As new strategies emerge to engage newcomers, both the p5js and Public Lab communities have worked to create inclusive spaces which center historically excluded groups and challenge ingrained conceptions of “who can do tech and/or science.” While social practices such as events, workshops, and well-written online materials that decenter jargon can provide a crucial foundation for this work, anyone who’s taught an Arduino workshop knows that there are dozens of small but significant barriers, from installing drivers to selecting serial baud rates. WebJack is about prototyping the kind of plug-and-play interface that can help us focus on the kinds of more compelling problems and ideas that come from a more diverse community with wide ranging interests and experiences.
Beyond this, WebJack opens up new possibilities such as controlling an Arduino from drum pads, in a voicemail message, or using a tape recorder, as well as embedding interactive text in a book or a waterproof container, while remaining accessible on a webpage with any smartphone. It explores how changing the basic infrastructure of hardware projects to decenter mainstream conceptions of technical virtuosity can open up space for powerful new ideas and applications from a broader community.
Jeffrey Yoo Warren is an artist, community scientist, illustrator, and researcher in Providence, Rhode Island.