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Make Things Do Stuff to Mobilise 100,000 Young Makers Across UK

- June 6, 2013 in Event, Featured, Projects


Creative Web Literacy is an increasingly important issue. I’ve written about it. Many others have written about it. But what are we all doing about it?

One of the campaigns I’m proud to be involved with here in London is Make Things Do Stuff, a UK-wide network of like-minded organisations including Freeformers, Technology Will Save Us, Mozilla, NESTA and the Nominet Trust who are committed to mobilize the next generation to create the many technologies that surround us, not just consume them.


The goal? To get 100,000 young people learning new digital skills and feeling like makers by the end of the summer. For the well-publicized launch event last week, a buzzing patchwork of young people in sneakers, old people in suits and geeks with machines gathered at the Roundhouse in Camden, and it seemed as if everyone from the excellent National Geographic Kids magazine to WIRED to UK Chancellor George Osborne was there to check it all out.

While the suits (as the kids fondly called them throughout the day) headed upstairs to the press room, EPIK‘s Dorine Flies and I took over some tables to share the open source Webmaker toolset between some singing kiwi fruits and DIY synth. As we set up Popcorn Maker, I yelled out the audacious claim that we’d help the 30 kids gathered to make their own music videos in under 10 minutes. I sat back, expecting no one to join us.

make things do stuff

Surprisingly, the table was full within minutes. The kids were ridiculously good at building creative projects and sharing their skills, some getting so stuck in to the hacking and remixing process that they lost all perception of the outside world, even ignoring the increasingly shrill synth frequencies as other kids experimented with the Technology Will Save Us crew next door.

“And what brought you here today?” Osborne asked a quiet bespeckeled teenager wearing a red soccer jersey. The reply was ponderous. “I don’t really know,” he finally answered, intent on the screen as it played a preview of his newly remixed video. “I guess I was just bored, and wanted to make something cool.”

In the end, that’s really what this sort of initiative is all about.

In the UK and want to be a part of the movement? Say hi on the Make Things Do Stuff website and Twitter – now’s a great time to get involved.

Open Design, Year One: Hardware, Ideas and Community

- May 2, 2013 in Featured, Projects

It’s been a great first year for our Open Design network – we hit the 100 mark on our discussion list, delivered a keynote lecture at LibreGraphics, launched v0.1 of the Open Design Definition, planned a new design hardware challenge in France and helped run the world’s first Open Knowledge Festival in Finland. We even got flamed by Bruce Sterling in WIRED magazine (good times!). Most importantly, the community has some great initiatives planned for the summer. Here are updates and details on how to get involved.

On the Hardware side,

After a wonderful week of hacking, building new things and collaborating across design paradigms at our first-ever Open Hardware, Design and Fabbing topic stream at the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki, we are now happy to announce the launch of the first Public Domain Remix this summer, a challenge run with the Open Knowledge Foundation France and Wikimedia France aimed at encouraging people to remix public domain works in a creative way that promotes the use and re-use of public archive materials. The challenge has both an interdisciplinary and transmedial approach: rather than following the same medium, people are encouraged to shift from one medium to the other. The PDRemix starts at OuiShare Fest in Paris this weekend, so stay tuned for details!

On the Tools side,

A few community members have also begun an interesting conversation on Mozilla’s first-ever #TeachTheWeb MOOC [Massively Open Online Course] by setting up the first G+ Community for designers, creatives and makers who want to build inspirational outputs through creative [and unexpected!] uses of the free, Open Source Webmaker toolset. We welcome your participation – please join here. We look forward to the many fruitful discussions ahead!

On the Definition side,

After a very lively post-talk debate at my Seven Faces of Open Design keynote at LibreGraphics conference which happened at MediaLab Prado last month in Madrid, workshops around the world at FutureEverything in Manchester, the Open Knowledge Festival in Helsinki and FREE CITY in Tallinn, and a great deal of debating on the discussion list accompanied by a lot of GitHub additions, we have now launched a tentative v.01 of the revamped Open Design Definition! This Definition is a community-driven attempt to unite different understandings of this field across professional paradigms. We now intend to launch into an investigation of the many questions that continue to allude us, such as what are the “source files” of a design project? We’d love for you to get involved here.

On the Community side,

In its next stage, we now focus on fostering the regional richness of this talented global group. We’d like to invite each of you to showcase your participation through three new ideas to be launched this year:

1) We will soon be offering the option for you to publicly feature your name, contact info and affiliation for us to list on our new ‘Members’ page. We’ll set up a sign up sheet this month.

