Tim O’Reilly talks about spotting trends by watching the “Alpha Geeks” and has predicted and chronicled their evolution for decades. The Make: imprint that he created with Dale Dougherty has shown this most clearly. Visit any of their MakerFaires and you will find booth after booth filled with inventively hacked projects that celebrate an outsider vision of tinkering and manufacturing. A great illustration of this kind of project is the “TV-B-Gone” kit, sold by AdaFruit Industries, a perfect encapsulation of the countercultural ethos. The product is a kit, the primary component is an exposed PCB, and its function is to surreptitiously turn off TVs in public spaces presumably driving them to more enriching pursuits. This is just one example of a greater trend that is causing consumer product companies to reevaluate their products and marketing. RadioShack has recently launched an ad campaign trying to co-opt this movement.
I think food culture is the next major area of interest and economic activity that will be reshaped by this ethos. A consortium of NY based creative interests recently sponsored a Jell-O Mold Design Competition where one of the top prizes went to a Jell-O mold bust of President Obama. A design that seems vaguely political while remaining entirely impressive aesthetically and technically.
Photo Credit – Eater
Elsewhere, a father/tinkerer decided to delight his kids by creating a robot that produced perfect Mickey Mouse pancakes and endeavor that is both inspiring and kind of insane.
These projects are both noteworthy and created by supremely cool people. Their enthusiasm and skill is on full display even if the output falls beyond the scope of normal. Now the question is who will be the RadioShack that tries to co-opt this behavior?