Author Archive



1)Are there any tools that you personally or your members are eager to get for the space?

2)How do you go about deciding what kinds of public workshop or events to hold?

3)Do you find members collaborating in ways you didn’t initially imagine when starting HackLab?



Arriving at HackLab’s new location we were introduced to Eric Boyd. Eric spoke to us about HackLabs start as a smaller co-working space with mostly programmers and hackers to a now larger space with fabrication equipment, traditional tools and a diverse range of members. The main area had 3D printers, computers, and a bunch of custom made gadgets that augment the space. He then showed us another room with some more traditional tools and a laser cutter. We then moved on to see the shared kitchen and the lounge area. Finally we visited the back room that is used for teaching workshops and classes, sewing, traditional photography development, bio-hacking and more.


Eric Boyd of HackLab.TO


This was my second time visiting HackLab. The first time I visited HackLab was in their much smaller Kensington location. This time the growth of their business was very evident not only space wise but member wise. I recognized familiar faces but also recognized a collection of new members with more diverse interests. It was nice to see how this kind of maker space is sustaining itself and evidently flourishing. I was interested in the way the space continues to meet the needs of so many different kinds of makers, and what it took to maintain a space like that. Eric was very candid in answering questions about how much it cost to run the business and his vision of the future of the space. After visiting so many different collaborative and co-working spaces both in Toronto and New York has really inspired me to think more about the power of these kinds of spaces.





1)What ideal in particular from the punk rock ethos do you think is underrepresented in games at the the moment?

2)Are there any contemporary examples of games that you think embody this balance between socially conscious and entertaining game design?

3)How do you imagine the “mainstream” of games culture changing as independent distribution continues to rise?


During our visit to Parson’s New School of Design we visited the Design & Technology Program and PET Lab. There we met with Associate Professor of Games & Learning John Sharp and Associate Professor of Media Design Colleen Macklin. First we were introduced to the work PET Lab does at Parsons in conjunction with Games For Change. We then played a quick round of The Metagame designed by John and Colleen. After a round John Sharp gave a talk on Punk Rock and the Indie Development scene. The talk highlighted the similarities between the punk rock ethos and how its ideals can help innovate games, the same way indie games are. After John’s talk we quickly jumped into a rapid game building session. Each team was given a challenge associated with the punk rock ethos to incorporate in our games. After we were done we demoed our games we continued the conversation concerning indie game design and innovation.


Making punk inspired games at Parsons New School with Colleen Macklin and John Sharp


I was extremely excited to get the opportunity to visit Parsons. Parsons was the first school in the United States to offer education in design. It was exciting to visit the school knowing its history and the many talented people who had studied there. I was also pleased to see that Parsons was embracing games in a unique way. The way John and Colleen spoke about the importance of indie games that are coming out of disenfranchised individuals or those with a unique point of view was inspiring. I think it was an important point to make and understand; that there is a way to make games that can be entertaining and socially conscious. It was a point that really inspired me to think about what my voice means in games.


Museum of Modern Art


During our evening in NYC a small group of our classmates made it out to the Museum of Modern Art. Upon arriving we excitedly downloaded the MoMA App to first and foremost locate Kate Hartman’s Botanicalls within the permanent collection (seriously, how cool is that?). We made our way up to the third floor and toured the architecture and design gallery collection. The floor was filled with a diverse collection of industrial design, tech, and art objects. Any piece with a label that explains the process of a piece always is always most exciting to me. The first piece I found that spoke to me was a table called the “Cinderella Table”. The table was made from a digital image of two different tables morphed together. The piece was laser cut into thin vertical slices that were then adhered manually to create the three dimensional table (so cool).


Cinderella Table, Demakersvan, 2004. Museum of Modern Art.

Shortly after we found Kate’s piece in a wall mounted display, hilariously right next to the Little Bits prototype. It was surreal to see Botanicalls on display. I wanted to stand next to it and brag that my professor has a piece in the MoMA. Sadly I did not.


Botanicalls looking snazzy in the Architecture and Design Gallery at the Museum of Modern Art

After that we power-toured the remaining gallery spaces. I really enjoyed the Applied Design exhibit displaying pieces of video game history. It was really inspiring to see these games I have grown up with and love so dearly being recognized the way that they are. Before we knew it the final announcements were being made and it was time to leave.


