Collaboration & Power of Yes
The dandelion represents two things here. First, as it pushes through the asphalt that is holding it back, it proves that things can grow against all odds. All my rockets have been founded without any monetary start capital, most have been considered impossible or crazy, and I almost always say yes first. With poor to no sense of risk management, the power of a fearless yes has put me in amazing encounters and spaces, and the less amazing situations built resilience and knowledge. Second, the flying dandelion seeds symbolise cross-pollination of ideas, even though the seeds actually do not need pollination but are cloning themselves, which is kind of cool. So, you are perfectly capable of getting by fine by yourself, and cloning might take some time… but for innovation it is a good thing to bounce off ideas with another creature, and to build something bigger you often need at least social and intellectual capital. Community engagement comes from inclusion, participation and shared ownership. Social relations are built on respectful agreements and trust. Innovation happens at the cross section of different perspectives. A transdisciplinary and open culture is necessary for synapses and synergies to happen.
Foster crossgenerational cross-pollination of ideas by welcoming people of different ages and backgrounds in the space. Try to build environments for serendipity; innovation processes are similar to neural synapse processes. Design spaces together with interaction and user experience designers, every organisation needs to hire those roles in the team, just like they have finance managers etc.
Collaborating and co-creating can be challenging, make sure to keep the not so complex parts simple. Have tools that aid the process easy to access, like sketching and prototyping areas and materials. It is important to leave space for both louder discussions and for being alone and deep think for a while, or just get some breathing space and maybe do something entirely different so you can come back to a challenge with new energy or perspective. Have different communication methods available as not all people are comfortable speaking up verbally, keep feedback loops and sometimes anonymous feedback options. A simple rule in general is to listen more than you speak, give more than you take, and don’t complain unless you are trying to solve it at the same time. Every little action counts and everyone can make a difference.
Many organisations are like puzzles. When you put all the pieces of a puzzle together you can not change the combination, each piece only has one placement and the entire structure is static. Even if it might present a pretty picture, few things are the perfect combination forever. The Cogwheel philosophy is about laying a puzzle that can be rearranged and improved whenever needed. Where every wheel is important, able to spin in different patterns and pace, supported by other wheels when needed, and empowered to get the entire machine to move. The cogwheel is also a symbol for changing the factory settings many companies still have, the view of humans as machines, and also machines as machines, as they are now turning into collaborators.
It was a mental image for flexibility, transformation and collaboration within an organisation. My cognitive skill set includes seeing things in images and systems, and for collaboration and being stronger together I also think of the pillar basalt that I walked on when doing geological excursions in Iceland 2005-7. Every single pillar can grow really tall because there are several pillars around supporting it, and together they create amazing and strong structures.
Collaboration takes time and emotional investment, it is not easy, but it leads to better results in the end. There are no shortcuts for engagement and honest relations, no money in the world will compensate for bad design and bad leadership. If you sense that you are easy to replace and that your contribution is not valued in an honest way, your motivation, inspiration and engagement will die. Communication and motivation is very challenging when working with big organisations, there is also a misconception that flat structures and little direction will make people solve this themselves. I have seen unexperienced managers use this shortcut several times, it always leads to a scattered team, without a shared vision or roadmap to progress. Flat organisations, just like, collaborations, take more time and work to function but often lead to better results longterm. You have to be prepared to invest in such a design, it will take more work than ever expected, but it will also be rewarding.
Many disciplines are needed to design a good space. Knowing about humans and different ways of communicating is important. My first masters degree was in Archaeology, and that is a discipline where you really have to use your imaginence. Sometimes all you see when excavating a field is darker spots in the soil you are scraping, layer by layer, and they can indicate that you are currently sitting in what used to be a Viking Age longhouse. Within archaeology my main focus was human communication, as in any cultural expression, mainly during the Iron Age and Digital Age. From excavating fields with traces of belief systems, various materials, craft methods and gaming pieces, to doing media archaeology and looking at early web archives and IT architectures. Material studies, from iron to graphene, from pottery to 3D printing, from cave art storytelling to video gaming, were all very exciting. The job market and Phd possibilities for archaeologists in Sweden was a disaster back then so the study loan will take a lifetime to pay off, but the knowledge about humans that archaeology gave me, and an ability to analyse a situation, context or object, as objectively and openly as a human possibly can, has been of great value in every interaction with people and organisations of different backgrounds and structures. The mindset of an archaeologist is encouraged in Collaboratory: Curiosity for the unknown – with respect for material and immaterial cultures that can be sensitive. Lust for adventure and excavation – with respect for the environment you are in. Spreading awareness and understanding of different cultures, and public sharing of the finds – again in respectful and well designed contexts.
