Tuesday 12pm, 22 September 2015

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Do-It-Yourself Devices: Personal Fabrication of Custom Electronic Products

David Mellis

Post-doc - UC Berkeley


My research investigates digital fabrication (of both electronic circuit boards and enclosures) as an alternative approach to DIY electronics, one that can support individuals in both making devices and using them in their daily lives. The talk explores three questions: (1) What are the scope and limits of the personal fabrication of electronic products? (2) How can we engage people in the personal fabrication of electronic products? (3) Why make electronic products using personal fabrication?

These questions are explored through two investigations. The first is a DIY cellphone, including an autobiographical approach exploring my making and use of the device. Also documented are workshops and other dissemination in which others have made their own phones. The second investigation is a six-week workshop in which participants designed and made internet-connected devices.

The investigations reveal personal fabrication as a robust, open- ended, and nuanced means of making devices for use in daily life, but with limitations and constraints imposed by the commercial ecosystem surrounding this DIY practice and by the nature of electronic products. Analysis of the workshops reveals multiple trajectories that people take in these activities; the computational concepts, skills, and practices they develop; and strategies for engaging them. Finally, the investigations reveal multiple values for the personal fabrication of electronic products, including its ability to transform people’s relationships with the technology in their lives.


David A. Mellis is a new post-doc at UC Berkeley, working with Björn Hartmann. His research seeks to engage new audiences in using electronics in creative and do-it-yourself practices. David recently completed his PhD in Mitchel Resnick's Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab. Prior to the Media Lab, David taught at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (Denmark). He has a master's in interaction design from the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (Italy). David is one of the creators of Arduino, an open-source hardware and software platform for electronic prototyping.