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SIE Interviews Technology Will Save Us

SIE interviews the Technology Will Save Us Team

Technology Will Save Us describes itself as “a haberdashery for technology and alternative education dedicated to helping people to produce and not just consume technology.”

This description springs from a belief that creating a strong understanding of the technology we use every day will lead to more sustainable and ecologically conscious habits.

By understanding what goes into the things we use daily, rather than simply throwing away what we no longer have use for, we will have the new-found potential to fix, re-use and re-purpose.

To promote this potential, Technology Will Save Us delivers workshops. Among them, sessions on…

  • transforming almost any material into a speaker
  • using the same set of techniques to create a plant thirst-detector or a musical instrument
  • using the Arduino programming language to hack into consumable electronics
What inspired you to begin working on Technology Will Save Us?

Technology Will Save Us is the culmination of several explorations and experiences.

THE TRASHED LAPTOP: We found a laptop in our communal refuse area one morning and we were utterly shocked to see it there. We live in a private warehouse community of young professionals and thought it outrageous that someone would just throw this away rather than recycling it / give it away to a charity or at least sell it to the local cash exchange!  To our further surprise, after we brought it home and turned it on - we discovered that the computer was in perfect working condition with a recently reinstalled operating system…  We gave it a little bit of love and attention and delivered it to Daniel's sister's charity in South Africa - who was (and is) in need of computers.

DESIGN FOR OBSOLESCENCE: Working with Consumer Technology businesses using strategy and design thinking, we began to realise how much the devices being created are designed for obsolescence. Mobile phones, TV's and other gadgets all have short term life spans, not because they stop working but because as soon as the latest and greatest device comes out - with more speed & functionality - desire is mistaken for need. We want to believe in a world where individuals have the skills to design and re-imagine gadgets and devices they have - to solve new problems and become useful again. Whether it is making an old phone into a musical instrument or re-purposing last years iphone to become an energy monitoring device in your home - we think there are a lot of needs to be explored.

THE CRISIS OF EDUCATION: While teaching in art, design, architecture and innovation schools, we have seen how interested these institutions are in exposing their students to technology as a fundamental part of the curriculum. We have also seen the powerful and long lasting influence that the students enjoy from these kinds of workshops. However, these institutions are very bureaucratic and are not nimble enough to change curricula as fast as the world moving around it.  They also do not have the facilities space or know-how to incorporate technology into their programs in meaningful ways. The world of creative technology is shifting fast and new ideas are being explored globally at a rapid pace. We feel our organization can be agile and curious, allowing these shift to shape the workshops and products we carry and support.

PURPOSE AND PROFIT: Businesses and business models for the last 100 years have become so focused on profit and shareholder return that the main purpose of the business can be lost in these extrinsic motivators. We want to explore a business model that considers profit, people and the planet (triple bottom line) as core parts of our success. We want our business to address real needs not just desires, and contribute to an emerging movement of new business models that look at the value being added to society as well as the financial sustainability of the business itself.

TECHNOLOGY WILL SAVE US: The name took us a while to get to. We tried on a few that didn't seem to stick. Technology Will Save Us just felt right! It was provocative and encouraged people to ask questions - which is what we intend our business to do. We do not know if technology will in fact save us. But what we do know is that technology is everywhere and is in our lives in more fundamental ways then ever before. We believe that individuals can play much more creative rolls in imagining how this technology can live in their lives and participate in a wider dialogue on how it can play a more positive role for society.

What has been your most popular class so far?

Our Lumiphone workshop and kit is one of our flagship products. It was the first workshop we launched with at the Kinetica Art Show in 2011. Since our launch, the Lumiphone continues to be a great class and kit for beginners and experts alike.  It encapsulates all of the qualities we really value in a TWSU offer:

  • Well-designed - great aesthetics and appropriate materials
  • Fun to build
  • Useful (which can still be fun)
  • Lowers the barrier of entry to technology
  • Accessible to any level of experience
  • Makes you feel proud when you tell people you built it yourself
What have your workshop participants done with the skills they’ve learned at Technology Will Save Us? Have there been any strange creations?

It has been a mix of creative, crazy and useful outcomes. We have had everything from a female-Muslim rapper using the Lumiphone in a performance; we’ve have had lots of parents and kids do workshops together and kits at home; we had an artist linking a Lumiphone to a film creating a crazy soundscape, finally we had Mr Lewis, an 87 year old man who hacked his door bell with an LED so he could see when he had guests as he was deaf.

Technology Will Save Us has been hosting events since September 2011. What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an organization during that time?

I think most start-ups have the challenge of growing and scaling the business while staying true to your purpose and values. We have also personally funded all TWSU activities ourselves and have had very little investment so far, this has also made growing a challenge.

The most recent challenge has been deciding not if we should grow but how to grow. Now that there is more awareness surrounding our business and our offer we are frequently approached about speaking opportunities, participating in events, advice etc… and its hard to choose between the offers to see what will help us grow the way we want too.

Social Innovation Europe is invested in creating a European ecosystem where organizations like Technology Will Save Us can thrive.

What can SIE do to support you?

We think the scheme the SIE has created is wonderful and allows investors to invest in small organisations. What would be really helpful is if they could pair / introduce potential investors to TWSU that are appropriate. We find lots of people interested in helping and advising but so far we have not been able too secure financial investment and we are pretty confident that the right investor will see the potential of TWSU.