It is a very special kind of experience when you feel a connection with someone who lived thousands of years ago, through a fingerprint on a clay bowl that they made a pattern on, or through the stories they left on rocks. Stories that show up all over this planet, developed independently but still demonstrating the same joys, fears and challenges that humans share.
The excavator mindset is also about living at the edges of ones comfort zone, and about taking the basement and the attic into the living room. Because there is where innovation and new thinking happens, when we go outside of the ‘norms’ and common ‘living’ spaces, dig deeper into our imagination and dare to explore.
A common way of living here is to use spaces like living room, kitchen and bedroom for living, and then store stuff and memories in an attic, and sometimes have a workshop and more stuff in a basement. As a kid I preferred to be in the attic, and sometimes basement if there was a workshop. There was an attic at home, in school, and in friends homes. This was many times a safe space, it was a playground and it was a space where imagination could run wild. Basements and workshops with lots of tools were mostly considered dangerous and made for men. With maker culture and many diversity initiatives this has changed to the better, but there is still tons of work left to really open up those spaces for everyone.
This is of course another metaphor for any organisation. I see makerspaces, areas for building, hacking, prototyping, as important parts of living and working spaces. Not only for research, development and innovation, but for the pure pleasure of doing something with your body, relaxing your mind and creating variation in the daily activities. ‘Meaningless’ play and making can have tons of meaningful effects that can not be counted in revenue, at least not until you look at long term aspects like drop-out rates or sick leaves. Crafts and arts can have a therapeutic effect, and we had several cases in Collaboratory where people got better during their sick-leave after crunch and other stressful situations, just by being in the space and tinkering with stuff.
Diversity, Accessibility & Inclusion
Standardised models never work for people as each individual is unique. Most western societal structures, like the school systems, 9-5 office spaces and even hospitals are still standardised or mainly adapted to one ‘type’ of person. Usually the ones that are more extrovert and verbally loud have it easier to pass through those structures and the ones outside of the ‘normals’ are excluded, forced to adapt or treated the wrong way. First step for a diverse and inclusive climate is to respect and understand that there is no norm, there is no ‘box’ or a perfect model that fits everyone. We should never categorise people unless they have a specific diagnosis that they need assistance with or a category that is self-chosen. When designing a space you have to be very conscious of your target group. If you aim at welcoming everyone there is no way to prepare for that, instead you have to design a model that is open and flexible enough to update fast, and listen to and cater for many different needs. Still you will not be able to please everyone. For example, in Collaboratory and the studio area there were often dogs which could be problematic if anyone with allergies would come. Another example is that the space was free from any political propaganda or symbols for any -ism. That meant that anyone wearing nazi or communist symbols would kindly be asked to not use that in the space, which one or two Swedes found offensive as they did not see that those symbols are equally evil for someone who lived through the reality and wars of both those isms. Everyone has the right to believe what they want, but not to push that on others. Political scales are outdated and made up of fear, there is no left or right, there are global issues that need global solutions and everyone on the planet is responsible. We also saw a drop in female members after partnering with a tech oriented institute that turned out to be a contributing factor to many issues in the space, leading to conflict and termination of the partnership, whereafter the female number increased again. Trusting the wrong partner can be devastating, even in cases where intentions might be good, ingrown cultures and biases can make it impossible to collaborate and we should never be afraid of ending unhealthy relations and move on. It was chocking to experience the unconscious misbehaviour towards females by 30+ aged male engineers mainly, I developed a zero tolerance rule for this in Collaboratory and all my future work places. You will never be able to avoid conflict when working with people, the importance is how you deal with it and move on in the least damaging way. When joining Collaboratory users read a Code of Conduct and signed an agreement. In short:
Collaboratory is an organisation where anyone is welcome – no matter your age, sexual identity or sexual expression, ability variation, ethnicity, gender or religion – to meet, create, learn and develop in an environment based on mutual respect, tolerance and encouragement. We want all members to have a nice, fun and learning experience free from any political, religious or categorizing expressions. Everyone is expected to be nice and show respect towards one and other.
