Over the past 18 months, Home Economix have iteratively prototyped a ‘decentralized lab’ system to share creative work in physically distanced contexts. 

This process began with our empathetic design workshop with Fanke Peng. To prototype a system suited for our peri-pandemic context, we embarked on a process of “empathy mapping.” This allowed us to unpack what we, as a collective, needed to thrive creatively during this challenging times.

The outcomes are captured in this recording. What we discovered was a longing for connection, to share our work-in-progress, flesh-out ideas and share skills and knowledge, rather than a mechanism to present final work. 

With this knowledge, we embarked on a series of creative ‘crits sessions’, which tested different digital toolkits that could be used to share ideas, images and work in progress. Aware of the visual zoom-fatigue that may of us are suffering, we tested multi-sensorial and interactive ways to work and play together. You can see how these experiments played out in our projects-in-progress  section.

We realised that to build connections with other XR creatives, we needed to find ways to collectively test our hardware. In addition, it was important that this system should be both accessible and sustainable, so that we as a community could emerge from the pandemic as a more inclusive space.

Led by Daniel Savage’s expertise in accessible arts, we had many conversations through our workshops and crits about the affordances and limitations of digital media to be accessible to all audiences. With Josh Harle, we also considered financial barriers to accessing digital arts, learning how XR can be built on the cheap through physical computing kits.

With this knowledge in tow, we proposed to prototype a ‘home-delivery’ art-kit that would not only transport hardware to decentralised audiences, but multi sensorial physical artefacts to accompany digital tools. In doing so, we hope to faciltiate truly mixed and hybrid experiences that connect individuals through both digital and physical means.

As a group, we threw around some ideas for how this kit might look, settling on the idea of a toolbox constructed of light and sustainable materials. This would be used to transport XR hardware, a swell as tactile prompts, artefacts from distributed locations and “recipes” for different kinds of creative work.

We worked with the team at University of Canberra’s Workshop7 — a maker space in the Faculty of Arts and Design — to develop a prelminary prototype of this toolkit.

Working with the team at Workshop7, we realised that in order to achieve our goals of accessibility (both physical and financial) and ecological sustainability, we should devise a simple kit model. It should be easy to assemble, made from everyday materials, and adaptable to contain whatever gear and artefacts a creative community wishes to include.

A preliminary model was drafted by hand (above), before being translated into a CAD model (below).