of Retronyms and Makerspaces

From   The Art of Tinkering  , by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich

From The Art of Tinkering, by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich

Retronym. It's one of my father's favorite words, possibly edging out eschew and obfuscation. It refers to words that have to be retrofitted with a modifier to distinguish the original meaning from newer more widespread usage. Examples include acoustic guitar (to distinguish from an electric guitar) and cloth diaper (diaper nowadays would likely be assumed to refer to disposables).

Well, add to that list tangible interactive design. Or high-touch interactive design. Or non-digital interactive design. I'm actually totally unsure of what the appropriate retronym is, but I know there needs to be one. While researching resources for better understanding interactive design (ie, in toys, museum exhibitions, classroom settings etc.) it became clear that this term now almost invariably refers to a purely digital environment.

This is a shame, I think, for a whole host of reasons many of which have been explored by folks thinking about: the societal ills brought about by the industrial revolution; the significance of being able to see the hand of the creator in a designed object; traditional Shabbat observance; non-traditional, yet spiritually oriented Shabbat observance; general interest and educational and spiritual value in interacting with actual things, not screens -- I could go on...

Seriously though, I'm not a luddite -- I promise! I will never be calling for an iphone burning ceremony. But as even the most tech connected insiders tell it (e.g. and e.g.), we really really need to have a broad range of media that we're interfacing with on a daily basis. As absolutely true as this is for adults, it's even more true for kids. 

I get it, I know, I'm likely preaching to the choir here (thanks for being here choir!). But I still feel like we've gotten far enough away from living into this in our day to day lives that we need to reclaim these basic truths over and over again, even by something as small as noticing the ways that our vocabulary is pushing us in a digital consumer/superficially interactive direction. (Yet another disclaimer: This is totally not to say that amazing stuff isn't happening Jewishly in the digital sphere -- BimBam and AlephBeta, I see you there. You are the best. As one friend recently told me, "I never understood Sukkot until I saw the BimBam lego sukkot video." )

Makerspace at the  Lawrence Hall of Science : What will  you  make?

Makerspace at the Lawrence Hall of Science: What will you make?

One recent development here at Beyond Noah's Ark is our adoption of the term makerspace into our description/way of envisioning the vision. The maker movement, while assuredly not totally removed from the digital sphere, has championed and revived an appreciation of the serious value of tinkering. Maker Faire, one of the leaders in this movement, used to have this as their slogan: "If you can't open it you don't own it." I'd say that's a really apt encapsulation of what we're getting at here as well: In religion and spirituality, if you can't open it, you don't own it.

Asking questions collaboratively - b'hevrutah - of our texts and traditions, truly noticing how we individually and collectively interact with those, is at the absolute core of what Judaism is and has always been about.