The user agreement was about every user taking responsibility for themselves and their own equipment, cleaning after themselves and treating things and people with respect. The Collaboratory space was administered by a non-profit organisation with mainly 3 persons handling most tasks, so we had no resources for any personell, cleaning service or insurances for other than the space itself. Parents had to accompany any child under the age of 16 and any user under the age of 18 needed a parent to come with them for sign-up. The Collaboratory model is based on trust and respect, and we had no issues with theft or like for the entire time the space was open. The community was also good at keeping the space clean and not breaking anything. This kind of respect is fostered through a sense of meaning and being listened to, shared ownership, distributed responsibilities and mutual trust. When someone was very engaged in a specific area of the space they got responsibility over it and had the power to make decisions for it as well as introduce new users to machines or other aspects of that area. Distributed responsibility and decision making by working with a few key persons is important as no one can handle all aspects of a living space like that alone. Many organisations distrust people and fear material loss, but what is the worst thing that can happen? the world will not come to and end just because a machine breaks or if someone happens to cut themselves on a saw. If you build a foundation on trust, maybe try nudging (guidance) and teach each other to be careful with machines, people will take care of the space and each other. If you have machines that can be dangerous it is necessary to have introduction courses, and First aid and fire safety kits are to be placed clearly visible in the space.
When you have designed for engagement and have a driven community we also noticed that for new members it is hard to know how you can help out and how to get started with things. When entering a new space it can be a bit scary to learn how the climate is, to socialise and ‘take’ space. Try to have a welcoming environment where things are structured but not too structured. When things are messy it is not inspiring to work and if things are too tidy people might not dare to touch anything. Have dedicated spaces for things but also allow for ongoing projects to occupy space and keep as much as possible mobile and transformable. The Collaboratory community is welcoming and diverse so newcomers got a lot of help through buddies who offered to be a contact person or get to know-each other and collaborate events organised by members themselves. It is also important to leave space for people who want a lower level of interaction with others, and sometimes a buy-out option, higher user fee, for people who do not want to help out in the daily maintenance of a space. Users of Collaboratory had key cards so they could be in the space any time they felt like it. There were users coming in to work in the morning when it was usually quiet, some came in around lunch, kids usually go after school or instead of school in some cases as this was a more inclusive environment for people with adhd or autism for example, and people who lived alone often came in the evening. One or two users were sometimes there during the night, usually myself when there was fixing needed in the space, or people who due to post traumatic stress or similar reasons did not want to be home alone at night. Having 24h access to public spaces is problematic for many organisations but we need to find solutions as the standard factory hours are long gone. Creative work, or so called flow states, are never connected to specific hours either. This also means that if you want to work with things like innovation, the office hour mindset needs to be truly flexible and tools for collaboration and team communication improved. Time is perceived differently and there is research on things like chronic lateness, dividing people into type A (punctual, less creative, more pessimistic) and type B (late, more creative, more positive). I believe that each team just needs to try different timing and structures until they find their most optimal rhythm. Sound environment is another aspect to consider, some people need stillness and some prefer music and movement around them. Machines and things like drones make a lot of noise, plus can spread dust and dirt so the placement of workstations, furnitures, walls and machines is important. A combination of open space and smaller rooms with more privacy and doors to machine rooms was a good solution for us. Spaces where people can step away if needed is important not only in permanent spaces but also in events and labs. Safe spaces, away from people, strong lights, loud sounds or other input that is exhausting sometimes, or for more private venting of issues or similar needs, are needed in every space where people exist.
