Thursday, August 29, 2019

Chindogu and #MakerEd

I spend too much time on the Internets. I have accumulated vast amounts of useless knowledge. Sometimes, I uncover something that is simply amazing and it has to be brought into the classroom. While this might not be new to others, the term was new to me and I'm happy to share it with all of you. 


Chindogu was created by Japanese artist Kenji Kawakami in the 1990s, who describes these inventions as "un-useless." He coined the term chindogu using a combination of the Japanese words chin, meaning "strange" or "odd," and dougu, which means "device" or "tool." But chindogu is more than a mashup of words (a portmanteau, if you will); it's a philosophy. There are 10 tenets of chindogu, according to the chindogu society:
  • A chindogu cannot be for real use. If you end up using your invention on the regular, you have failed.
  • A chindogu must exist. No thought experiments allowed.
  • There must be the spirit of anarchy. Build your invention free from the constraints of utility or cultural expectations.
  • Chindogu are tools for everyday life. Everyone everywhere must be able to understand how it works without any special technical or professional background info.
  • Chindogu are not tradeable commodities. Finally, something in your life that you just can't turn into a side hustle.
  • Humor must be the sole reason for creating chindogu. Creating an elaborate way to solve a tiny problem is just funny. Roll with it.
  • Chindogu is not propaganda. This is not the place for your clever commentary on the dumpster fire that is the current state of the world. As the tenet makes clear: "Make them instead with the best intentions."
  • Chindogu are never taboo. If you demand sexual innuendo, cruel jokes and sick humor, the International 
  • Chindogu Society would ask that you find it literally anywhere else on the internet. That's not chindogu's jam.
  • Chindogu cannot be patented. Consider chindogu the openest of open source. They're meant to be shared and delighted in, not owned and collected.
  • Chindogu are without prejudice. Race, religion, gender, age, ability — none of these matter to chindogu. These inventions should be equally (almost) useless to everyone who sees them.
I'm starting my new Design Class this Fall and I'm equal parts excited and terrified. It is a Trimester class in a block schedule. Lots of very new things for me. I will have students for about 27 class meetings and I need to come up with different types of projects for students to create and Chindogu is an amazing project for students. 

I believe that making should be fun and silly. Designing should have its serious and crazy moments. Chindogu teaches so much about the process of design, it doesn't matter if the final product is as useful as we hoped. Too much pressure can be felt by students who just want to make things and learn along the way. 

Here is a great TED talk from Simone Giertz. She is known for making terrible robots on her YouTube channel. (Warning: Her videos are not safe for children due to course language, but they are hilarious for adults. She does kid friendly videos on the GoldieBlox channel if you want to share some with young makers.)

As an added element, I will have students user Adobe Spark to create promo pages for their products to encourage people to buy them or show other how to make their own. I think Chindogu is a wonderful project for a Makerspace and classrooms looking to explore design. Even if it is designing Un-useless Inventions. 

If you have students doing this, please share with me on Instagram or Twitter @TheNerdyTeacher. 

Hugs and High Fives, 


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