Alex Gilliam +
Georgia Guthrie

March 2014


Mixing Ancient + 21st Technology To Strengthen A Place

At the Department of Making + Doing we are blessed with big windows that effectively transform the space into a series of sidewalk facing ‘maker stages’. Our daily ‘making performances’ combined with bright and inviting window signage routinely cause people to stop, point, gawk or wave. SOMETIMES people have chutzpah to come inside but recently we have had a significant increase in people lingering in front of the windows, stopping in and wanting to learn more.

Why? We were able to install the first version of our much planned window calendar, a simple 10,000 year old piece of ‘technology’. Despite the regular making performances and our massive ‘Come Make Stuff Here’ window graphics, it appears that people are still somewhat mystified by the space and whether they have ‘permission’ to get involved or even come inside. In the coming month we will create a folding sidewalk sign to further charm and invite passersby to say hello.


We are really excited that these sidewalk level engagement tools are now supported by our new website that provides a trove of information about DM+D, the partners, upcoming classes and lessons learned as we continue to develop this unique project and space. We even got a little bit of local press about the website launch. The Department of Making + Doing received a new level of national visibility with a recent article in Fast Company about DM+D partner, Public Workshop.

This Spring, we are transforming the need to better understand and engage passersby and our surrounding neighborhood into rich design and tech programming at DM+D. We will be working with local teens, a robotics club, hackers, designers and community organizations to develop civic sensors and measure the vibrancy of DM+D and the surrounding neighborhood. This will include partnering with organizations like the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia and strong local community groups such as the University City District and the People’s Emergency Center to identify data and thereby sensors that will be useful in their work. And just as a simple 10,000 year old technology has improved engagement at DM+D, in order to maximize the impact of this data gathering/sharing process, we will be working to find a balance between hi-tech, lo-tech and making the actual measurement process engaging if not entertaining.

As we gather feedback, we want to ask all the other ArtPlace Grantees, if you were able to track or measure anything about your place or the people passing by it, what would you want to know?