About two years from our original idea, and after many hours on the greaseboard, and many prototypes and preview events, Sociology 379: Making Social Change has finally been born!  We’re joined by twelve brave, multi-talented, fascinating students, passionate about a wide array of social justice issues.

Making Social Change

The class meets once a week on Mondays from 1pm – 4:05pm, and we’ve met twice. We spent the first session framing the course and getting to know each other, doing some design thinking with the help of the Making Connections card game from the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and building some low res prototypes.


In our second session, we took a critical look at the “maker movement,” spending some time discussing “Making Through the Lens of Culture and Power: Toward Transformative Visions for Educational Equity.” (Harvard Educational Review, 86(2), 206-232.Vossoughi, S., Hooper, P. K., & Escudé, M. (2016), https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/fa5b/4e88c78f380b4727d445afa33bea5212a21d.pdf), before students had the chance to begin work on their contribution to our tile project, which is a low risk/high reward, very accessible “first project” in digital fabrication.

David Creates his Tile

Really looking forward to continuing to work with these students, and to learning from this “version 1” prototype of the course!

As part of Social Justice Spring, Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I presented a preview of the Making Social Change course we’ve been working on.  Here’s a description of the session:

Making Social Change:  Seed Bombs & Scrambled Bratz (FLC Innovation Center)
Join us for an interactive preview of a new course that will explore the intersections of social movements, technology, tools, and the maker movement.  Come create, consider, collaborate, and culture jam!


Seed bombs…

Seed Bombs


and scrambled Bratz…



Presentation slides: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SJTDnYs5oQglkyKP2CmsIKoqzbnU2IGkklahQrPKVB8/edit?usp=sharing

It is perhaps easier to understand how making applies to the STEM/STEAM disciplines than to disciplines like sociology.  In an effort to foster a Making Across the Curriculum ecosystem at the college, it’s important to find ways to empower faculty and students in every discipline with the tools and technologies, and perhaps more importantly the philosophy and ethos of the maker movement.  To that end, Diane Carlson (Professor of Sociology) and I have been working on developing a sociology course called “Making Social Change.”  Here’s a draft description:

Empowerment through the development of technological skills and access to tools is and will continue to be a significant issue in social justice work and social change.  In this interdisciplinary course, students will explore social change through movements, organizations, and groups and the ways those entities use, create, modify, and improve tools and technologies to support and drive change.  Students will analyze the contexts and tactics of these movements and synthesize their discoveries with hands-on experience using tools and technologies of the maker movement to develop projects designed to address social, environmental, and economic needs.

Below are artifacts of the two most recent brainstorming sessions:

Making Social Change - Round 1

Making Social Change - Round 2

Gandhi was a maker.

Gandhi was a maker
This photo of Gandhi is in the Public Domain.

In week 4 of Making Social Change, we talked about Indian independence, and about the emblematic role of khadi – handspun and hand-woven cloth – in the movement. Building upon the prototype Erica Tyler (Anthropology) developed as part of the Making Across the Curriculum faculty maker academy of summer 2016, and on our preview event from spring 2017, students created drop spindles using dowels, hooks, and laser cut whorls.


Erica made herself available to talk about “women’s work” in the Archeological record, and showed students how to spin roving into yarn.


With any luck, the community loom will soon have a bit more handspun yarn added to it.

Earlier this week, Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I held a preview event for Making Social Change, our Sociology + Making course, as part of FLC’s Social Justice Spring events. We decided to create some drop spindles and spin some yarn, based on an activity Erica Tyler (Anthropology) developed as part of last summer’s Making Across the Curriculum faculty professional development program.

We cut the whorls using the laser cutter (which has been christened “Danger Scissors”)…


Note the engraved design, inspired by Gandhi’s spinning wheel.  Diane cut the dowels using a good old-fashioned chop saw…


…after which she and Erica taught us how to turn wool into yarn.

Drop Spindling

We also walked students through some other digital fabrication techniques, using the same spinning wheel motif source file to create objects using the Carvey, vinyl cutter, and 3D printer.  Looking forward to helping bring this course to life in the fall!

X-Carve Build Day - Chopsticks and Scissors

Spent much of today with a few of my primary collaborators: Diane Carlson (bottom left – she of Making Social Change fame), Max Mahoney (top left – he of molecule making and molecular visualizer fame), Jennifer Kraemer (top right, she of various making in ECE projects like the building system interoperability activity) and me (bottom right) putting together the new X-Carve.

Jennifer fine-tuning a pulley for the Y axis:

X-Carve Build Day - Fine Tuning

Diane and Max strategizing:

X-Carve Build Day - Diane and Max, Getting it Done

We ended the day with most of the structure built, and will meet again next week to tackle the belts and electronics.

X-Carve Build Day - A Day's Work

More photos from the X-Carve build day…

is a free program that allows you to grab video from DVDs and save it as a file on your computer, saving you time in the classroom.  In other words, instead of skipping around inside a DVD to find the relevant section, you can simply save the relevant portion as a file that can be played immediately.  The program is available for Mac, Win and Linux, and the user manual is here.  It’s pretty straightforward – put in the DVD, run HandBrake, choose specific chapters (or the whole DVD), and click Start.  The end result is a digital video file saved to your computer.

Even though this kind of use is likely a Fair Use, it was formerly a violation of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions.  This changed in the latest exemption language, which states:

(1) Motion pictures on DVDs that are lawfully made and acquired and that are protected by the Content Scrambling System when circumvention is accomplished solely in order to accomplish the incorporation of short portions of motion pictures into new works for the purpose of criticism or comment, and where the person engaging in circumvention believes and has reasonable grounds for believing that circumvention is necessary to fulfill the purpose of the use in the following instances:

(i)  Educational uses by college and university professors and by college and university film and media studies students;
(ii) Documentary filmmaking;
(iii) Noncommercial videos.

You can read the whole text here.

Note – I am not a lawyer, and whether or not something qualifies as a Fair Use is a decision made by judges in courts.  That being said, fill out a Fair Use Checklist and keep it in a drawer somewhere, and you’ve probably done your due diligence.  YMMV.

Further reading:

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Scholarly Research in Communication

Creative Commons

ALA – Copyright