Pac-Man at The Museum of Modern Art


Having the Museum of Modern Art be the last visit I made just before leaving New York City was probably the best way I could have possibly left the city. Although a few hours is not nearly enough time (realistically I would have needed days the way I like to tour a museum) it left me time to slow down, think, reflect and really be appreciative of everything we got to do and see. Seeing Botanicalls and Little Bits displayed was so exciting and reassuring to know how our society values and perceives the innovations being made in creative and technological spaces. The Applied Design exhibit was a really emotional experience that reminded me of why I love games so much. Touring that exhibit and seeing people playing, smiling and interacting with each piece really reaffirmed my decision to pursue games as a future. And before I descend into a puddle of overwhelmed, excited, and nostalgic tears I will say one more thing; I think the Museum of Modern Art is an incredibly important visit. Not only to appreciate the old masters of art and design but to see the new innovators that are paving the way for people like us to do what we love. This is all so cheesy but I promise it is sincere.


MAGNET – NYU Game Center


1)What are the qualities you look for in potential candidates for the NYU Games Center graduate studies programs?

2)Do you find that the co-working spaces available to students part of MAGNET has inspired more collaborative projects to be produced?

3)What do you imagine are the underlying benefits of virtual reality games?



Upon arriving at the NYU Game Center we met with the Director of the NYU Game Center Frank Lantz. Frank introduced himself and then gave us a tour of the spaces that students have access to as a part of the MAGNET programs. We first saw the large entrance used as a co-working space for students in a multitude of different programs. Next, we saw the Open Game Library where students had access to a library of over 2,000 digital and traditional games. Frank then showed us some of the other facilities like the lab with open access to laser cutters, traditional tools, and multiple desktop 3D printers.


NYU Games Center & Open Library

After Frank Lantz finished showing us around we met with Ken Perlin, acclaimed professor of Computer Science. Ken showed us the virtual reality studio where students had access to multiple Samsung Gear VR headsets and full motion capture technology. There Ken and some Game Center students demoed a Unity Game built using the Samsung Gear VR headsets simulating a recreation of the studio itself. Ken and his students were looking to explore what can be achieved within VR that could not be done traditionally in games. Our students got to demo the tech, and ask Ken about his experience with the current and next generation of VR experiences.


Kate Hartman, Ken Perlin & Daniel Jones testing Samsung Gear VR at the NYU Game Center


The NYU Game Center truly seems like a dream school to learn about game design and game culture. The facilities were incredible, encouraging students to interact with one another and collaborate, and giving them access to a large variety of tools and resources to improve their understanding and creation of games. I really loved their philosophy of understanding games as a creative practice and cultural form. I think this visit got me thinking most about the power of collaborative work spaces, and in what ways Digital Futures could adopt some of these approaches as the program evolves and establishes itself over the years. This visit was truly inspiring.


The Office For Creative Research


1)Being an multidisciplinary research group, how does your company go about finding the projects that it does?

2)How do you balance the practical economics of running a business with working with clientele that share your interests?

3)You have a background in both the sciences and art, how do you think being multidisciplinary has helped you in the workplace over a single expertise?


After navigating Manhattan’s Chinatown district we arrived at a small, precarious door that led up to The Office For Creative Research. There we were introduced to fellow Canadian Jer Thorp. After shuffling into the cozy office space Jer first demoed Specimen Box for us. Specimen Box is a data visualization project developed for the Digital Crimes Unit at Microsoft to analyze and investigate Botnet activity. Jer showed the diverse functionality of the project, and the ways in which in encompassed both science and art to produce an interface that was both intuitive to use and understand and incredibly complex in the data that can be extracted from it. After showing us Specimen Box, Jer continued to discuss what other kinds of projects the team is involved in.


Interface for “Specimen Box”


I was completely blown away by the work being produced by The Office For Creative Research. One of the aspects of this visit that stuck with me was the integrity of the business. Throughout the visit Jer explained the companies desire to use their knowledge in technology and science to develop things in creative and interesting ways. In that way, their clientele varied greatly. This was very far from a traditional design firm that works to make ends meet but rather a space that prides itself upon creating work that is thoughtful, impactful and curious. It was nice to see a business that’s last priority is making exorbitant amounts of money but instead exploring creative research methods. I think it was extremely important to visit this office to really understand that there are really diverse business models within the creative and technological economies.




1)Are there any possibilities for food-safe materials to be 3D printed and offered by Shapeways?

2)In what ways does Shapeways highlight its community members’ work?

3)Do you envision Shapeways building more facilities worldwide as the company continues to grow, or expanding the two existing spaces to accommodate for that growth?


When we arrived at Shapeways’s location in Queens we were introduced to community and outreach manager Eleanor Whitney. Eleanor gave us a tour, first showing us the office space where a team of designers were working on prepping user submitted files for printing. Eleanor gave us an overview of the tools the team uses and the process from user submission request to final shippable product. We then toured the factory first seeing the industrial grade nylon and plastic 3D printers. Eleanor discussed the ways in which desktop 3D printers differ from the industrial grade printers found at Shapeways. We then moved on to a larger room with more 3D printers and got to see the machines working up close. After that Eleanor directed us to the next room where finished batches were taken apart, cleaned off, and organized for either shipping or dying. Finally we returned to the office space and lounge area to further discuss how the company has evolved over the years as well as Eleanor’s own responsibilities as community and outreach manager.



