MAKE. BUILD. And definitely also PLAY!

As I develop a draft concept document on a new iSummit in South Africa next year, I’m looking around at cool events to draw inspiration from, and perhaps form partnerships with. The International Development Design Summit is one such event which will be hosted next year in Ghana (as part of the Maker Faire Africa concept being spoken about on Ned).

This is a great event because it seems to be:

1. Interdisciplinary – ‘we believe that innovation thrives in the intersections of disciplines that come from bringing together such an eclectic group’

2. Focuses on doing rather than talking – ‘we emphasize the development of prototypes, not papers and proceedings’

3. Demonstrates co-creation in action – ‘It is our goal to demonstrate a model where a user-based community of active, creative designers can invent, innovate and inspire each other to create new technologies’

It’s great that the group has hit on the key issue that the open source/open content revolution inspired:

In the traditional model of development, communities receive donated technology, and while they may be trained in how to maintain and repair the technology, they are rarely taught or encouraged to evolve the technology and adapt it to their needs.

And it’s for this reason why it’s a little sad that they’ve fallen into another ‘traditional model of development’ trap: that innovation for ‘development’ is only about electric generators and HIV/AIDS projects, and not also about projects to get musicians to market their music, artist collectives to build innovative public art projects or interactive games that are about communities doing nothing more than finding a way to have fun together.

It looks like there is some will for Maker Faire Africa to involve artists in ‘fabrication conversations… as well as (to) create relaxed times and spaces for networking’ – but I know that this really has to be central to the concept – otherwise artists end up being the background music, decorating the space, rather than key participants to innovation challenges.

I’m thinking that for the iSummit next year we really need to make the connection between artists/creators and technologists/builders a central focus. I’ve had visions of things like an open day where artists come with their challenges (marketing their work online, building fun projects using technology, creating public art using public domain footage) and work on prototypes for projects with interdisciplinary teams who are then funded to bring the concepts to market.

Or building the entire event around a week-long prototype-building affair, where we fund, say, 10 ‘Innovation challenges’ and their development over a period of time. There would be a closed workshop for the 50 or so participants to come together, learn about prototyping and creative techniques, intellectual property management etc and then build their own prototype solutions to the Innovation challenges. In the weekend after the workshop, there’d be a festival, open to the public, in which participants could conduct ‘reverse-engineering’ workshops where they could show how they designed their particular solution – as well as some simple workshops around learning specific skills.

We could get big names to sponsor relevant ‘Innovation challenge’ prizes and involve universities, technikons and schools around the world.

Ok, now I’m getting really excited, but will have to chew on this a while. And would love to know what you all think!

4 thoughts on “MAKE. BUILD. And definitely also PLAY!

  1. Definitely very exciting to get an innovation challenge going! I’m fully behind your idea that in the next iSummit “we really need to make the connection between artists/creators and technologists/builders a central focus.” And I would add that a possible space for dialogic interactions, co-creation and demonstration of tech toolkits is the mobile Web – a media I am currently “playing” with to promote theatre in the spirit of taking “performance” beyond the fourth wall. Art enables tech to tell a story …

  2. *Love* the idea of mobile challenges, Glen! Perhaps you could host a challenge? Think of a problem that requires a creative solution using mobile phones? That give me an idea…

  3. I’d aso like to see LOTS of local involvement. RSA art is very much about DIY – artists like Neustetter, red-tape cutters like Doherty, bloggers like Sloon, public performance peops like Moyes, stories like Marx and generous poets like Mashile. These cats should be hooked up with CC and tech gurus!

  4. I think you are on to something with the ‘hands on’ piece. Making something in a different and novel way is way more attractive than talking about how to make something. Unless you’re a phd student. đŸ™‚

    I also think theater matters. That’s what TED’s got right. Short. Tight. Truly world class. Theater. Many people say they want to do this, then they get the same old speaker and put em on stage for an hour. World class people. 15 minutes. No if ands or buts.

    The other thing to really question is scale. I see less and less appetite for huge events that are global, and more buzz and energy for things that are local. It’s tough to get things to work locally in a sustainable way, but once you do the scaling potential is huge as people can just copy.

    There is early evidence that open everything may go this way. Toronto and Cape Town started it. But people have picked it up in London, Berlin, Hong Kong and Madison Wi without any of the founders involved.

    Maybe the next version of the isummit grabs a piece of open everything and runs with it?

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