GOSH Community Member Profile of Marc Dusseiller: “A workshop is playground for human interaction”

Brianna Johns GOSH Profiles, Open Science Hardware News Leave a Comment

Source: Gathering for Open Science Hardware

This is the fourteenth post of a series of profiles on GOSH community members who were featured in the GOSH Community Events Framework. You can access the framework, along with this profile in its original format, on the GOSH website at https://openhardware.science/gosh-community-events-framework/.

By Marcela Basch, independent journalist, Argentina. Twitter: @marbasch

Marc Dusseiller is a transdisciplinary scholar/lecturer for micro-and nanotechnology, cultural facilitator, educator, and artist. 

He performs DIY workshops in lo-fi electronics, hardware hacking for citizen science and DIY microscopy. He co-founded the Swiss Mechatronic Art Society in 2006, and started with open hardware and DIY electronics workshops. Soon he also organised other events blending art, music, technology and open source software and hardware. “We did a lot of social work with the local youth centers when the maker movement started, with our roots in electronic music”, he remembers. “I figured out that I was happier working with people than just with materials, sitting in a lab. I’ve been bringing people from different backgrounds together for 15 years and I really enjoy it”.

In 2008, he brought his maker skills to his students. “I started teaching projects on nanotechnology and microfluidics using the open source approach. The bachelor grade students had to build their own nanotechnology laboratory equipment in one semester, using open hardware. People were building pumps out of Lego”, he laughs. He attended media art festivals and started to define himself as a workshopologist: “I’m very much into physical interaction, learning environments and also informal settings like hackerspaces”, he explains. In 2009, he participated in Interactivos — Garage Science, a workshop in Media-Lab Prado, a citizen lab in Madrid (Spain). There he met people with whom he founded Hackteria, a global network in the field of Open Source Biological Art. They started to work in Indonesia and India, establishing long-term collaborations. “What we developed as a teaching and creative output had some other real-world implications there”, he says. “We aimed to empower people to do their own stuff without having to buy expensive equipment from the West, and increase the quality of education”.

When the first GOSH meeting was set to happen in Geneva, he joined the organising team. “We had been in the loop, organising hackathons and workshops, for a long time. We were both local contributors, and connected globally with the network that Hackteria already had established”.

Meet on other channels

“GOSH is really global and transdisciplinary, going beyond researchers and hardware developers to involve artists, activists, freaks. I believe that bringing people from different cultural, educational and financial backgrounds together, playing and consuming music together, makes us humans”, says Marc. “Music creates another level of interaction. By improvised music sessions, we have established very interesting non-verbal communication and collaborative environments. Through music and dance, we can meet on other channels that we all appreciate as humans, and allow us to leave prejudices behind”.

“Hospitality is the art of making people feel comfortable. It is only achieved by authenticity, being yourself, behaving in the same way as you would do if you had your neighbors coming over for dinner”, he says. “Local hosts shouldn’t be some kind of image of international neutrality. It’s interesting to run into something that you haven’t expected, not the same Hilton-like event. Each event is fundamentally different through the individuals that are organising and hosting it”, he remarks. “There are also other very different incentives than those existing in academia. In the underground culture networks, you make up for the lack of funding by being nice to the people. You just make sure they’re happy and have a nice place to stay and maybe meet some interesting friends. I think bringing this private touch and your own style and authenticity make the event better, and if there is a group of people involved from different backgrounds, it makes it full of surprises”, he highlights.

“During the first GOSH, the participants themselves cooked for the whole group, linked to the hospitality idea, as well as saving our funds for other things”, recalls Marc. “Cooking suddenly makes us all human, and we have discussions in the kitchen that are not so much influenced by our disciplinary backgrounds but just our human backgrounds. We all can chop onions together, and we all enjoy food, we have recipes to share. I think the whole sharing recipes and cooking together is a bit of a metaphor for the open science hardware: it’s about sharing, having different influences, recipes, instructions on how to make things.“

The meta level interaction

“There are always two goals in a workshop. One is learning through making some objects, and the other is the meta-goal: having a hands-on practice in a large group might lead to a human-human interaction across disciplines and cultures. These goals fertilise each other. The practical hands-on workshops are extremely fruitful as a safe little zone where people do something with their hands and sit next to each other for a couple of hours. It’s kind of an icebreaker, a playground for interaction. Some people feel more comfortable if they have something in their hands, and not so comfortable if they’re in a circle where they have to voice out their opinion. In the hardware community, people focus far too much on the technical aspects of a workshop and not so much on this meta-level interaction that the workshop itself enables. Building a device? I can do it at home watching YouTube”, he emphasises. “Also I think in many workshops in the maker and hardware environments they say that you learn something, but instead you only follow a strict instruction. In my opinion as an educator you have learned nothing, and this “obedience” is not the society I want to live in.”

Radical transdisciplinarity

“For unconferencing and workgroup sessions, it’s great to have experienced facilitators”, says Marc. “If a team doesn’t have the skill, it’s good to bring someone in specifically for that. Being a good facilitator is something that’s not so easy, it needs a lot of skill and years of experience. It’s not something that you can do according to protocol.”

Those techniques are useful to deal with what Marc calls “radical transdisciplinarity”. “I think as we are embracing the grand challenges of our society, a lot of us are motivated to tackle the big problems we have in education, in health, in poverty reduction. We can only do it by a radical transdisciplinary approach.”

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