DFN Happy Hour No. 5: Connections & Networks

Coming up Friday at 5:30 pm PDT members Barb Noren (BarbMakesThings), Tod Kurt (todbot) and Carlyn Maw (carlynorama) will be streaming again. Last week we dove into pocket universes (post | video) while this we break the boundaries and connect.


(Video Archive)

If you make a project based on any of the DFN themes or have an idea for one, let one of us know!

Last Week Redux

Beverages Consumed:

This Week Preview

Tod: Even though we’re all physically isolated, we are still connected in various ways: societally, socially, economically, electrically, hydraulically, and via actual Internetworks. Everyone on the same block still interacts, shoppers at the same grocery store are connected. In Graph Theory in math, the most interesting part of the graph (network) are the nodes and the edges (connections between nodes). There can be a concept of “distance” between nodes but it’s not as important as what’s connected to what. Also what “distance” metric you use depends on the nodes: maybe it’s “time” or “price” or “climate” or “affinity for Arduinos”


Barb, Carlyn & I were talking about wire, and I mentioned how much I like the strength and ductility of wire: you can bend it but it can also be structural.  This is what led me to suggest “networks” as the topic this week. Networks are flexible but strong.  I’ve also really wanted to play around with circuit sculptures, but I wanted to build something very organic and not neatly rectilinear like most circuit sculptures I’ve seen.

So my artifact for this week is a “network tree” or sorts, made entirely of the telco twisted pair wire found by the mile as phone and network cable in buildings across the globe.  There are no structural supports: the tree is entirely held up by the wire it’s made of.  Terminating each branch of the tree is a single WS2812 “Neopixel”, representing the nodes of a network.  There’s no order to the branches or the ordering of the pixels, it’s completely random.  

However, if you know Neopixels, you know they actually are connected in a line, one pixel connected to its previous and its successor.  This tree has that to. Going to each pixel leaf are three wires (power, ground, data in) but flowing from the pixel leaf is a single data out wire going back down the trunk and into the base. All the wires of the tree run into the base, like roots spreading out.  Inside the base is a mess of wires that are a real pain to hook up, just like a real network (I use to be a network admin)
I like the random chaos of it all and the little bits of order that arise.


I stumbled around the idea of maps for a while, until Theron got me on the topic of subway maps. The concept of a subway map of people I know appeals. What rail lines exist in my life? Where are there stations/people with multiple connecting rail lines and how does that effect my interactions with them? I only did a few of the possible lines, because it starts getting really complicated when you start adding in internet friends and then figuring out which in-person friends also qualify as internet friends.

I poked around with online map generators before realizing it just would be easier to do by hand, and then made it in Illustrator. The physical manifestation of it is basically string art on a piece of plywood. Turns out I went a little bit murder-board after all.


Screen shot of Carlyn's contact app

I wanted to build something that would encourage me to dial out. Travel that edge to another node. Stop living in the glass jar.

I built an app using Swift 5 / Swift UI to call a random contact from a list. The triangle graph paper from DFN Week 1 lightly implies nodes and edges in the background.

Useful Swift Links


I make things that do stuff. The best, though, is teaching others to do the same. Founder of @crashspacela Alum of @ITP_NYU

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