Bringing Interoperability to Kids’ Construction Toys

There is so much that is good about this project. Prepare to be blown away (the following blurb is from the F.A.T. Lab website):

“F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab are pleased to present the Free Universal Construction Kit: a matrix of nearly 80 adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between ten* popular children’s construction toys. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the Kit encourages totally new forms of intercourse between otherwise closed systems—enabling radically hybrid constructive play, the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities for kids. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet—or unmeetable—by corporate interests. The Free Universal Construction Kit offers adapters between Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob. Our adapters can be downloaded from Thingiverse.com and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models in .STL format, suitable for reproduction by personal manufacturing devices like the Makerbot (an inexpensive, open-source 3D printer).”

National Cultural Policy Submission

I recently put together a submission responding to the Australian federal government’s National Cultural Policy discussion paper. Below are a few pars from the submission … the full document can be downloaded here >>
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Culture-making is a crucial aspect of Australia’s social fabric. As outlined in the discussion paper, cultural activities support broader education goals, contribute to social cohesion and are fundamental to our success as a national economy (National Cultural Policy: discussion paper 2011, 23). It is timely to be considering strategies to support culture-making in Australia, as the current ‘networked moment’ is reconfiguring our cultural practices. The development of an Australian National Cultural Policy framework will therefore provide a contemporary foundation stone for culture-making over the coming decade.

My submission will argue that ‘cultural democracy’ should be a major consideration in the National Cultural Policy framework. The premise for this lies in Australia’s rich history of creating opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds to participate in arts and cultural activities. The historical context I will draw on to support my case is Australia’s community arts sector. I will outline several considerations for nurturing ‘cultural democracy’ in the current cultural moment – the ‘networked moment’ led by computer and mobile device networks. These strategies have evolved from my PhD research into the issues surrounding sustainable culture-making in the networked moment.

My overarching strategy for achieving sustainable cultural democracy in the networked moment involves developing literacies and competencies around participation in digital networks. My hypothesis lies in the notion that developing network literacies in turn develops network agency – having the capacity to be a critical network participant.
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Network as Material: An Interview with Julian Oliver

An Interview with Julian Oliver By Taina Bucher.

“I met the Berlin-based media artist and programmer Julian Oliver in Toronto as part of the Subtle Technologies festival, where he taught a workshop on the Network as Material. The aim of the workshop reflects Oliver’s artistic and pedagogical philosophy nicely; to not only make people aware of the hidden technical infrastructures of everyday life but to also provide people with tools to interrogate these constructed and governed public spaces.

Julian Oliver, born in New Zealand (anyone who has seen him give a talk will know not to mistake him for an Australian) is not only an extremely well versed programmer but is increasingly as equally knowledgeable with computer hardware. His background is as diverse as the places he has lived and the journeys it has taken him on. Julian started out with architecture, moved on to Australia to work in the field of virtual reality and as Stelarc’s assistant. He continued on to Gotland to work on the artistic game-development collective Select Parks before moving to Madrid and finally to Berlin, a city he continuously speaks enthusiastically about. Julian is also an outspoken advocate of free software and thinks of his artistic practice not so much as art but more in terms of being a ‘critical engineer’, a term that he applies particularly to his collaborations with his studio partner Danja Vasiliev.”

Read the full interview here (via Furtherfield)…

Expanding the frontiers of hacking (call for papers)

Call for abstracts for a special issue of Critical Studies in Peer Production (CSPP) – a new open access, online journal that focuses on the implications of peer production for social change. Interested authors should submit an abstract of no more than 500 words by July 10, 2011.

Edited by: Johan Söderberg and Alessandro Delfanti

During the past two decades, hacking has chiefly been associated with software development. This is now changing as new walks of life are being explored with a hacker mindset, thus bringing back to memory the origin of hacking in hardware development. Now as then, the hacker is characterised by an active approach to technology, undaunted by hierarchies and established knowledge, and finally a commitment to sharing information freely. In this special issue of Critical Studies in Peer Production, we will investigate how these ideas and practices are spreading. Two cases which have caught much attention in recent years are open hardware development and garage biology. The creation of hacker/maker-spaces in many cities around the world has provided an infrastructure facilitating this development. We are looking for both empirical and theoretical contributions which critically engage with this new phenomenon. Every kind of activity which relates to hacking is potentially of interest. Some theoretical questions which might be discussed in the light of this development include, but are not restricted to, the politics of hacking, the role of lay expertise, how the line between the community and markets is negotiated, how development projects are managed, and the legal implications of these practices. We welcome contributions from all the social sciences, including science & technology studies, design and art-practices, anthropology, legal studies, etc.

More info…

Ethnographic Fiction

Ethnographic Fiction and Speculative Design is a full-day workshop at the 5th International Conference on Communities & Technologies – C&T 2011, in Brisbane, Australia, 29 June-2 July, 2011.

This full-day workshop aims to explore how grounded ethnographic and action research methods can be transformed into fictional and speculative designs that provide people the kinds of experiences and tools that can lead to direct community action in the development and implementation of new pervasive technologies.