Technological Fluency through Circuit Bending

Speaker:  Erik Brunvand – UT, United States
Topic(s):  Web, Mobile and Multimedia Technologies


Electronic technology is pervasive in our modern world but how it actually works can be a mystery to many people. In 1999 and 2002 the National Research Council (NRC) released influential reports stressing that all Americans need to know more about technology. These reports point out that technological literacy does not suffice in modern times. A better concept is of technological fluency - a term that includes basic engineering knowledge and the nature and limitations of the engineering design process. This theme has echoed through organizations such as the NSF manifesting as calls for education to include "computational thinking" throughout the curriculum. 

In this talk I describe an approach to introducing technological fluency to students from across campus using arts and music projects. Essentially this is a way to increase their technological fluency but through digital media projects rather than engineering projects.  It is also a way to expand students’ ideas about technology in the arts and how arts and technology interact in our modern world.

Specifically I will showcase student projects based on "circuit bending." This is a term used to describe creatively hacking and repurposing electronics (usually toys) in the service of making strange sounds. This activity serves multiple purposes: it is a strong unifying project in which to explore technological fluency and digital media, it requires students to engage technology in a variety of contexts (simple programming, sensors, sound synthesis, and prototyping), and there is evidence that this type of project is appealing to a wide variety of students.  Note, however, that I don’t expect the projects to be especially musical in any classical sense. Sound art, sonic sculptures, or noise-based music generators might be more realistic terms. The learning objectives are related to technological fluency, not music.

This talk is an expanded version of a TEDx Salt Lake City talk that I gave in September, 2015.

About this Lecture

Number of Slides:  50
Duration:  60 minutes
Languages Available:  English
Last Updated: 

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