Mountain View Voice

News - February 21, 2014

Library's WikiSeat challenge inspires creative thinking

Why sit in any old seat, when you can build your own?

by Katie Straub

The Mountain View public library is challenging its patrons with a unique project: build your very own tripod seat, in a month or less.

Called the WikiSeat challenge, the month-long project aims to inspire both fun and function through the task of building a seat. Participants of all ages and abilities receive only a basic starting piece for the seat at the beginning of the project — a small, three-pronged metal bracket to give the seat a sound tripod structure — and from there, they are to build their seat in whichever way they desire.

It's a classic designer's challenge, minus the physics puzzle of making it structurally sound. And participants glean more than just a new article of furniture through the WikiSeat challenge.

According to Emily Weak, a librarian at the Mountain View public library who helped bring the WikiSeat challenge there, participants also learn useful skills and gain new experiences through the process.

"It's an education challenge and a design challenge," said Weak. "You express your personality, learn new skills, have a good time, meet some new people."

Not to mention, there's a reward. "If you do it in a month, we'll display it here in the library," Weak said.

The design and particulars of the challenge were borrowed by the Mountain View public library from WikiSeat, a non-profit platform for open source furniture design which gained traction since its creation in 2010 as practical education tool. WikiSeat's platform provides the unique three-pronged brackets for WikiSeat tripod structures, called "catalysts," and anyone interested in the project fills in the rest.

Saturday, Feb. 15, marked the Mountain View library's kick-off event for the WikiSeat challenge, when over a dozen participants, both children and adults, gathered at the library to receive their WikiSeat catalysts.

Nic Weidinger, WikiSeat's founder and original designer, was present at the library Saturday. He said he believes WikiSeat can shift the way participants see the world.

"When you make stuff, you are redefining what culture is," Weidinger told the Voice. "Instead of saying, I am going to sit in the seats that are already made, rather than consuming culture, people become creators of culture."

The WikiSeat challenge is one of technology-related programs recently offered by the Mountain View library under their "Maker Mountain View" project, which aims to offer the public library as a space for building things, collaborating and sharing them.

"The library's role is not just to store books anymore," said Weak. "Literacy nowadays means more than just knowing how to read. It's also being technology-literate."

Weak said that the WikiSeat project provides a larger community benefit, as well. It encourages participants to engage with other members of the community in order to complete their individual projects.

"It's a way to get the community to talk to each other a little more," said Weak. "The idea is that you probably won't be able to do this project by yourself — you have to go out and meet somebody who knows how to use a screwdriver or a saw."

Community members hoping to make their own WikiSeat can purchase the "catalysts" in the Mountain View public library shop or online at www.wikiseat.org. Instructions can be found online at instructables.com/id/WikiSeat-A-Catalyst-for-DIY-Seating/

"I love sharing the story with people, there are so many different places to take it," Weidinger said. "Everyone who showed up (at the kickoff event in Mountain View) seemed to be really interested in it. And it looks like there's going to be some cool seats that get built."

To join the WikiSeat challenge at the library, contact Emily Weak at emily.weak@mountainview.gov or call the library reference desk at (650) 903-6337.

Email Katie Straub at kstraub@mv-voice.com

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