Mixing perspectives and ages is key to a space like Collaboratory. One thing to keep in mind when being a crossgenerational and open office space is that it can be problematic when some people focus on work and others want to socialise. Curiosity is awesome but with kids it is extra important that parents are attentive to the balance between curiosity and knowledge exchange and disturbing people at work. Many traditional makerspaces sometimes have issues with parents wanting to drop off their kids but this is not possible unless it is a space with personell dedicated for guarding children. Parents can also take turns in hanging out with kids, we had a parent group coming in once a week to have activities with their kids. We also had a collaboration with Engineers Without Borders and the tech university Chalmers, around homework support and learning activities. Elevators are important for access for people who can not use stairs, as well as floor that is easy to move around on. During events we tried to have sign language interpreters, streaming and graphic recorders when possible. When we held events like game jams, we had pre-events for people identifying as women, queer and other minorities, to build confidence so that everyone felt they could join events that often are attended by men mostly. The pre-events could also be introductions to software or hardware so that people could feel more confident to join a game jam or similar event for the first time.
Collaboratory focused a lot on supporting diversity events and groups, specially in the game and maker cultures. When working with public events like science festivals we also invited other organisations and universities working with themes like human rights, women in games and citizen driven city planning. Since there are a lot of awesome organisations sharing resources on gender, ethnicity, sexuality, function and body diversity, I will give attention to a less common diversity area here. Humans, technology, and discrimination against cyborgs and robots. Technology, from Stone Age axes to cyborg implants, is a material, resource or tool like any other. It can be an artistic material or an earthling life saver, or both. Our tools develop continuously as our lives, bodies and environments change, still there is a fear of technology in many spheres. This fear needs to be directed at the humans developing technology in non-empathic ways, not at technology itself. As we have already entered a time where robots are our co-workers and helpers, where cyborgs have been around for quite a while, and AI is getting better and better, we need to build our co-existence based on empathy, not fear and monetary or power profit.
Discrimination against robots and cyborgs is seen in both entertainment/media and work spaces, and many AI designs are not diverse enough. There is still software, for example for face recognition, that has issues with reading darker skin tones, many data sets for deep learning work are not diverse and doctors are not educated on cyborg diversity, for example on how to make an MR scan for someone with a magnet implant possible.
All designs/products should be designed from the experience perspective of the person who will use it, usercentric. Human centered design is often obvious when making things like ergonomic office chairs that are made to fit a human body, but it is not common for organisations to use the same tailored experience thinking when designing their organisation or the spaces they provide people with. Here is where you need artists and interaction designers. What good interaction designers bring to your space is a balance in form and function, looking at immediacy and usability, and if they collaborate with artists and architects you can get very interesting and unique results. The game controller and dendrites on the image represent playcentric design, which I will explain further on, and technology as extension of the human body.
Digital tools and internet help people communicate. These tools move power from few to many, from a selective spectator culture to an accessible participant culture. These tools provide freedom, and our brains adapt fast, we learn to navigate tons of information and get effective in new areas as technology can take care of tasks for, and with us. Nevertheless, our new tools are often feared, like in the cultural sector, often talking about costs and risks, rather than freedom, diversity and long-term sustainability. What we need is to learn about ethics in the digital domains, how to not get stressed out from things like social media, about source criticism, and know facts about security issues. As an artist and cyborg I am experimenting with NFC implants for identification and communication and meet many issues and prejudice. People fear a passive NFC implants more than the smartphone they carry close to them day and night, which is a far bigger threat on all aspects of privacy, cracking and health. In schools and other learning environments, people need to be taught to treat robots with respect, that communication on digital platforms is not different from communicating face to face in meatspace when it comes to ethics and how to treat other beings. As many people will spend more time in virtual and mixed realities, identification, and personal space and safety rules, as well as open standards, is important. Those subjects need to be valued by organisations, stakeholders and policy makers as the frameworks are being built now.
