Image by Mike Hedge and Tiffani Bearup
Lance Weiler’s most recent project began with a simple yet provocative question: can a robot reboot education? To answer that question, Weiler collaborated with fellow Workbook Project contributor Janine Saunders in creating Robot Heart Stories with a team of more than 50 creative professionals.
For the project, students in a Los Angeles elementary school class and a Montreal media workshop teamed up to send Laika, a small female robot scientist, from Canada to California. As a team of award-winning photographers drove the robot across country, the 42 students fueled Laika’s journey with stories, videos and letters. Photographers and other artists brought the children’s work to life and, in turn, uploaded their work to the website.
While this ambitious project focused on the two groups of students, aspects of the campaign were open to the world. Anyone could create a heartpack, origami robots that could be painted, colored or photographed in different settings. Those images were also uploaded to the Robot Heart Stories website. Other classes used the project for experiential learning projects. This collaboration had virtual and real world implications. The website notes that “everything you submit helps the robot’s heart meter reach full strength, AND it helps raise money for underpriveledged [sic] students.”
When I heard DIY Days was coming to Boston, mostly I was looking forward to reconnecting with filmmaker, Alternate Reality Game enthusiast and ARGFest Boston speaker, Lance Weiler, (Hope is Missing and Beyond the Rave) and maybe getting a scoop on his next project. While I did get to do all that, I also got to meet some incredibly talented independent filmmakers, culture researchers, and writers, and participate in a great discussion not only about independent filmmaking, but also about the future of media and technology.
DIY Days is an offshoot of Weiler’s The Workbook Project, and is paired with the From Here to Awesome Film Festival. All are grounded in his commitment to open-source filmmaking, mentoring and encouraging creativity and helping independent filmmakers to finance, distribute and promote their projects inside and outside of traditional media channels (but mostly outside). Weiler’s partner in DIY Days is Arin Crumley, co-creator of indie film/YouTube phenomenon, Four Eyed Monsters.
DIY Days Boston, a free, all-day event, was the fourth and final conference in this series. (A new series will resume next year.) Speakers for the day included, among others, Weiler, a venture capitalist, MIT researchers, and, of course, many filmmakers, all bringing their knowledge and expertise to share with others. You can watch the conference proceedings online at the DIY Days site, so instead of giving a blow-by-blow of each talk, I’ll highlight my favorites.