Delivered in Beta – Open Design Workshop

“Make something for dinner” was the assignment at the two-day Open Design workshop in betahaus. No, we weren’t just talking about preparing a yummy dish, but rather participants were to use open design principles and tools to build something to bring to the dinner table, or in the case of one group, even make the table itself.

About twenty of us gathered on the first day of the workshop, organized for the global Social Media Week and sponsored by Jovoto and Modular (thank you!). In the morning we introduced the various stations — corners of the betahaus cafe where you could play with new machines and materials, even make them yourself. There was a Makerbot and Arduino workbench powered by Philip Steffan (bausteln), a laser cutter commanded by Martin Bauer (lasern lasern), and a bioplastics laboratory led by mad scientists Jay Cousins, Chris Doering, and Mendel Heit. The fantastic crew from Waag Society / CC Netherlands (Bas van Abel/Erik Nap/Arne Hendriks) brought a car-full of toys — styrofoam, banana leaves, tubing, cardboard…in short, lots of raw materials to let our imaginations run wild.

The participants were given the assignment. They had two days to create something for dinner the following night. To get the creative juices flowing, Bas and Arne ran a hilarious brainstorming session, where we started to dissect the concept of dinner. The conclusion? It’s a social activity, and socializing comes in all sorts of forms: games, love, therapy, even food fights. These themes turned out to be the fodder for the designs taking shape over the next 48 hours.

Interestingly enough, it took the whole first day for people to talk through ideas, get familiar with the machines and materials, and to get in the mood to roll up their sleeves and make something. So as we wound up the first day, there weren’t any prototypes laying around, but our designs were boiling and ready to cook tomorrow when we returned to the betahaus cafe.

On the workshop’s second day, there was an energized makers attitude in the air. Tracy and Stefan., two workshop participants, had spent the night plotting how they would realize their respective projects. Tracy, teamed with Jost, would make a “Strings ~Attached” game board table, where utensils and glasses were tied together by strings under the table so that every bite and sip jerks a fork or plate out of someone’s hand. Stefan worked with Arne to develop the Twitter Cook Therapy project, a cooking corner for couples to explore the dynamics of their relationship by overcoming challenges arising from preparing a dinner together. An armchair psychologist audience would tweet their observations about the couple: how are they working together? why isn’t he cutting the onions, or did she grab the knife to fast?

Ronen dove into the food fight concept and laser cut a sheet of plastic into tiny finger forks engraved with “Social Media Week – Open Design” as dinner giveaways. The rings came in men’s and women’s sizes.

Jay, Chris, and Mendel really got cooking at the bioplastics station, where their concoctions landed them coverage on Make and Shapeways when they discovered they could laser cut their potato-based biomaterials.

The Dutch crew downloaded a few Instructables and also discovered some heat-sensitive utensils that when melted, morphed into fun and flexible shapes. They made a dueling two-edged fork, a helmut out of spoons, and impressive dancing robots who twirled on bended knifes. There was also an enchantment lamp which hung above our dinner table, heating sake bottles clipped into a customized plastic holder.

There was also a two-person platter, which diners would strap around their neck and coordinating their balance, could eat a shared plate. The Makerbot printed out a number of fun food-related items, including a tea pot and a sake cup. Philip also made a whistle, which I guess could serve to keep the peace at this chaotic dinner we were planning.

Interspersed among all the action was also an inspiration station, where people could take a break from tinkering, learn about cool open design projects, and share ideas. Wes had seveeral people offer their wisdom, although in the end this session turned out to be less formal than originally planned. It was more fun to hop from station to station than give a presentation. ^_^

The highlight of the workshop was when everyone wrapped up their projects and we sat down for dinner. Each project was showcased, and we had a lot of laughs about the strings attached dinner table, the scuttling robot dancers, and all the other goodies that adorned the meal. A courageous and cute couple, Benedikta and Matt from etsy, braved the Twitter Food Therapy experiment, and you can read the tweets (#tweefoody) to see how that went. (Synopsis: they’re still married!) :-)

The KS12 team, Gabriel and Patrizia, cut together a video from the two days, putting into praxis the idea of immediation — immediate documentation or “mediation” of an event. The film is a lot of fun and shows the playful spirit of the group and our various tinkerings. Plus, some now famous soundbites from Jay.

The feedback from the workshop and the ideas hatched there encouraged us to continue the conversation. Check in on the tag #od10beta, which is also being aggregated on with photos, videos, blog posts, and bookmarks about the theme. We’re also talking with DMY about how to extend this project and perhaps develop a “Maker Faire” of sorts for the DMY festival this June. Right now we’re barcampling suggestions, so if you too would like to get involved in open design / maker culture in Berlin, add your thoughts about how to make it happen!





What’s next?

Images: “Ronan’s creation” and “Lady Gaga Bot” by Fablab Amsterdam/CC BY; ”Makerbot” and “You can lazzzer biodegradable plastics!” by thornet_pics / CC BY SA; “Delivered in Beta” by KS12 / CC BY NC

Comments (4)

  1. Pingback: Internet Governance, Technology for Transparency, and Open Design at DMY « = thornet =

  2. Pingback: An interview with Open Design City

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.