Yes, we are the architects of the future, not it’s victims. Some of Buckminster Fuller’s words were guiding principles when building Collaboratory. During my research I looked into various methods or mindsets for innovation and collaboration; Design Thinking, Systems Thinking, Neuroscience and cognitive structures, game mechanics, story architectures, Human computer interaction, human centered and empathic design, to name a couple. Me, and many others, now see much of this as mindsets or obvious parts of design strategies, Design Thinking is not a solution, but a part of a process to reach a solution. Design Thinking has been around for more than 15 years and I see AAA game companies wake up to this now, hoping it will help them innovate the games of the future, because the brand Design Thinking is established, well know and used, it feels safe so they might try it a little bit with the goal to create bigger revenue. When did innovation happen in a safe culture, without risk and some guts? What is important is the ingredients of empathy, ideation and testing, which should be ingredients in any development or innovation process, integrated in the everyday work. Tools and methods like Scrum, Agile game development, The 5 Why’s, World Café, Participatory Design, Scenario based reasoning, Sprints, Hackathons, Game Jams etc. are rather common now and we tried them in Collaboratory and at events we curated. Example of events are Global Game Jam, GAMERella, Make Change, DIY days, Learn Do Share and TEDx Lab. One participant from a bigger company called our system the next Lean and Agile, another wrote on our Facebook page space rating, that ‘the future starts here’, and in another Facebook post we saw that an ICT initiative for women in Nepal was initiated at on of our events. The effects of people networking in creative spaces are hard to follow and we learned a lot every time we did activities with different participants and different themes or design challenges. What I mainly learned from all those events and participants, is that there is no method that works for all, you need to tailor each lab or workshop depending on the context, looking at the bigger picture, but also being mindful of the micro stories and details. We form visions but they are more of a guiding compass than a set list of milestones. Gut feeling is a sense, and that takes shitloads of failures to train well. I also learned that I think in systems/networks, images and non-linear narratives, and developed a framework of playcentric design from that, which I mostly have bad risk management skills and radical imagination, archaeology and game culture to thank for.
This is Yggdrasil, a world tree from Nordic Iron Age mythology. The nonlinear stories taking place in the nine worlds of this tree are so engaging that they have survived hundreds of years of religious oppression, the Greek setting the standards for story structures with the three part linear system, politics and war, and you can now experience this story world in films like Lord of the Rings and games like World of Warcraft. This shows something about the power of good stories.
Sharing stories and playing are natural ways for humans to make sense of the world and our existence. Through narrative, representations, avatars, symbols etc. we are able to share our experiences with others and connect as social, empathic and playful beings.
Games are our oldest form of interactive culture. They are used in many areas; for learning, entertainment, rituals, and power play and competition. Early examples are Hnefatafl (Kings Table) from the Viking Age North and Senet from Egypt. Dice were used by many people: asians, egyptians, romans and vikings, the oldest finds are about 5000 years old and found in what today is called Iran. Several board games and gaming figurines have been found in Viking Age graves (female and male).
Games are good for learning as they are interactive and can be adapted to students needs, attention levels, way of communicating etc. The same goes for medical applications where games in VR for example, are improving the daily lives of patients with a wide range of needs. Serious games and games for social innovation are also growing fields where games make a difference. What needs to be understood is that the buzz around gamification is just another shortcut misconception for getting engagement or for marketing. To gamify something still needs the same amount of work as any other game production, adding points and badges will not be enough if the product is not well designed. When it comes to education and engagement, I work with participatory methods where students are part of the game design team from an early stage in the process. This way the game, which will be played by them, is based on their own terms and needs. I also use game mechanics for workshops like City as Playground city planning labs, or Women in IT labs, providing a playful yet more structured process.
Technological innovation is often driven by artists, and many times by game development. The art house and indie scenes show innovation on levels that bigger companies can never keep up with. In Collaboratory there was a strive to connect more so that it would be easier for smaller organisations to access new technology and scale up if needed, and bigger organisation often visited us for inspiration, which I will address further ahead as this turned out to be problematic.
Games are organic systems that often, but not always, engage people more than for example TV-series. One reason for me to choose to study crossmedia/transmedia instead of only game design or film directing, is the freedom of choice a transmedia storyworld gives people. Being a system thinker, the story architectures and distributions over different platforms fit my way of directing experiences. It is never about if VR or AR is best, or if a film or a game is best, it is about the experiencer having the freedom to choose how, when and where they want to take part in, or receive a story.
