In this course we introduce you to programming and electronics by exploring the possibilities of network-connected devices. We start by making a LED light blink by sending an email, and continue on to design / make / explore what a more ‘open’ social network might look like, and we ask uncomfortable questions such as: What would happen if Facebook was ‘plugged into’ our home.
Starts 28th April 2016
7-10pm Thursday Evenings
@ Bulli Community Hall
Difficulty: Beginner – Intermediate
Minimum class size: 4 students (max 14)
Thanks to the network, everyone is connected to everyone else. Soon, every thing will be connected as well.
It sounds exciting and empowering, but the reality is that this connectivity is now largely controlled by private enterprise. Our patterns of social interaction are massaged by large organisations whose principle concern is placing advertising on our screens. And we can be pretty sure that the impending network connectivity of all things will also be captured by private enterprise which might, for example, use them to drive increased consumption. Imagine receiving the email:
“Hi, your fridge tells us that you only have 2 bottles of Gaterade left. Reply to this email within 24 hours to get another dozen bottles delivered to your door in time. Click here to learn how important it is to replenish your salts! “
Of course, there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with commerce, but what would our networked lives look like, how would they change, if the underlying connectivity platforms we used were open, flexible, extensible and independent?
At Polygon Door, we have been working on designing and developing that platform. It is called HackySoc, it runs on a cheap Arduino micro-controller, it uses WiFi for network connectivity, it can send and receive messages to/from anyone and it can be plugged into almost any electronic device.
In this course we introduce you to HackySoc. We explore the potential of connecting things with other things, people with people, people with things and things with people in new ways. We ask the questions: What makes a network social? What happens when our things start speaking and listening to us? Does the nature of things change, does the nature of communication and the culture it supports change?
You might bring a project idea with you for controlling, listening, or networking things over wifi and email, you might simply use this as an opportunity to get introduced to the modern world of coding, electronics and networks, or you might be interested in exploring the big questions about the contemporary world with us – Hopefully all three….
HackySoc (a play on Hacky Sack, and the terms Hack and Social) is a research project aimed at exploring the dynamic of networks by stripping away all of the embedded standards, algorithms, accoutrements, and centralised and proprietary architectures of existing networks in order to explore what might be possible if we began again and as a means of interrogating the assumptions that gave rise to contemporary networks. The project began with our development of an Application Programming Interface (API) for the Arduino (Mega) and a WIFI chip that is capable of exploiting two simple, powerful and open protocols for decentralised networking – SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and POP3 (Post Office Protocol). These protocol are still used today to manage the delivery and retrieval of emails.
Once you can send and receive emails, completely autonomously via Arduino, a whole array of possibilities open up. Sure, we can send messages to each other, but we can also program an Arduino to send an email when an event occurs, or trigger an event when an email is received. Any number of Arduino’s can interact and share information this way allowing autonomous distributed networks of anything controllable via Arduino to act as a distributed network without a single centralised server.
By participating in this project you will also have the opportunity to participate in our research project. For example, you might like to join us in thinking about whether or not Facebook would be better if it offered more than a “Like” button. Alternatively, you might prefer to pursue your own agenda and project ideas.
Use the supplied equipment and materials, or buy one of our specially prepared kits that has all the necessary components to build amazing things!
Participation for a full term is $670 (10 weeks). Casual passes (that allow you to participate when you have time) are available on request.
To participate in the Maker Lab for Grown Ups, please contact us (by phone, email, or use the form below)