Open Hardware and Design

Today was the first day of a workshop I participated in (and assisted with), run by MIT's Eric Von Hippel on Open Hardware (or Open Source Hardware, or Open Design, or however you want to call it). It was a pretty all-star cast in attendance, and I was honored to be among them. I gave a short talk that was a kind of personal history about why I believe that Open Hardware is important. Here is my conclusion:

I think that we are seeing proliferation of small, niche Open Hardware suppliers—a cottage industry—of digital technology manufacturers whose existence owes itself to Internet shopping, online social networks, cheap electronics manufacturing and mutual openness. And every year we are seeing more of these products and more businesses being built on Open Hardware principles.


This cottage industry is supplying the materials to a much larger group participating in a new culture that treats electronics more like a design material than an industrial process. This I believe points to a much deeper cultural shift. And although on the surface Open Hardware looks like a discussion about the economics of manufacturing and intellectual property, the effect that it has is creating new building block with which people can remake, redesign, their world.

Mediamatic, the Dutch technology/culture organization ran a one-week RFID social games workshop last year. A group of 30 people, many of whom are not electronics engineers by training, created a dozen complete, working, completely novel technologies in less than a week. This kind of wild experimentation, using technology to create new social relationships would simply not have been possible without Open Hardware. And it is in these kinds of environments in which the truly magical, deeply disruptive technologies are created.

That, I believe, is the key power of Open Hardware.

You can find the presentation is available(520K PDF) for download and via Slideshare:

I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's discussion. Eric has said that he'll make videos of the whole day's presentation and discussions available, and I'll link them here when those have been posted.

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL:




A device studio that lives at the intersections of ubiquitous computing, ambient intelligence, industrial design and materials science.

The Smart Furniture Manifesto

Giant poster, suitable for framing! (300K PDF)
Full text and explanation

Recent Photos (from Flickr)

Smart Things: Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design

By me!
ISBN: 0123748992
Published in September 2010
Available from Amazon

Observing the User Experience: a practitioner's guide to user research

By me!
ISBN: 1558609237
Published April 2003
Available from Amazon

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Kuniavsky published on March 19, 2009 8:18 PM.

ETech 2009: The Dotted-Line World was the previous entry in this blog.

Mashups with Atoms: Ubiquitous Computing and Web 2.0 is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.