I use physical computing technology, digital fabrication and various programming languages as tools for my creative process. I believe in the significance of making things as a means to better understand the human experience and one’s own part in it. This fuels both my practice and teaching.
The favorite thing I have made is my Cursive Machine: a 3-axis system that ‘writes’ cursive latin script based on keyboard input. This machine is part of an installation I call The Museum of The Hand that teaches kids how to write in cursive, since this is a skill that has been removed from the Common Core K-12 curriculum in the U.S.
I have two, based on the project. One is the Arduino or Raspberry Pi because they interface between the physical and digital environments very easily. My second is Max, (i.e. Max/MSP/Jitter), because I know it well and can easily make complicated algorithms for either on-screen or on-and-off-screen systems.
My biggest challenge is gears and mechanics. I always need the help of a mechanical engineer for this. I have slowly overcome this with help from my dad, (retired mechanical engineer), and by teaching it. The best way to learn something is to teach someone else how to do it.
Maker Culture is seeing into things, understanding how they are made - their material constituents - and knowing that you can make that too. It is a point of view that sees things from the inside out, separates function from form, with an aptitude for experimentation - trial and error - and holistic thinking.
Maker Culture is slowly infiltrating our campus. We all know it takes institutional support to make things happen.
The maker mindset is a get-it-done, trial-and-error, holistic perspective that sees problems as opportunities and evaluates success pragmatically. Makers ignore disciplines, silos and bureaucracy because we know this limits creativity and simply gets in the way of getting to the point of a matter. Big problems need objective, holistic thinkers who ‘do’ more than ‘talk’.
Higher education needs to embrace making as framework for delivering curricula to the current and future generations of students. Students need the opportunities afforded by maker culture to connect to the world around them and their own inner person. Students need to learn as much about themselves as the topics they are studying in order to have something to contribute to the human experience.
Making is important because current, standardized tested students are taught to be homogenous and follow the crowd. Further, they are taught that success is quantifiable and testable. This is absurd. They need the opportunity to discover themselves through engaging in reciprocity of the hand and head. Putting the power of production in the hands of students empowers them to be leaders and change agents throughout our society.
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know, use that as an opportunity to discover and learn. It’s a wonderful life if you can let go of who you think you need to be.