Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Open Mobile - Project Overview

The “Open Mobile Project” developed at altLab- Lisbon’s hackerspace, was set as a first attempt to test and get to know the collaborative dynamics of this specific space while developing an art project.

The project consisted on inviting altLab’s members to participate on the construction of an art-piece, based on Alexander Calder’s mobiles, in which each piece of the mobile was to be developed by one or more members so that the final structure (the skeleton holding the pieces together) would be dependent of the assemblage of all of the pieces.

So, what was proposed was that the participants develop Open Mobile Pieces (what we called as OMPs) so that they could be at the final stage of the project integrated through a skeleton as the Open Mobile project.

With the unpredictability of replies coming from distant proponents (previous members/non-active and non-local), there was the case where ideas for OMPs were brought up to be developed locally.

Proposed ideas included a remote peep-hole, by Bruno Pedro:
“From your side, you have a box with a hole. When one peeks through the hole, you can see in real-time, what I’m seeing here in Barcelona.”

To a modular rectangular LED construction kit, by Tiago Rorke:

An open list was developed to present the OMPs suggested and to seek collaborators for the non-local proposals. Any member who didn’t propose an idea could participate as an OMP collaborator, by helping to develop an OMP.

A total of 9 pieces were suggested, 3 of these by non-local members in need of local collaborators.


Working at the space helps bringing attention to the project, nevertheless the meetings that gather all members are held punctually. The space is misused during regular weekdays, except for the meetings on Tuesday nights and occasional workshops during weekends. This is probably due to its de-centralized and hard to reach location (by public transports).

Although dates have been defined through the Open Call for the definition of intensive weekends and assembly nights, along with specific dates to finish the pieces and the overall project, the lack of a specific objective (such as an exhibition or presentation date) brings issues to the finishing of the pieces by the majority of collaborators. Often people asked me when the project was due, followed by an enquire on where it would be shown.

Location of the proponent is not an issue for the local development as long as the proponent finds a local committed collaborator, keeping in touch and coordinating the development process with her – this was the case with the MCS piece by Tiago Rorke.

During the development period of the Open Mobile Project, there were numerous events and people stopping by, calling for members either to participate in other projects, or just to getting to know altLab’s qualities. A sort of local and physical peer-to-peer network  is therefore formed – composed by common interests -  building a mesh of organizations and open communities that communicate with each other in order to develop local activities.

Another interesting phenomenon is what I came to designate as “Hackerspace tourism”. This “hackerspace tourism" happens mainly because members of different hackerspaces, while travelling, are compelled to visit the local hackerspaces, and these are easy to find thanks to the hackerspaces.org website. 

This affluence of people and events has affected this project in different ways, but a notorious one is the participation of Christoph Schneider who promptly developed the Open Octopus (see figure below), to be part of the Open Mobile Project. It is one of the finished pieces to be included on the project and it was developed on record time :-)


Open Octopus, by Christoph Schneider

                                            Electrotectonic Sunflower, by André Sier

Sodaleds by Tiago Rorke, developed by Rita at altLab, with the help of occasional collaborators - Gonçalo Carvalhal (soldering), Adriano Couto (tips for electric system), Maurício Martins (PCBs recollection and technical advise).

Sodaleds, by Tiago Rorke, remixed with Wake Up Call, by Rita Sá. Additional occasional collaborator: Ferdinand Meier at FabLab EDP

Semaphore WoMan, a remixed drawing from DITs’ website, proposed by Rita Sá with collaborators Guilherme Silveira and Maurício Martins.
Although the Open Mobile Project was not finished on time, some of the collaborators are still helping me with the conclusion of the unfinished pieces and some of the initial proponents still mention their interest in completing their proposed ideas. The project is to be shown on December 2013, at the Labs AZ meeting. More info soon.