Playing games can also help with developing communication and networking skills, strategic and collaborative thinking, navigating through information in heavy streams of input, and multitasking. One example is that very young members of Collaboratory had excellent English speaking skills partly thanks to playing games. English was also the main language in the space thanks to the diverse backgrounds of our users.
Games as entertainment has been a huge area for long, and e-sports is a growing sport, but in the art and culture sectors games still have not been fully accepted, specially when it comes to cultural funds. Digital art is popular in the forward thinking art museums and there are pioneers, specially women, in digital art who made things like VR experiences before the game industry did. One of my main goals with founding Collaboratory, Epic Unidragon (Swedens only game gallery) and the festival Electrodome, was to improve the funding, creating and exhibiting possibilities for art house games and digital culture.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel (experience). Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you are a lot of other people: but the moment you feel (experience), you are nobody but yourself. To be nobody but yourself, in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
-E.E. Cummings with parentheses by Allegra Fuller Snyder comparing R.B. Fullers thoughts on Experience with E.E. Cummings thoughts on Feelings.
STEAM without A is like Earth without art, just Eh!
STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) has been discussed a lot recently and the more forward thinking policymakers have understood the importance of the A for Art, and talk about STEAM instead. The separation of art and science, mainly happening during the Renaissance, has devalued artistic work to a level so bad that we have still not recovered. ART IS A SCIENCE (art is also a business, by the way), nothing on this planet would have made any sense without art, and our lives would have been extremely boring. All sciences are equally important and transdisciplinary skillsets are crucial for any kind of development and innovation.
Many teachers and leaders still run outdated standardised educational or corporate systems and have poor understanding of peoples cognitive differences and behaviours. Many teachers and parents of kids with radical imagination, ADHD and similar came into Collaboratory and expressed their extreme frustration for not getting help from school leadership or society structures. The classes are often too big and individuals do not get the support they need. Some teachers felt insufficient and that they could not keep up with all the new technology kids use. But they do not have to keep up, or teach kids how to use computers and similar tools. Kids often know that better and can teach us, what adults need to do is listen first, and use our life experience and talk about digital literacy, ethics in digital domains and respect for all other beings. Create safe and accepting environments for testing, playing, failing and sharing. A good teacher opens doors, enables and encourages the student to walk through them. Almost every student I meet wants access to a space like Collaboratory, but even when there is a lab at their university, their teachers can not always give them access to it. Universities I have visited in Sweden, USA and Canada have great labs with many expensive machines but they are rarely accessible unless you are in a very specific course or Phd program. Often this is because of bureaucrazy and that they can not afford to have tech and security personell there. This is also where Collaboratory was suggested as a middle ground, and we had many students doing their thesis or internship at our space. We had official partnerships with two universities who also held some of their lectures in our space. Partners paid a yearly fee, plus event space rent if booking the space for their lectures.
Collaboratory also became a freezone for border-crossing and bridging, for people from different organisations and backgrounds who probably would not have met otherwise, to meet, collaborate and inspire each other. For example, students from Chalmers (tech), HDK (design) and GU (transmedia) randomly met there, an innovation group from Ericsson were members, which later led to collaborations, internships and work ops. Refugees shared amazing stories, skills and found new family and friends, artists and researchers from all over the globe visited, and also many job possibilities were created through events and networking in the space. We held game and hack activities in various spaces. During our activities at the local science festival we brought game and maker cultures to around 25 000 visitors during 4 days per year, and our own festivals had about 20-350 participants and were free to join as we wanted them to be accessible for anyone. Mobility is important even if you have a permanent space. We wanted a global maker car at some point, and were actually offered an old car once, but then we had already closed the space. There are a few in Stockholm however, and in LA there is a makerspace without a space that pops up in different locations which is pretty awesome, so everything is possible!
Hacking things is important, specially things like culture, the unemployment office, academia and outdated mindsets. Modding games, clothes, computers, bicycles etc. can be fun and useful. Some rules are meant to be broken, and as long as you do not hurt any being or property of others, we are pretty free to play and experiment. Mind parkour, parkour and dance are important ingredients in Collaboratory and our events. We foster a culture of kindness, where imagination is the only limit.
Many times frustration and anger can both kill motivation and drive motivation and endurance. It takes some years to realise that some people or institutions will never change and that it is better to not waste your time on them and just solve issues yourself. Often outdated institutions are driven by fear, sometimes being too content or lazy, sometimes people are feeling helpless, or bound to a job they might not be happy with because they need to sustain their family. There are good people in every workplace and it is important to not think ‘we’ and ‘them’. Collaboratory tried to have the same rules and relations with everyone, indie, government or corporate. This was good in theory and in human relations, but business wise we would have been better off economically if corporate visitors and users had higher fees or had been asked to pay for the guided tours, interviews, and inspiration they got. This is the problem with open innovation, the terms are rarely equal and relations not reciprocal if everyone does not understand the existing cultures or unwritten rules.
To create equal and engaging climates and cultures, Collaboratory was built on transparency, servant leadership, value based instead of profit based management, and openness. I wanted to cultivate a climate that can be adapted to change faster than developing a culture, since cultures take time to change, can prevent innovation and are proven to hinder inclusion and diversity. Worst case, as often seen in bigger game companies, they can become defence mechanisms for leaders and others who have been in a company for a long time, that have a fear of loosing their positions and power. Ingrown cultures often trigger group thinking which not only creates uniform perspectives, but also makes it harder for new talent to be included, grow as individuals and build a career.
When Collaboratory Gothenburg got access to a bigger space, I published a short description of the concept with a public invitations to open design meetings where anyone interested in the concept was welcome. What I mean by open design meeting, is that the participants of a future event or space are included in the design and planning of it. We mapped up existing resources, wishes and motivations for participating, and other initiatives to share and collaborate with. A challenge with open design meetings is that if you hold them regularly, which you should, and they are open for anyone, new people need to be introduced to previous information. On the other hand you always get new input and perspective on things, so lots of repetition for some and lots of new info for some, is something that needs to be balanced and planned a bit. I also tried to meet all new users in person when they signed up, continue with open design meetings, discussions, and ux observations of the usage of the space to see what needed to be improved.
”Bucky was a dancer in the way I understand dance, as a way of knowing, and his understanding of universe was through his dancing in his mind.”
Allegra Fuller Snyder
Dance ethnologist and R. Buckminster Fullers daughter.
New and alternative currencies are growing in numbers. Blockchain, social and intellectual capital, agreements based on trust and respect, cryptocurrencies, internet of agreements etc. The value of innovation spaces do not always manifest themselves as apps or hardware, generating hip and often short lived startups. Soft values are often invisible until they disappear and you realise that the invisible glue that held everything together is gone. Some effects or revenue is only seen longterm, ‘soft’ innovation or values like a sense of belonging and community for people who are new in a country/culture, networks generating job opportunities, social connections, can be hard to follow up on, count in numbers or visualise. The way we perceive success has to change, and everyone needs to be included instead of left out in labyrinths of complex language or bureaucrazy.
There should not be anything called unemployment. There is enough work that has to be done in this world to keep everyone busy for their entire lifetime. There is wageless work, there is social and cultural work that is not valued in an economical way, resources are not distributed effectively, or fairly. Volunteering is classified in contrast to professional work, as in paid work, which is wrong as much voluntary work is far more professional than a lot of paid work. We have misfit economies, and ineffective and expensive unemployment office systems feeding the system and not the unemployed. The Collaboratory model proved to work better for creating job ops than the local unemployment office and we contributed to several new job titles.
The problems we experienced with open innovation show that there is a value in ideas and inspiration. People often say that ideas are not worth anything, that it is only the execution that counts. This is not true. When bigger organisation came into Collaboratory, they got ideas and inspiration, took part in free workshops and then used this in their own company, without giving anything back to the community, it becomes a one way exchange. If our community were to go in to their office we would not be allowed to take any pictures, we would have to sign papers, and if we got ‘inspired’ that could lead to court for ‘stealing’. That is how open innovation often turns out today, and the artists, or the smaller companies always get run over. Promoting a share culture is important, where free software and commons are tools to empower people, to let creativity free and to improve our world through collaboration, wikinomics, Linux philosophy and resource sharing. Also continue expanding on access vs ownership where it fits, like car sharing, tool libraries and makerspaces. But this all has to be reciprocal. Corporate and Academic Social Responsibility has to grow and become more transparent. Codes of honor and cred needs to be respected by all parts.
