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.

Inspired by our class visit to the Rocklin Mini Maker Faire, where the bulk of our time was spent in the open sewing lab, we spent a recent session of Making Social Change creating applique quilt squares for a collective class quilt.  The Theater Arts Department loaned us seven machines to add to the one we have in the Innovation Center, and were able to borrow a few others from students and faculty so that each student would have one to work with.  Students started by selecting fabric from a beautiful trove of fabric samples (generously provided by our faculty researcher Jill Bradshaw) and used the laser cutter to cut out 12″ background pieces.

Sewing for Social Justice

We set up two ironing stations so that students could apply Mistyfuse backing, after which they cut applique shapes and words using the laser cutter (and sometimes good old fashioned scissors).


T is for Transgender

We had a few folks with sewing experience, and some with none, but students helped each other, and Diane was around to provide guidance and pointers.

U Is For Uterus

Overall a very empowering and dynamic class session! Here’s a gallery of Diane Carlson’s (Sociology) photos from the day:

MSC Soc379 10.23.17

In Making Social Change today, we talked about Zapatistas and the Chiapas conflict, and the role of symbols and murals and art in political and social movements.  Based on social justice issues important to them, students then created stencils using Stencil Creator and cut them out of card stock using the laser cutter.  They spent the rest of the class spray painting their stencils on a makeshift gallery structure Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I created out of leftover metal shelves and an old scaffold that’s been out behind the Innovation Center for a decade or more.




F*ck the Gender Binary!


Great students, great class!

At the Rocklin Mini Maker Faire this past weekend, I spent a lot of time in the sewing lab, and was able to gain some confidence in working through the sewing process. Diane Carlson (Sociology) and I have been working to develop a collaborative quilting activity for our Making Social Change class, and one thing we’re really interested in is using the laser cutter to cut fabric.  As it happens, I had an appointment yesterday morning with Mark Boguski (Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture, Sacramento City College).  Mark works in clay, and whenever he’s in the lab we end up brainstorming different ways to combine technology and other production processes traditionally associated with the studio arts; for instance, our recent experiment with multi-part stencils.  I was sharing with Mark my interest in using the laser to cut fabric, and showing him Tinkercad, and in particular its *.svg export functionality.  In the process of poking around, we found a Japanese prefecture generator, and decided to use that as the basis for our experiments.

Mark set up a few prefectures, after which we exported the file, opened it in Illustrator, made the tweaks required to prepare the file for the laser, then fired up the machine:

I’m not sure why, but I was surprised that it worked as flawlessly as it did. No scorching, no fuss, just crisp, clean, viciously accurate cuts.

Mark Makes Japan from Fabric

Here’s Nagano:

Nagano Prefecture, In Fabric

Not sure what Mark plans to do with them – we talked about collage, and about dipping various things in clay slip and then firing them – but we’ll certainly cut some fabric as part of Monday’s Making Social Change class.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few studio artists to help them incorporate digital fabrication processes into their work, and it’s always fascinating to gain some insight into how they map various concepts from “traditional” studio arts to things like laser cutting and 3D printing.  This morning I had the opportunity to work with Mark Boguski (Professor of Ceramics and Ceramic Sculpture, Sacramento City College) on the laser cutter workflow.  I showed Mark the gallery of stenciled images created by our Making Social Change students, and after talking about things like abstraction, legibility, resolution, and the minimum detail required to communicate a particular image, we set out to create a multi-layer stencil.  Mark chose a famous image of Pete Townshend of The Who as his subject, and we used the stellar tools at stencilcreator.org to create the necessary *.svg files.  I showed Mark how to prepare the files for laser cutting using Adobe Illustrator, which mostly involves setting the lines to be cut to pure red (RGB 255,0,0), and setting the strokes to .001 (which would be “hairline” in most other software programs).

Some photos from our session…

All five images cut:

All Five Layers Cut

Spray paint colors chosen:

Five Colors Selected

Establishing a reference point:

Establishing a Reference

Spraying a layer:

Mark Painting

Finished image:



5 Layer Stencil of Pete Townshend

Mark and I learned a lot about the process, and there are some tweaks to be made, but it’s a great v1 prototype, and I’m eager to share it with our MSC students.

This week in Making Social Change we’re looking at the Zapatista movement.  One of the themes we’ll have some discussion around is political symbolism, and the use of imagery in social movements, including the various images of Subcomandante Marcos (in his ski mask and sometimes with his pipe) that came to symbolize the EZLN.

Resiste Corazón (Póster)

By Rexistemx (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This morning I prototyped a class activity around using the laser cutter to create stencils.  One of the challenges of the course is finding ways to make some of the prerequisite skills of digital fabrication – chiefly vector graphic creating and editing – more accessible to a group of students with varying levels of digital media creation skills.  Enter Stencil Creator, a sophisticated web-based stencil maker.  Upload an image to Stencil Creator, and the robust toolset enables some of the same sorts of functionality found in Illustrator’s Image Trace function.  The system outputs files in *.svg format, and after just a few tweaks in Illustrator – haven’t yet found a way to take it out of the workflow entirely – the stencil can be sent to the laser cutter.  Here’s one of the test cuts, featuring bass hero and DIY champion Mike Watt:

Laser Watt

Positive and Negative

Mike Watt Stencil Progress

Watt closes his shows with a call to “Start your own band! Paint your own picture! Write your own book!” so I added “Make your own stencil!”  I think D. Boon would be pleased.

Brother Watt Reminds Us

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.