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Festival of Making – July 2023

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hiCraft’s Festival of Making workshop in Blackburn explored IoT through physical making:

Crafting connections: imagining and making your Internet of Things with hiCraft.

Held in July, the Festival of Making provided an opportunity for people to imagine and think about connecting digitally. We did this through physical making and drawing. The tasks offered attendees at the festival a chance to draw how they envision connection and to think about how they would like to be connected to others in their lives. The following text introduced the workshop to the festival audience.

Internet of Things sensors can connect fridges, heating, smart speakers and toys, yet sensors can also invade our privacy and security. How might we differently connect using sensors? What should sensors be used for?

Using everyday craft materials you will explore making physical models that capture narratives of what a fantastical Internet of things might look like. By making invisible networks visible we can imagine inventive ways to connect people and things through sensors.

Workshop activities included:

  • a drawing exercise in which participants are asked to draw their current experience of connecting digitally;
  • a badge making exercise (see below right for the template) where participants were invited to draw a response to connection incorporating the hicraft themes of care, subjectivity, bespokeness, localism. Pre-made stickers were available to use for the badgemaking (see below left).

For the one hour workshop participants were invited to use craft materials: user figures, threads, connecting clips, pre made stickers, stands, boxes, and pens and paper to make physical models of their imagined inventive connected world.

On the day

Our workshop took place in a large shop space occupied by three other diverse craft workshops, a few of which involved some hammering and drilling. A lot of people took part in the badgemaking activity while the drawing activity was completed by 20+ people.  

The afternoon craft physical making workshops were booked out and produced some interesting results. However the busy space wasn’t ideal for in depth discussions and focused making. Singularly holding the space was challenging and the topic was at times a little too complex to convey. The badge making and drawing was a fun activity regardless though, and there were some useful findings. Attending the well-organised festival was stimulating and relevant overall.

Participant drawings and discussions about the topic generally illustrated a concern about the health of the internet and the impacts of digital connection. Parents of young children particularly felt a responsibility to manage their children’s internet use. A number of people in their early twenties showed a good understanding and general concern of the issues. Running the workshop, making the badges and managing the drawing exercise meant there was limited time to document the artwork on the badges, which of course were a giveaway to the makers/ participants. Distributing the badges helped to spread awareness of the topic.