2) We will also soon offer all members the opportunity to become featured writers on the Open Design Blog. This is a good chance to showcase your work to an international audience of design practitioners and get valuable feedback. Stay tuned for details.

3) Most importantly, this year we will focus on seeding local installments of the Open Design collaborative around the world, in cities and nations with a regional focus and in-person meetings. More details about this later, but we’re quite excited about the groups who have asked to pioneer this option.

Lastly, a Thank You

It’s been an amazing first year for this fledgling community – we’ve had the honour of meeting many of you in-person, debating with you and learning about the inspiring Open Design projects you have helped start in your nations – and we already look forward to seeing what comes next. Massive thanks to each of you who helped all of it get started – you’ve been great. Here’s to another creative, artistic and interesting year!

Image from Ohanda’s RE*Campaign thanks to ds on Flickr.

Institute of Making Announces London Opening — But How Open?

- January 25, 2013 in Design Principles, Event, Featured

Makers at the Aalto FABLab in Helsinki. Photo thanks to Henrico.

A bit of good news for UK-based designers and hardware enthusiasts interested in making, building and experimenting — the Institute of Making is finally holding its Grand Public Opening on Saturday 16 March from 1pm onwards in London.

As someone who has been in London a few years, I’ve often wished there was a stronger makerspace/FABlab community in this city (London Hackspace and the Goodlife Centre aside). I’m excited about the potentiality of a centre that looks to combine academic and community energies to encourage participants to “engage in the craft, design, technology, art and engineering of making through public events and member access”. My needs are modest — I’d like a community space where I can set up some of my Arduinos, work with laser cutters and meet other designers interested in building new things using interesting materials. But will this be the place?

We’ve heard whisperings about the Institute of Making since 2005 (when its Materials Library got started for the use of the UCL Engineering Faculty), but it wasn’t until this year that the Institute decided to host a makerspace as well and position itself as a public-facing centre, a “multidisciplinary research club for those interested in the made world: from makers of molecules to makers of buildings, synthetic skin to spacecraft, soup to clothes, furniture to cities.”

As the makerspace at the Institute of Making opens its doors, we are very interested in how “open” this space will be, especially given its location in the centre of a university campus.

We’ll be especially interested to find out whether the Institute’s Make Space will adopt open principles regarding designs and fabrications, especially with a Flickr account that applies an “all rights reserved” license to its photos. We hope this will not be the case for other products coming out of the Institute. We also wonder whether it be a requirement that Make Space members are also students or faculty at UCL. Will makers and hackers from across interdisciplinary (and professional) paradigms be as fully welcome as the website has proclaimed?

We have already seen many positive examples of this correlation working well in other nations (many of these are spaces that collaborators of our Open Design group are involved with, such as Finland’s first FABlab at Aalto University Media Factory, which from its onset has prioritised making its equipment open to “everyone, not just students” and using Open Design standards). How will this sort of collaborative effort work in the London environment?

Further details about the opening and future events of the Institute of Making can be found on its mailing list. If you’re in London, we’ll see you there!

This is an OPEN DESIGN post. To get involved with our international working group or to write a guest blog post for us, say hello on our discussion list.

A New Open Design Collective

- February 23, 2012 in Featured, Projects

I’m excited to say that after many months of discussion, good talks late at night, keynote lectures, emails and excessive tweeting across the world, we’re finally launching a working group which is quite important to all of us involved as designers, builders and makers. I have a feeling it’s going to be an interesting journey.

We’ll be using this blog to post updates about workshops, conferences and festivals we’ll be at, so be sure to stay tuned through our discussion list in the future to get involved in the conversations.

In the meantime, a quick share. I’ve spent many a moment lately browsing through design-focused images on Flickr’s Commons (a photograph-focused catalogue of images in the public domain, many of them old and weathered black and white snapshots) and have found some really amazing relics in the midst.

This photo is one of my favourites. It displays the cameras of Thomas Smillie, the Smithsonian’s first curator of photography in the 1870s. Smillie graduated from chemistry in university but fell in love with photographic hardware and took some amazing photos of old cameras throughout his term with the museum. I feel like the gauzy, ethereal facade draping this snapshot adds interesting character to its already oceanic mood.

That’s it for now, but I look forward to meeting many new members of this group in the near future!

Join the Open Design + Hardware group: