Category “Uncategorized”

Play and Making

The way we look at the world is colored by the things we’re interested in. To understand something new, or to develop a point of view on something, we call in experiences and preconceptions to guide us. We synthesize information from one context to inform another, and in doing so, bring seemingly disparate ideas together.

The experiences that I often find myself synthesizing are those of making and play. Both of these things have been deeply important to my work over the last decade as a game developer and designer, as well as a designer and maker of physical things.

Making is an activity of exploration. You work with the material, and speak through the material, in order to arrive at some ultimate creation that becomes. When I craft, or build a circuit board, the outcome of that activity is as much informed by the limitations of the physical world, and the materials that I’m working with, as it is my initial concept.

Play is unbounded exploration in many ways, too. Play is like game, but with mutable rules and boundaries. One does not, for instance, game house… you play house! The rules change on the fly, we make them up. We challenge assumptions of how one might go about doing the thing and, in that act, improvise. Play is also a critical evolutionary tool that can be observed not only in humans, but many other species of animals to learn to hunt, organize together, and overcome obstacles. Play is a significant part of the way we learn to interact with each other , understand the world around us, and reflect on ourselves.

Making to me, then, is an activity of play. Just like play it is exploring while challenging boundaries and being open to ever-changing rules; it is learning through action and doing; it is a critical and deeply natural form of human existence. And more than that, if making is play, then it is a way of Understanding.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

An Interview with Rudy Ristich

New This Should Work podcast is up. In this session we talk about Thotcon badges, #badgelife, making games, and other custom circuit board projects. Check it out!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

This Should Work

I’ve started a podcast project that investigates the process behind making and design, the business and project management side of making things and scaling them up, and the maker community. It’s called This Should Work. Please check it out and subscribe if you enjoy!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus


Innovation has come to mean building on top of. Building on top of old systems and old ways of doing. Disruption, too. Name a disruption that did not build on top of an already-made system? That challenged underlying assumptions about how we do Big Things?

No. We need to dig deeper.

“What we really ought to fear is not oblivion but irretrievable decline… and in order to avoid that fate… we need to tear into the world of artifice… we need to rip root and branch into the previous industrial base and re-invent it, re-build it.”

— Bruce Sterling – Shaping Things

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Niagara Falls & the Niagara Escarpment via Bruce Peninsula / Manitoulin Island

We recently went on a journey through Canada by way of Niagara Falls and the Niagara Escarpment. Beautiful country in all; particularly the trip to Manitoulin islands and the hikes along Bruce Peninsula. Some pictures follow.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Extinction of Experience and Making

“I believe that one of the greatest causes of the ecological
crisis is the state of personal alienation from nature in which
many people live. We lack a widespread sense of intimacy with the living world. Natural history has never been more popular in some ways, yet few people organize their lives around nature, or even allow it to affect them profoundly. our depth of contact is too often wanting…”

— Robert Pyle, Thunder Tree: Lessons from an Urban Wildland

An article in EurekAlert caught my eye this week when it mentioned something coined “the extinction of experience.” Specifically focusing on nature, the piece describes how our increasing disconnect from nature has contributed to the climate and biodiversity crises that we face today. A deeper connection to a thing leads to a stronger desire to protect and preserve it. Growing up in a city or suburb, closed off, indoors, does not engender that kind of connection, and leads to a lack of understanding about what must be done in order to protect and preserve that thing.

It’s easy to apply this idea to other areas of deficiency in our current culture, and the one that immediately leapt to my mind is the experience of making. Similar to nature, an engagement with making helps us connect in meaningful ways to the physical world. Listening to people describe their engagement with nature strongly parallels how we describe our engagement with making; both experiences draw connections to encouraging flow-like states of mind. The extinction of “making” as a popular act has, arguably, exacerbated the consumerist problems that we face today.

Through consumer culture, we lose our ability to connect to the world through the ritual of creation. More than that, we lose our ability to understand how the world around us works and leave that job to an elite few who are left to control and manipulate it as they see fit. The extinction of the making experience, in other words, leads to a lesser understanding of self and self-situated in a larger context.

If lack of experience leads to an extinction of the thing, then it must be the experience with that thing that creates a stronger sense of empathy and bonding toward it. By experiencing nature, or by engaging in the making process, we create personal experiences that connect us to the act and lead to understanding. One of the biggest problems I think we face is finding ways to re-connect people with these experiences so that they can find value and, ultimately, a desire to save the things that connect us to a reality grounded in a tangible engagement with the rest of the universe.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Warren Dunes State Park

I’ve been trying to take more pictures of my family adventures and personal adventures around national parks, state parks, forests, and other places. As my Sierra Club work begins to ramp up, I’ve noticed myself further drawn to document some of these places to help share them with others and hopefully encourage people to get outdoors more often.

I took these pictures on a day when the heat index was 104, so the family stayed behind at the Warren Dunes beach while I went on a four mile hike over the dunes and into a nearby forest. The sand was scalding hot, and all I’d brought were my hiking sandals, so eventually I had to turn around and head back to the lake. Not a bad option on a hot day.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

IRL End of Year Compendium

I’ll be keeping a rolling compendium of articles, blog posts, videos, etc. produced about and for the Idea Realization Lab Year 2017-2018 over at my main portfolio website.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Rocky Mountain National Park

I recently returned from a six day (five night) trip in Rocky Mountain National Park as part of my training to become a Sierra Club Outings Leader. Along the way, I took some pictures with my trusty Sony a5100 camera. Here are a few of my favorites.

More pictures here.

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus

Friday Five Links

The link round-up this week includes a STEM class, odd origin stories, a pretty fun tip on keeping track of the mail coming to you from the USPS, and a cool blog post on hacking the Thotcon 0x9 badge. Enjoy!

Jay Margalus is on Twitter at @jaymargalus