Monday, July 25, 2011

21st Century Macrame: Open Source and the Maker Movement

i thought i would share the thesis statement for my lecture since i mentioned it in my first post on Kickstarter lessons. i will writing about the accompanying laboratory in this year's faculty exhibition pretty soon.

21st Century Macrame: Open Source and the Maker Movement
The re-emergence of the do-it-yourself culture as a social movement, cultural form, and genre.

In the latter half of the 1960's and throughout the 1970's, a group of independent artisans and everyday people shared a moment of intense creativity that sought to return to the 'handmade'. This group was motivated commercial culture; life had been subsumed by market, social, and industrial forms that arose post WWII. Heavily oriented around the then nascent Ecological Movement, this group sought to live closer to the earth, they encouraged the idea of sweat equity, and they desired to directly engage hands-on living. This generation spawned sewing circles, social justice movements, organic food co-ops, collectives, and communes around the globe following the Leary-ian mantra "Tune In, Turn On, and Drop Out". The Foxfire series, the myriad inexpensive 'how-to' publications form the era, and magazines like Mother Earth News are some of the artifacts that evidence the a desire for life without corporate mediation.

Today a new generational movement is flowering with many of the same goals of the 1960's and 1970's Love Generation. They are known colloquially as The Maker Movement; this group is motivated by many many of the same wishes of the earlier generation. They are decidedly anti-specialization and hands on, but they approach it with a very different set of politics—shaped by an increasingly interconnected world. Oddly enough this generation has weaved a relationship with factorization and corporations to achieve similar goals. They are at ease with any means by which they may create. The contemporary DIY peerage can comfortably outsource a new design to be manufactured via the miracles of print on demand technologies, create Frankenstein mashups of existent products, reapply older to ancient technologies as an option, or even ingeniously hack a commonly available materials to cobble into new, cheap, and functional fixes. Many of this generation's reverse engineers and hacks do this work as contemporary artists.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

money in the 21st century fundraiser

more lessons from kickstarter

so i saw a predicition sometime last week that within 10 years that wallets will be obsolete. now i can see this as possible because i use applications that securely fill in my data on webforms, but PayPal is not what this post is solely about. we will get back to them in a few moments.

an interesting flaw appeared in our Kickstarter campaign this past 6 weeks. Kickstarter contracts through Amazon Payments to do the accounting on the pledges. i haven't looked into who runs Kickstarter and their attachment to Amazon, but it is an issue. Amazon Payments only takes 'credit cards', now i know the saturation of the Visa and MC brands are extensive and it is rare to find someone without at least a debit card without that sanctification. i found out, though, that i have a close friend who doesn't participate in that, and it got me to think that Amazon needs to figure out some more ways to collect money.

Amazon Payments require linkage to a U.S. bank, creating another barrier also. additionally, you must make an account on Kickstarter to pledge. these points actually put up a barrier for a few more friends and family members who didn't or didn't want to grok the web interface. we considered taking donations from people who couldn't participate for whatever reason and then apply them to the campaign from our account, but this is an issue too. it is a violation of the TOS to donate to your own cause. so you have to go find someone to do it for you, complicating the process even further.

this all is a huge deficit in the system. i actually think that we lost a few hundred dollars because of these inherent prejudices and hurdles. last week i found a open source laser cutter, Lasersaur, that is collecting donations like Kickstarter campaign, but through PayPal on their own webpage. the downside is that you lose the high profile visibility of Kickstarter with it's very involved community and all the easy buttons to plug into the other social media.

i have come to the conclusion that a fundraiser needs to be a two prong attack where you do both. you really should be trying to funnel as many people as you can through Kickstarter to take advantage of the trendy high profile nature of the platform (and the all or nothing nature of the pledge model). additionally, you need a side channel. ideally, a close friend who can collect through PayPal for you and that can make a deposit in Kickstarter for you in the case you get pressed to the wall for for your goal, which is probably a TOS violation, but what can you do other than handle it discretely.

and you definitely need a PayPal donation page immediately after the campaign closes because less than 12hours from when we closed our campaign we started having 'knocks on the door' to still participate. ah i love the procrastinators.