Samples of 3D printed materials from Shapeways



What I found personally interesting about Shapeways was their growth and evolution as a business. As Eleanor Whitney explained the company started in the Netherlands. Very recently the company expanded by acquiring its factory space in New York by attracting investors looking to create manufacturing and tech jobs locally. In that way it was interesting to learn about a startup that was able to expand internationally yet still keep a small ecosystem of under 60 employees. It was encouraging to hear that a creative/tech company could gain the kind of attention Shapeways did to help invest in the growth of their company.


New York Times Research and Development Group


1)Much of the work done at NYT labs seems to share a common thread of socially conscious design. Can you speak to the significance of transparency in your design process?

2)In your experience working with NYT labs do you feel that is important to have a single expertise or to have a more generalized set of skills?

3)A lot of your work is open-source. Can you speak about the lab’s interest in making these tools available to the public?


During our first visit in New York City we toured the New York Times Research & Development Group’s office. There we met with Noah Feehan who introduced us to the space, as well as some examples of the work he and his colleagues do for the Times. Noah explained that the Research & Development Group deals with imagining trends and technologies that will emerge within the next three to five years. Noah first showed us the Kepler project, a visualization of metadata published by The Times since 1913. Kepler ambiently displays connected topics of interest written by the publication and combines each topic with relevant data referencing the audience’s activity on The Times website and Twitter.

Noah Feehan at NYT labs

Noah Feehan demoing Kepler


Noah then walked us through the office resting first to speak about the Cascade project. Cascade is a realtime visualization of readers viewing The Times web or mobile sites. This project helps The Times recognize and understand pathways in which their readership are taking through their online portals.



Project Cascade – Photographed by Karina Kurmanbayeva


We then moved on to briefly speak about other tools that the Research & Development group have actually created to assist their own work. One example Noah showed us was Streamtools, an open-source toolkit for working with live streams of data.


Streamtools interface


Noah then showed us The Listening Table, a very different kind of project from the rest we had just viewed. The Listening Table is a semantic listening device that looks to explore the relationship between recorded data and real human understanding.


Noah demos The Listening Table


Lastly, Noah showed us project Madison, a crowd-sourced archive of advertisements that have appeared in The Times. This project explores collaborative publishing and how human archival techniques compares to digital archival tools.


One important theme that stood out to me when touring the New York Times Research & Development Group’s office was the social consciousness evident in their work. Each project not only considered what the emerging technologies are but also how these technologies will be embodied in our day to day lives. There was an emphasis and understanding of the human element in each project that I really appreciated. As Noah Feehan discussed we are already recording data signals in many ways but it is important moving forward to change the way we listen to those signals, and what meaning truly lies within them. This visit in particular really inspired me to think more critically about my design process and how it can become more transparent and socially conscious.




1) In your experience, what do you think is the biggest advantage your startup gained from participating in incubator programs?

2) As game designers and developers we are often producing non-essential items. Having a premium device and service, what advice did you receive from participating in an incubator program that helped position your product in the marketplace?

3) How did your business transition from grant funding to approaching seed and angel investors for further funding?


On friday our class visited the MaRS startup incubator building. During our visit, we first met with Mike Lovas of Push; a startup company who developed a wearable device for professional athletes and trainers. With the team at Push, Mike took the concept for the device to the Jolt incubator program housed in the MaRS discovery districts co-working space, the MaRS Commons. With the support of Jolt’s startup development resources the company continued to develop Push’s physical and digital applications.Having solidified the hardware, Push wishes to further expand it’s market penetration by focusing on Push’s different software applications on both mobile and web. Mike discussed the businesses funding progression having started with crowd source funding, follow by government grants, and finally connecting with venture capitalists to find seed funds to sustain their business moving forward.


Visiting the MaRS Commons co-working space and speaking with Mike revealed a lot of meaningful insight concerning the advantages of startup incubator programs in Toronto. Through Mike’s shared experiences with Push I gained a better understanding of the process of taking an idea from concept to funding and production with the support of an incubator program. One of the key items that Mike had spoken about that I think was extremely relevant to our studies was the value of goods and services. Mike explained Push’s initial hesitation with pricing their product within a premium price range. Through deeper research and support from Jolt’s incubator tools it was actually revealed that a lower price is not always appropriate for the audience which you are marketing to. I found this to relate well to the idea of games as products that are non-essential items. Then, like Push’s premium marketed device, cannot be valued based on its necessity but its relevance to its consumer base.



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