Maker Cities at Burning Man Global Leadership Conference

On Sunday, April 6th, Alex and Rebecca spoke at Burning Man’s Global Leadership Conference in San Francisco in front of a crowd of 30 attendees.  During the session, the team gave a presentation exploring the converging forces that are empowering the makers to create and improve the cities in which they live.  After the presentation, attendees took an hour to draw out how their own cities can be improved through empowering makers through a fun visioning exercise.

The presentation focused on bringing makers into the design process of cities through building platforms, coordination tools, and as a format for play.  In terms of platforms, makers are building vital infrastructure for their cities already– is a home-hacked arduino project designed to measure sewage levels in New York City and alert residents not to flush to prevent overflow into public waterways; Air Quality Egg is a Kickstarter-backed project to install air quality sensors around the world, with dozens in New York City alone.

Meanwhile, coordination tools like GoodGym enable citizens to make better use of their time- by leveraging their own skills to provide assistance to the elderly as they take runs.  In Maker Cities, every action and interaction is an opportunity to generate new value and build new relationships.

Finally, Alex and Rebecca spoke on how Maker Cities are full of opportunities to leverage play as a way to get things done.  In Detroit, Jerry Paffendorf’s Inch by Inch project first enabled anybody to buy tiny plots of land throughout the city; later, the software was built up to enable blight mapping and other valuable social tools.

Participants break out into prototyping groups. 

After the presentation, the 30 or so attendees moved into little groups to prototype their own Maker Cities, and then came together to present their work to the group.  We’ve since archived their ideas in the Maker Cities platform; check out their top ideas below!

  1. The Freed Up concept explores how volunteers can leverage underutilized spaces to create value for their community

  2. Xperience points out the value in hackerspaces that intentionally bridge groups that usually work in isolation (like hardware hackers and biotech)

  3. Neighborhood Bike Racks finds an opportunity for makers to engineer new hybrid public-private spaces for bike storage at the street level.

  4. One Road looks at alternative models for city design using a single road.

  5. Figment takes Burning Man-style art and brings it into youth-appropriate, radically accessible spaces and events to encourage playfulness and creativity.

  6. Vacant Buildings points out that the best use of vacant buildings is to open them up to artists and communities to illustrate to potential renters that the spaces are valuable.

  7. Automated Personal Public Transportation finds new opportunities for makers to design last-mile vehicle solutions.

Each participant also drafted a sketch of their idea- you can view their sketches by clicking on the links above.

Future Events: Maker Cities will be at the Foundry on April 16th from 5PM – 9PM to discuss and celebrate urban innovation and the Maker Movement in cooperation with Global Lives Project.  The event will feature a panel and happy hour; attendance is free with advance RSVP HERE.


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