Friday, July 22, 2011

the fees

the continued Kickstarter analysis

so Amazon Payments is the vehicle for payment of donations in Kickstarter. the system charges a percentage to be the bank that allows people to pay by card. these are calculated off this schedule:

For Transactions >= $10:
2.9% + $0.30 for all transactions
Volume Discounts
2.5% + $.30 for all transactions for monthly payment volume from $3k-$10k
2.2% + $.30 for all transactions for monthly payment volume from $10k - $100k
1.9% + $.30 for all transactions for monthly payment volume over $100k
For Transactions < $10:
5.0% + $0.05 for all transactionss

plus Kickstarter applies 5% to the successful campaign. so in the wash we cleared $1813 from $2,078.66 or approximately 88% of the donations. you should definitely take this into account when setting up the goal of your campaign. We should have shot for $2250 or $2500 if 2k was a firm goal.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

another NCOTB awesome entry


a lesson learned from kickstarter

i learned a boat load from our kickstarter experience. i am going to make posts over the next few days to get them down.

the model is good, but it is definitely geared toward product/business development. community development projects are a lot more ephemeral. i know that i am splitting hairs here; there are plenty of artists using kickstarter, but i see a big difference in those who are developing something like an album which is meant to be reproduced again and again by a manufacturing process and/or delivered by a retail method. i received a lot of messages that were serious and importantly asked "so what?". i do think this is a valid criticism to ask: "past the parlour tricks aspect of the device, what is it for?" business focused folks had a really hard time figuring out why we would ask for investment. i would like to share an email i got Monday. i have obscured the name for privacy:
Hello Thomas!

One of my friends shared your project with me. I watched your video about the glove and turning anything into a speaker. My question to you is "So what?". In other words: "What is the benefit of turning anything into a speaker?" "Why could this project be significant?" "How could it be used in the marketplace?"

I am not asking to be insulting but I am asking to help you help us non-techie people see the benefit and why it would be prudent to invest in your idea. If you could shed some light on that, I will be glad to share this information with all of my contacts.

Have a great day!

in my reply i tried to decscribe why open source it vital for our world and told the person about another email i had recieved a few days earlier:

Hi R***,

These are all good questions and let me see if I can unfold it a bit and describe our motivations.

First a bit of background, James and I are developing this as an open source project, which is a concept that revolves around community development, strengthening an individual through 'know-how', and freely sharing information. It is a very academic pursuit which fits right in to my career as you can see. You may want to read more here: or you might want to see it in action look here

Now to our madness, 'contact transducers' (the tech bits we are using), are indeed used in commercial applications all the time. They get used in fixtures like lamps or other objects at a shopping malls to turn those objects into a speaker to play background music or advertisements. Our projects seeks to use the tech for other audiences. One scenario could be for a group of actors who could show up and do a live impromtu performance at some public space activating sound effects, music, etc. This could allow performers to really open up their interaction with the performance space.

One other application comes from a local person who contacted me. She is a care taker here in Pensacola that uses the same technology to treat children with Autism. It sounds as if they have planted transducers into furniture that the children use to calm themselves. She has the intuition that the touch combined with auditory stimuli could expand her treatment options with the technique.

And that is the great thing about open source. It encourages innovation. It is quite likely that there are dozens of applications using the gloves that James and I haven't thought about. We are academics and artists, so we have a different take on the project. It is not our intention to be the inventors of ProductX. The Kickstarter campaign is really to help support us in building community/share the thought with the world. So that is the basis for raising money with Kickstarter.

BTW I will be leading workshops on building this, and talking about open source as a movement in November at UWF. I want to build community here also!

