back to


October 5th 2004: Dorkbot: Interview with Douglas Irving Repetto

[October 5th 2004]

Douglas Irving Repetto at this year's Read_me festival in Aarhus, DK. Part of the festival was a workshop organized by runme and Dorkbot.

Dorkbot: People Doing Strange Things with Electricity

Dorkbots are local organisations where people with similar interests meet under the headline 'People Doing Strange Things with Electricity'. There are 17 Dorkbots located in as different cities as e.g. Mumbai, Madrid and Melbourne. The original one is in New York City and was founded by Douglas Irving Repetto. Kristine Ploug talked to him.

How did you come up with the concept for Dorkbot and why did you start it?
I started it because I was new to New York and I knew that there was a tremendous range of interesting work being done with electricity by all sorts of people in the city, but I didn't know how to find those people. I wanted to figure out how to bring together many different kinds of people working in many different fields and create a structure where they all feel comfortable sharing their obsessions. I'm most inspired and driven by topics that I know little about, and it's very exciting to meet someone who has deep knowledge of one of those topics. I started Dorkbot from a selfish desire to have access to people doing strange things and to give them a forum.

How does the infrastructure of Dorkbot function and how do you start your own local Dorkbot?
Part of the idea of Dorkbot is that different local communities have different needs. So the meetings are set up according to the local community's needs. When people want to start a new Dorkbot they write to me, and I send them to this page:

After they've read that if they still want to start a Dorkbot then we talk a bit about the logistics and I create space on the webserver for them. I also create the announcements and blabber discussion mailing lists. And that's about it. They then start doing the work needed to organize their local meetings. I'm not really involved in the other Dorkbots. I offer support and advice when asked, but mostly they're self-reliant and autonomous.

From the Dorkbot website

How do all the Dorkbots benefit from each other - does the network work?

People from one Dorkbot occasionally visit another to give a presentation. But we don't do anything formal in terms of exchanging presentations or streaming meetings or anything like that. I like that Dorkbot meetings happen at a given place at a given time and that you have to be there to have the experience. It's all about celebrating the talent and diversity present in different communities. So although there are a lot of Dorkbots now, there's no attempt to homogenize them.

Tell us about some of your favorite Dorkbot sessions.
Oh, that's not fair! they're all fun, but usually quite different from one another depending on who's presenting. I had a terrific time at Dorkbot-london and dorkbot-gent, each of which was a totally
different scene.

From Dorkbot NYC's site

How do you see the future development of Dorkbot?
I'm really not sure. I can imagine us doing more international events, although an important part of the Dorkbot idea is that the meetings are by and about local people. so we're thinking about ways having events that are both local and international at the same time. Otherwise I think it'll just keep going as it has been, with new Dorkbots popping up wherever people decide there's a need for one!

What are you personally working on now?
Whew. I just did a gigantic installation with sound-reactive Mylar sheets here at Columbia as part of Columbia's 250 birthday celebrations. I don't have documentation up online yet, but will soon. I'm travelling a lot over the next few months giving talks about my own work and ArtBots and Dorkbot and other projects. I'll be in Vienna in November for the Roboexotica festival ... I'm working on all sorts of things, chaotic life proceeding as usual!

Douglas Irving Repetto works at Columbia Music Center at Columbia University in New York and is also one of the people behind Artbots: The Robot Talent Show.



© 2001-2007
artificial at artificial dot dk