FabLabs and Graffiti Sunglasses – FutureEverything reflections

A few days after the end of FutureEverything, the fog is beginning to lift.  The conference and festival were a whirlwind of ideas and images.  I visited the Manchester FabLab, a space where physical prototyping tools are available for use by anyone who wants to build electronics, sew, fabricate 3D articles or etch large things with precision table saws.  It was an inspiring example of the new, more social contexts for DIY and making. Getting better access to tools in a social space is a way to gain technical skills, yes, but also another form of social organization and collaboration.

The winner of the festival prize, the EyeWriter also demonstrated the connection between social action and technology.  It’s open source software that can be connected to an inexpensive, sunglass-mounted eye tracker that reads eye movements and transforms them into line drawing images that can be painted on to the sides of buildings (or other large areas).  One possible use is as an assistive technology for disabled graffiti artists.  The number of disabled graffiti artists in the world may be rather small, but that’s hardly the point.  The big idea is that a simple, elegant piece of technology can give someone whose movements are restricted in space the ability to make very public interventions.  On Saturday, one of its inventors, Evan Roth, described the work of the Graffiti Research Labs as working in the overlap between free culture, open source, and art.  The group’s projects are all elegant and funny explorations of art and hacking.

My own talk, about social media publics and the affordances of Filter, Feed and Funnel, was likely a good deal less elegant.   My goal was to provide some handy concepts that might be fun or useful to people thinking and playing with media tools.  HighWired has live blogged it here, and eventually I will post my own notes – or even link to the video so you can see me wave my hands around in the air.