Math for Makers

I’m excited to see that Greg Borenstein has launched Makematics, a blog that covers his own exploration of advanced math topics that are found in new creative applications by and for makers.

Topics like linear algebra, topology, graph theory, and machine learning are becoming vital prerequisites both to doing daily work in these fields and, more importantly, to inventing, popularizing, and teaching the new creative tools that are rapidly arising. Without them, artists are forced to wait for others to digest this new knowledge before they can work with it. Their creative options shrink to those parts of this research selected by Adobe for inclusion in prepackaged tools. Instead of the themes and concerns of creative work driving the selection of tools from a growing technical cornucopia, artists find themselves turned into passive users of tools that are already curated, contextualized, and circumscribed by others.

So, I want to do something about this. I want to figure out a way to teach myself and others these more advanced mathematical and computational concepts with a specific eye towards applying them in creative technology.

Greg is not a mathematician.   He’s a “beginner” who is willing to admit that these subjects are difficult to learn but worth learning nonetheless.   “I am not an expert in computer vision, computer science, or mathematics,” Greg writes.   “I’m a programmer and an artist who’s committed to struggling with this material until I understand it and can make it comprehensible and useful for myself and others.”   Motivated by the belief that others want to tackle these subjects, Greg started Makematics as a place to gather and share this knowledge, making it more accessible to a broader audience.

Greg kicked off his site with an interview of Kyle McDonald about FaceTracker.  Kyle is an artist and programmer who released FaceOSC, a tool for prototyping face-based interactions.   It’s an hour-long, very detailed interview that talks about the math and algorithms involved in facetracking.

If you have ideas for additional topics or interviews, please let Greg know.   You can follow @makematics on Twitter.


DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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