Student training: Arduino/ internet of things workshop

The Transmissions project together with Intel’s Science and Technology Centre for Social Computing (ISTC) supported another terrific training workshop for MA Visual Sociology students at Goldsmiths. Last year we all did a two day 16mm filmmaking course with No.W.Here. This time the training workshop was focused on the internet of things and lo-fidelity prototyping with arduino platforms.

This one day event was designed to expose students to new ideas and skills and get them thinking about other kinds of inventive research practices and sociological forms. Arduino is an open-source electronics platform based on flexible, and easy-to-use hardware and software that enables individuals to tinker and prototype ideas. The students on the MA Visual Sociology course come from a range of art/design backgrounds (film, photography, advertising and social science) and many have no electronics experience at all. But they were curious in what it was all about and what it might offer their practice and understandings of the practicalities of the technology as well as its broader application in terms of the interconnected-ness of devices. Basically, the workshop offered a good opportunity to get access to, learn about and play with these new tools with the guidance of an expert.

It was run by Tom Jenkins who did a coffee-fueled whirlwind trip to London to run the event. We were very pleased to have him involved as he brought a critical design practice and hands-on technical skills together with a keen interest in a spectrum of creative applications, uses and mis-uses of the technology/software.

A bit more about Tom:

Tom is a PhD student in the department of Digital Media at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he is affiliated with the Public Design Workshop. He is interested in using critical and cultural theory to design and develop technologies that offer deeper, richer, and more expressive interaction. Before coming to Georgia Tech, he worked as a software developer in New York City, including at Marvel Entertainment and the energy-efficiency startup Efficiency 2.0. He holds a Master’s degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program at New York University, and completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell University, where he did research with the Cultural Embedded Computing group.

Thanks for helping with the workshop also go to: Melissa Gregg (Principal Investigator & Researcher in Residence, ISTC, UCI), Carl Disalvo (Assoc. Prof in Digital Media Program, Georgia Institute of Tech), Nina Wakeford (Reader in Sociology, Goldsmiths) and Beckie Coleman (Convenor, MA Visual Sociology).

And of course all the MA Visual Sociology students who not only attend these events that I’ve run outside their face-to-face class days but always give their utmost attention and enthusiasm, come up with really cool ideas and generally just make it fun – Thankyou!


This was the STRUCTURE of the workshop:

Discussion of the Internet of Things
Tom’s work with respect to the Internet of Things
Small tutorial on how to do simple analog sensing with Arduino
Installing/Setting up the Arduino environment
Making an LED blink
Assembling a sensing circuit
Programming the board
Simple sensing applications

Speculative design around the internet of things using craft supplies


Tom put together a small website for the class, and also provided this list readings and links to help students prepare for the workshop:

Natalie Jeremijenko profile piece in NY

Durrell Bishop Marble Answer Machine


The day long workshop was held in the Sociology computer lab at Goldsmiths. Tom started the day with introductions to get a sense of student interests and current projects/questions. He talked a bit about his work and gave them a sense of what the day would hold.

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Tom explained via hands-on demonstrations all the various bits and pieces that we had to play with.


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The starter kits were distributed and Tom provided guidance as to how everyone could start to experiment with simple sensing electronics.




The easy access web references were ideal to help get things going.

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It was not long before the experimentation began:

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arduino workshop

The groups were surprised how inventive they could be so quickly with the technology with light and sound sensing devices. In the process of adding various bits of craft materials, discussion turned to ways in which these devices could operate within and also as a sociological lens – such as installing these devices in specific social places for documentation or provocation.

It was a really productive session – the students learnt new skills and new ways of thinking through the application of these technologies in larger socio-technical contexts. They also told me later how valuable it was for them that Tom took time to crit their developing projects.

I am looking forward to seeing how and in what ways these new skills/knowledges might inform their ongoing work.