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Payphone Hacking in Leimert Park

Ben Stokes, François Bar and Karl Baumann at USC have embarked on what they describe as a “5-week experiment at the cutting edge of music, transmedia, hack-a-thons, and neighborhood storytelling.” They’re placing tools and payphones ready to be re-imagined into the hands of local artists, students and hackers. Some early ideas include making the quarter deposit provide access to an MP3 by a local artist, or activate a local storefront display. It’s an utterly fascinating revival of what Charles R. Acland calls “residual media,” or “reconfigured, renewed, recycled, neglected, abandoned and trashed media technologies and practices.” Payphones are a dying breed, but that’s kind of the point: they have been freed from their established meaning – specific ways of punctuating urban space, user practices, and communication infrastructures – for new kinds of “serious play.” See their website at http://leimertphonecompany.net/.

Day1: knowledge sharing, a cat licking robot, 4 maker projects & what the hack is taarof & keqi?

Day 1 of our transfabric DIY workshop was an exciting whirlwind through various parts of the making world. At kibu, we learned, for example, about what goes into making a cat licking robot, the winner at Bacarabo Europe 2010 with the goal to build the least useful robot. cat licking robot on YouTube.  Attila Budjoso from Kibu tells us that people who join their network are open towards a range of ideas and interdisciplinary approaches – indeed interdisciplinary is leveraged to build on various people’s skill sets to produce social, cultural and economic value, or as Attila put it “people here have to collaborate.”  Ricky Ng-Adam from xinchejian and Liu Yan from xindanwei speak about the challenges and opportunities of open innovation and co-working in China. “In China it’s very challenging to build something new if you don’t give people something tangible, something that has value,” Liu Yan explains. At the fablab Budapest, we learn how 3D printing can act as a teleport into a global network of like-minded makers. The goal of the fablab Budapest is that the lab should fund itself by opening its production site up to the public, by allowing people to make.

In the afternoon, we brainstormed about project ideas for the workshop’s maker challenge, which crystallized into 4 really fun and “situated” maker projects:

1. Silenced Voices

The idea here is to create an instructable and first working prototype of a small portable device that uses radio frequency to tap into semi-private-public radios, e.g. in cars, grocery stores, public buildings, etc. Within the range of 200 meters, the device will be able to load custom slogans into what is known as a much less open media content. The devices should be easily re-producable and use cheap materials so that people can create their own slogans and use it in their own local contexts.

2. Twitterpated – affectionate memory tool & congregator

from urbandictionary:
1)to be completely enamored with someone/something.
2) the flighty exciting feeling you get when you think about/see the object of your affection.
3) romantically excited (i.e.: aroused)
4) the ever increasing acceleration of heartbeat and body temperature as a result of being engulfed amidst the exhilaration and joy of being/having a romantic entity in someone’s life.

The Twitterpated machine will measure centers of emotional stimulation and excitement in a city through sensors such as accelerated heart rate, fast movement and noise. It will then direct its user to this sphere of “affection” – enabling ad-hoc gatherings without having to rely on being actually logged into a social networking tool like twitter.

Could exist vis-a-vis the momo haptic device.

3. Sensor Replacement Robot

The sensor replacement robot will scan surfaces to project messages onto surfaces from a distance.

4. the co-working lamp buddy

A lot of co-working spaces provide space for interdisciplinary thinking and working. Still, a challenge remains that people remain glued to their screens, while sharing the same physical space. The goal of this  buddy lamp is to create a secondary layer of social networking: each co-worker connects to a lamp upon arrival and uploads her digital profile. The lamp then compares the profile with those of other lamps (co-workers) and if a match in interest occurs the two (or more) lamps light up in the same light.

We ended a day with a lovely dinner over the roofs of beautiful old Budapest, where we learned about the cross-overs between cultural practices such as taarof and keqi.