators, 1–10.

Minsky, M., Akshay, N., Amritha, N., Anila, S., Nair, A. C., Gopalan, A., & Bhavani, R. R. (2013). Soft Circuits for Livelihood and Education in India, 2–5.

Moilanen, J. (2012a). Emerging Hackerspaces – Peer-production, 94–111.

Roeck, D. De, Slegers, K., Criel, J., Godon, M., & Claeys, L. (2012). I would DiYSE for it ! A manifesto for do-it-yourself internet-of-things creation, 170–179.

Rosner, D. K. (2013). Making Citizens, Reassembling Devices: On Gender and the Development of Contemporary Public Sites of Repair in Northern California. Public Culture, 26(1 72), 51–77. doi:10.1215/08992363-2346250

Smith, C. D. (2014). Handymen , Hippies and Healing : Social Transformation through the DIY Movement ( 1940s to 1970s ) in North America, 2(1), 1–10.

Tanenbaum, J., & Williams, A. (2013). Democratizing technology: pleasure, utility and expressiveness in DIY and maker practice. Proceedings of the …, 2603–2612. Retrieved from

Thomson, C. C., & Jakubowski, M. (2014). Toward an Open Source Civilization. Innovations, 7(3), 53–70.

Toombs, A., Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2012). Becoming Makers : Hackerspace Member Habits , Values , and Identities. Journal of Peer Production, (5), 1–8.

Vossoughi, S., & Bevan, B. (n.d.). Making and Tinkering.

Weinberg, T. (2012). Making ( in ) Brooklyn : The Production of Textiles , Meaning , and Social Change.

Wylie, S. A., Jalbert, K., Dosemagen, S., & Ratto, M. (2014). Institutions for Civic Technoscience: How Critical Making is Transforming Environmental Research. The Information Society, 30(2), 116–126. doi:10.1080/01972243.2014.875783

Zapico, J. L., Pargman, D., Ebner, H., & Eriksson, E. (n.d.). Hacking sustainability : Broadening participation through Green Hackathons.

Zelenika, I., & Pearce, J. M. (2012). The Internet and other ICTs as tools and catalysts for sustainable development: innovation for 21st century. Information Development, 29(3), 217–232. doi:10.1177/0266666912465742


Also available over at Mendeley:

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