Catarina Mota

Open-source and smart materials are transforming technology that, in turn, is re-shaping our very lives.

TEDGlobal Fellow, Maker, and Open Source Advocate

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Catarina Mota | TEDGlobal Fellow, Maker, and Open Source Advocate
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

TEDGlobal Fellow Catarina Mota is a maker and open-source advocate and the co-founder of Open Materials. She encourages the making of things using smart materials: ink that conducts electricity; a window that turns from clear to opaque at the flip of a switch; a jelly that makes music. An enchanting speaker, Mota brings a delightful element of play to the forward-thinking maker movement. 

Catarina Mota is co-founder of Open Materials (do-it-yourself smart materials), Everywhere Tech (open source technology transfer), and AltLab (Lisbon’s hackerspace). She teaches hands-on workshops on high-tech materials and simple circuitry with the goal of encouraging people with little to no science background to take a proactive interest in science, technology, and knowledge-sharing. Mota received her PhD on the social impact of open and collaborative practices for the development of physical goods and technologies from the New University of Lisbon (in Lisbon, Portugal). She is currently a visiting scholar at ITP-NYU, Research Chair at the Open Source Hardware Association, a TEDGlobal Fellow, and a member of NYC Resistor.

Previously, she co-chaired the Open Hardware Summit 2012, served on the board of directors of the Open Source Hardware Association, taught as an adjunct faculty member at ITP-NYU, and was a fellow of the National Science and Technology Foundation of Portugal.

Speech Topics

Designing for Hackability
“More than consumers of technology, we are makers, adapting technology to our needs and integrating it into our lives.” Dale Dougherty wrote these words in 2005 on the first issue of Make magazine. Today, more than ever, they hold true. The one-size-fits-all approach of mass production has, for several years now, given way to a world in which we adapt, repurpose, and customize most digital goods we consume. And now this approach is spilling into the physical world with a growing community of makers and hardware hackers who are no longer content to just consume or use artifacts, but take on an active role in designing and hacking their lived experience. This is made possible by the increased accessibility of sophisticated production technologies, such as 3D printers and laser cutters; the vitality of online knowledge-sharing communities; and the growth of open-source hardware—an R&D model in which designers make publicly available all the information necessary to study, change, repurpose, and reproduce physical artifacts.

As the consumer of old days gives way to a co-designer—someone who doesn’t just use products, but adapts and repurposes them—it becomes increasingly important to understand the culture of hacking, how hackability can be achieved, and why hackability matters for both producers and consumers. In this talk, Catarina Mota discusses the basics of the hacker ethos, presents examples of hackable products, discusses how some products have been transformed and expanded by users, and considers approaches to designing for hackability.