Leah Buechley on Rethinking Cultural and Material Contexts for Computation

May 8, 2009


MIT, Room 3-133


People knit scarves, build furniture, sew clothing, and solder radios together in their homes and garages. Diverse groups of people--girls and boys, grandparents and college students--lovingly engage in these hands-on low-tech hobbies. In contrast, companies produce high-tech things by high-tech processes, using teams of people and sophisticated machinery to build devices like cell phones, computers, pharmaceutical drugs, and cars. But this clear division between high-tech and low-tech is beginning to blur. A host of new tools is making many of the resources previously available only to companies accessible to individuals, empowering people to design, engineer, and build devices they never could before.
This talk envisions a near future in which individuals integrate traditional craft, new engineering methods, and web-honed communication skills to build and share information about "high-low tech" devices like temperature sensing scarves, algorithmically generated furniture, and radically customized cell phones. The presentation will discuss burgeoning high-low tech communities, focusing on ways that professional designers and engineers can support and encourage this new creative movement. It will present examples of high-low tech artifacts--including embroidered circuits and paper computers--and examples of tools that empower others to construct high-low tech devices--including the LilyPad Arduino, a construction kit that enables novices to build fabric-based wearable computers.

Additional Featured Research By

(Unpublished) High-Low Tech

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