[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
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
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: http://dorkbot.org/startadorkbot/
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 dorkbot.org
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
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
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
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.