Do It Yourself became a well-known concept during the fifties, associated with cost-effective trends like rebuilding your home by yourself, cultivating your own garden and knitting your own clothes. It later became a way for creators to express themselves, publish works and reach out independently of publishers, agents etc. Examples are zines in small editions, indie music, the punk scene, indie film, indie games, and later hacker, craft and maker cultures. It is about building your own future instead of waiting for others to do it for you, to make the most of what you have, to be innovative and creative. DIY is also about collaborating, innovation takes place at the intersection of different perspectives and cooperation enables smaller organisations to cope with bigger projects. Today some organisations use the term DIT, Do It Together, but for someone working a lot in film that is confusing. In my opinion it also takes away some of the initial meaning of taking your personal responsibility and freedom to also individually improve things. In addition there are people who prefer to work alone. It really does not matter what term you use as long as the DO spirit is there. Around 2005 DIY and maker culture got boosted with the new or more accessible tech like 3D printers and micro controllers, the Maker Movement and events like Maker Faire.
Makerspaces started to pop up, some in libraries and similar places, and makers got more organised and built new ecosystems and products. Recycling, upcycling and sharing economies became important too. Those waves have now spread globally and I co-produced both DIY days and Maker Faire since there is great value and importance in those movements. Building a space like the physical Collaboratory would never have been possible without a DIY mentality, collaborations, community and social capital.
In Sweden, makerspaces started to be popular around 2013 and there are several built now. Most are the traditional makerspace model, a shared workshop where member fees cover the rent and machines, or the franchise Fablab model, often driven by a tax-funded space like a culture house or science park. From a survey I made 2016 I saw that the two biggest issues for spaces are funding for rent mainly, and finding/building community. Funding was Collaboratory’s only bigger issue. Finding community was mostly an issue with tax funded spaces, as they are often built top down. But even tax funded spaces closed down shortly after opening and it is sad to see that many spaces have to close down because of money.
Play stands for two things here. Play as in playing, being playful and playing games. And play as in press play, pushing the button, doing, being active and driving change. In play and DIY people are often using something in another way than it was intended for, being creative and innovative. In playcentric game design you design from the players perspective. Pressing play means not waiting for someone else to make decisions for you but having the guts to just do it, try, test, play. This, person centered (as human centered excludes cyborgs/robots/other animals), and my background in game design, film, fine arts and archaeology, as well as my kind of cognitive skill set shapes the playcentric design I work with, the methods, all of the above, that made the foundation of Collaboratory and my other spaceships. It is my belief that play and art, and blockchain and social agreements will shape technology and innovation. Sense making through narrative and interaction, inclusion and diversity, and flexibility in when, how and where people work will define which organisations will exist in the future. And the future starts now.
One of the most common questions I get from people wanting to build a makerspace is what kind of machines are needed. My answer is always, build a community first and then ask them what machines they want.
Collaboratory did not have budget for a lot of machines so the ones we had depended on what users brought in and shared or what we got donated from the trash rooms of bigger companies or schools. Sometimes when we had event budgets we could buy some tech. My favourite machines are probably laser cutters and smaller robot, wearable and game making components. Also 3D printers, resin printers give nicer results but cost more. The workshop areas we had were Electronics, with soldering stations, component storage, Arduino, Lilypads etc and smaller hand tools.
Textile, with knitting machines, sewing machine and hand tools for knitting, crocheting, embroidery etc. Wood, plastic and metal, with saws, drills, sanding, work tables and handtools. Ventilation solutions, filters and air boxes for painting, glueing etc are important. Recycling was also important and we had an area for materials and components that we took out from broken computers and other tech, also plastic from 3D printing leftovers can be reused. Projectors, screens and sound system is needed for events and lectures. Storage solutions for common and private materials is a big need and needs some maintenance and clear markings. If possible a biohacking area and a lab for new materials with possibility to work with chemicals and growing things like organic wearables would have been awesome.