High-Low Tech is the name of an MIT Media Lab research group led by Assistant Professor Leah Buechley, and when I saw their work I immediately thought of Becky Stern. As their name suggests, the group creates objects by blending technologically-sophisticated items with traditionally craftsy materials. While their projects wouldn't look out of place in an ID program, the researchers here are not bound by our more pragmatic profession's demands for real-world applicability; they are free to create purely for the sake of creation in the hopes that they'll stumble on something wondrous.
High-Low Tech, a research group at the MIT Media Lab, integrates high and low technological materials, processes, and cultures. Our primary aim is to engage diverse audiences in designing and building their own technologies by situating computation in new cultural and material contexts, and by developing tools that democratize engineering. We believe that the future of technology will be largely determined by end-users who will design, build, and hack their own devices, and our goal is to inspire, shape, support, and study these communities. To this end, we explore the intersection of computation, physical materials, manufacturing processes, traditional crafts, and design.
While their research will not translate into saleable products, it does provide something of potentially great lasting value: Inspiration for a generation of designers. High-Low Tech's website documents projects, tutorials and workshops both past and present, and any ID'er could spend hours clicking through their shots and following links to see what they've been up to.
To get you started, have a look at the "Bookbindings + Electronics" workshop, whereby participants learned to make traditional paper books interwoven with conductive materials;
See the "Salt and Vinegar Etching" tutorial, where you can learn how to use items in your cupboard to etch copper fabric into circuits and sensors;
Check out their "Handcrafting Textile Mice" project, where students investigated common, low-cost materials with electrical characteristics.
If some of the pages look thin, look harder—you'll often find links within them to Flickr pages or to detailed project pages with a lot of additional information. There's also a section where they list the tools, components and materials used in various projects. If only every design school had webpages this thorough.
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