Reflections on DM Labs (formerly HackMeets) One Year On.

Hi All,

Over the past year Gawain Hewitt and I have been co-facilitating a monthly event called DMLab, originally known as #HackMeet.

Focusing on research & development of Accessible Music Technology and, in particular, skills sharing and making ‘stuff’.

Lots of exciting things have happened as a direct result of these informal get-togethers and in these blogs I will reflect on what happens, as well as looking forward to the many new possibilities that come about as a result.

I write this on the eve of a very exciting day ahead tomorrow, where we will be helping facilitate another Accessible Music Hackathon, see here for details: Accessible Music Hackathon

So, what follows is my write-up after that very first HackMeet at Drake Music HQ in London on 28th January 2015….

A bit like a soundbeam in operation created at a Hack Event with Drake.
A bit like a soundbeam in operation, created at a Hack Event with Drake.

I’ve been given the prestigious role of co-hosting these informal creative gatherings. My role is very important and breaks down into three main (four if you count the cheesy comestibles) duties as follows:

  • To provide cheesy comestibles, or snack of similar equivalent snackiness.
  • To ask participants “what is that, it looks amazing?”
  • To ask participants “how and why are you doing that, it is amazing?”
  • To ask participants “how/could I/others do that, it’s still amazing?”

The technical hacking bit is very well over my head, but at 6pm on Jan 28th with Gawain by my side, the first HackMeet begins.

Seriously, I am very excited about helping this creative space to develop and our first gathering was filled with creativity, sharing of skills and knowledge and collaborative learning.

By the end Zen had created the basics of a better quality maraca app for the phone – Gawain had shared some problem solving using PD to get a stable response from the touch of a… (Gawain will explain what exactly!).

Also we marvelled at a new device Hacked together by a colleague who has created a sound/movement device that could well make a sound beam like device much more affordable….It’s early days but watch this space….very exciting.

My first experience of a Hack Event was last summer at Goldsmiths University which Drake Music co-hosted.

It was amazing and yes I spent the entire day going around to some very talented  programmers and makers, asking “what is that? How could that  be used?”

What was interesting about the day was I found out two things.  The first was that there were not many disabled people there either as programmers/makers or indeed interacting with hackers to give the insight required to understand what access really means in practice/application.

The second thing was that as devices/software go through the development process to the extent it’s ready to become a reality/commercial, the flexibility of accessibility features tends to get pushed back, in competition with the design or aesthetic of the device.

In other words access falls from central to almost secondary. Hence devices and software creates new problems or barriers for use.

If that technology gets locked in to the device/software the ability to re-configure or change parameters becomes limited or compromised.

That’s why I’m so excited about these regular Hackmeets now happening on the last Wednesday of the month at Drake Music London HQ in Shoreditch.

To be honest the aim is very simple, to provide a space for interested musicians/programmes/developers/artists or those just interested in access/music/creativity or having a cheesy comestible whilst doing a bit of problem solving or skills/knowledge sharing.

What are your thoughts/experiences of Hack Events or indeed problems that need fixing with programming/devices or software?

This is an exciting opportunity for disabled & non-disabled people, artist/non artists, programmers/non-programmers & musician/non-musicians to collaborate and explore  new ideas and who knows what else might happen. These regular #HackMeets are a collaboration with @MusicHackspace and @furtherfield and we are really excited by just what might happen/or get created/resolved.

It’s all about potential, anything is possible and who know what might be created.  I’m primarily a musician and an artist, fairly scared by the language of programming/coding etc, but the potential to address and learn to solve so many access barriers through hacking from scratch or somewhere along the development process is to good an opportunity to miss.  Please come and join us.