University of Cambridge > > Microsoft Research Cambridge, public talks > Democratizing Electronics: Tools, Examples, and Contexts for Supporting the Construction of Personally-Meaningful Interactive Artifacts

Democratizing Electronics: Tools, Examples, and Contexts for Supporting the Construction of Personally-Meaningful Interactive Artifacts

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My work seeks to democratize electronics and computation. I develop tools, examples, and contexts that help a broad range of individuals construct personally-meaningful interactive artifacts. In this talk, I share lessons from my work on electronics prototyping platforms, do-it-yourself electronic devices, and supporting the use of technology in design, craft, and art. Based on my experience as the lead software developer for the Arduino electronics prototyping platform, I discuss approaches for helping those without a formal technology background prototype interactive objects. Drawing on my time teaching technology in design and art contexts, I discuss strategies for translating electronics and computation into natural materials for creative practice. I share lessons from my research at the MIT Media Lab, where I’ve been investigating personal fabrication as a means of enabling individuals to design and build electronic devices for use in their daily lives. The most in-depth case study is my do-it-yourself cellphone, which I’ve used as my main phone for almost two years, refining the design based on my personal experience and requirements. This and other case studies provide an illustration of what an ecosystem of open-source, personally-fabricated electronic products might be like and how it might change people’s relationships with the devices in their lives. Finally, I discuss opportunities for translating ongoing advances in technology into an expansion of the range and sophistication of the interactive artifacts that individuals are able to construct for themselves.

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