Don't hesitate to write back if you have other questions.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monday, July 18, 2011

portraits from look art



look art opens

last week the project look art—a turbulence commission—opened and it even seems like it has been well received. it has taken me a couple of days to recover, because i was testing right up to the last. my insomnia payed off; i was able to stack up the gallery and extras in time. i will wait for another post to talk about the extras.

this first instantiation of look art is three artist's take on the classic multi-user gaming format. known as a Multi User Shared Halluciantation (MUSH) or Multi User Dungeon (MUD), these socially (and usually fantasy) oriented game environments thrived at the advent of our network culture. partially an expression of the need to communicate and partially because the computing of the time could only operate with very limited graphics, these environments were (& are) the domain of text. akin to today's fan fiction or that era's choose-your-own-adventure novels, this was(& is) a highly interactive platform that were shifted toward a high level of imagination rather than a suspension of disbelief.

i proposed to use the space to explore Lewitt's art and language methodologies. my work with geometries and pattern in the space bored me and i soon found it was much more interesting to work with portraiture. i began to incorporate the social aspect into the work by painting a series of colleague portraits. the process was challenging it required me to use photo processing, automated coding, and then i spent a considerable amount of time (sometimes hours) at the end on the portraits 'correcting' the ASCII characters to build better images. in the end it was much closer to my traditional painting process than i first imagined it would be.

the other two pieces in the show are very intriguing exploratory works.

Christopher Poff has created a interactive manifesto that burdens the players with the weight of Meaning and Purpose as well as Artist and Art. Alejandro Duque is using the work to prototype out a mixed realities type of piece where he wants to connect up physical interfaces with the MUD. this is definitely an intriguing idea and i will be watching his progress closely.

if you want to go in with a guide, i would be glad to play Virgil, just drop me a line.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

a lecture proposal with dramatic Keanu expletives

i will be doing a lecture for the Leisure Learning Society this October on the history of the Internetz and WWW from the perspective of an artist. after i sent it in, i found out that the guy who had encouraged me to lead a community ed. course actually served on the board of the non-profit company that ran the backbone for NSF.

and then he told me that he was one on the authors on the incorporation documents for Edunet.

i have asked Bob if i can interview him and i will definitely have to do more homework! anyway... here's the proposal:

The Byzantine History of the Internet and the World Wide Web

This lecture is a detailed look at histories of the Internet and World Wide Web from the perspective of an artist and research academic. Thomas will examine the confluences of military, social, and technological advances during the 19th and 20th Centuries which led to our contemporary world of highly connected and intertwined information systems. Some (but not all) of the historic figures and institutions to be covered include: Optical Telegraphy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, DARPA, Paul Baran, Stanford Research Institute, Eglin AFB, Tim Berners-Lee, the National Science Foundation, and the W3C.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

when it rains it pours!

YAY (mini)Maker Faire is coming to Atlanta! ...while i am in Istanbul. Wow. That was one of the fastest let downs in history.

¡you! yes, you. you need to go. unless you are accompanying me to Turkey this is a special thing, i was at Maker Faire 1 and 2. do not miss this opportunity.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

the Kickstarter campaign marches on

i am discovering that fundraising is a game in the truest sense. it is not that i am specifically looking for loopholes to game Kickstarter. i have just come to the conclusion that the whole nature of raising money for a project is actually a quest based resource gathering system with tons of variables. I can compare it to a kind of puzzle quest that requires solving to unlock the next in the quest line. fundraising requires a balance of tone and honesty; no glory-hounding but not feel embarrassed about saying that we really believe this to be a cool project. and the way you say it is so different in formality and tone depending if you are addressing the Dean, a friend, or a philanthropic agency.

we are about 10 days from the deadline and very close to 50% which has raised our visibility on the Ks webpages considerably. i believe that if we can get a few more bucks from several people—can you spare a $10, friend?—that we will be well on the way to getting on the front page. we have pulled ahead of two CNC projects as of this week which is no mean feat because those project are very important right now.

if you are one of my readers/friends even a $1 helps so please consider donating. here's the link