Fee Plumley 1

Fee Plumley’s bus isn’t a fish

I’m not interested in changing the mind of anyone who doesn’t like technology, I just want to help those with a sparkle of curiosity to see what joys lie within our geeky little world, and help those self-confessed nerds know they’re not alone and help them find their networks and collaborators, wherever they may be.

As part of your Nomads in Residence plan, you’ve successfully raised enough money through a crowdfunding project to buy a bus to travel the Australian outback. You plan to rig it with recording equipment and drive it around Australia, talking to people about how they engage with creative technology. How isn’t that project going?

I’m not on track.

I was very much hoping that by now I would have bought and renovated my bus and have had a few trial runs around South Australia before the first official gig (Kumuwuki, the Regional Arts Australia conference).

However, instead of  being where I thought I would be, I have been making and sending the crowdfunding campaign rewards, doing a lot of scheming and a few bits of paid work so that I can eat again, which is nice.

Why don’t you just fly or catch public transport?

Flying or catching public transport is about getting from a to b.

Getting a bus, filling it with technology and geeky minded creative people and seeing what happens next is all about the journey.

I don’t know about you but I have always loved journeys. This one happens to just be significantly longer and more unruly than any I’ve previously undertaken. And you don’t need to have the right fare.

What won’t your bus look like?

A fish. but it might look (conceptually at least) a lot more like a fishing rod.

OK that just sounds stupid now I come to re-read it.

You know that old adage about giving a man a fish? The one where giving him a fishing rod is much better because he can take care of himself rather than rely on you feeding him.

Well a lot of people believe that art and culture is made in the cities and gets taken out to the poor little people who live in regional/remote Australia who otherwise wouldn’t have any culture.

I think that’s a pretty patronising point of view. I haven’t spent a great deal of time in regional/remote Australia, I’ll admit. but I’m pretty sure that wherever I go I will meet amazing creative brains making wonderful things.

So I want to go find them and learn from them as well as make things with them.

I’m hoping that we can join up the nodes all over the country and prove how many creative geeks there really are here.

So my bus isn’t just taking fish out to people in the regions. It’s finding the people who want to go fishing together.

What weren’t you curious about as a child?

Computers, oddly. I was very nomadic as a child (not by personal choice) but mainly grew up in the countryside.

I often look back and wish that I’d been able to stay at the one school that introduced me to a command-line-interface so i could have let my inner geek grow more rapidly.

Fortunately I did have a passion for technology from an early age – I was wiring plugs before I was eight years old.

An electrician who heard about this freaked out and demanded I show him how i did it to make sure i wasn’t going to electrocute anyone.

He told me i did it better than his apprentice (who was ten years older than me) and tried to offer me a job!

What doesn’t inspire you to create?

Money. But then money doesn’t inspire me to do anything except feel very very sad for people who have so much of it that they don’t know what matters in life anymore.

You’ve been involved in a number of other prominent digital projects. What isn’t Hackerspace?

Naughty people wanting to destroy the world.

The word ‘hacker’ has come to mean something bad. It’s a real shame because the art of hacking is as ancient and necessary as it gets.

Before we could go down the shops and buy the latest gadget we had to find something that ‘sort of did this’ that we could hack together with another thing that ‘sort of did that’ and then tinker with this new thing until it worked. It was all very DIY and pretty damned awesome.

These days we’ve forgotten how to make things for ourselves, we’ve even forgotten how to question how things work, we just purchase and throw away.

We don’t even have sheds anymore. I miss sheds.

What can’t a 3D printer do?

Currently it can’t print out replica humans, or fix itself when it breaks (which is often)… but that’s probably not very far off in the grand scheme of things!

They can already print out prosthetics, replacement bones and even some organs. It’s still early days and the 3D printer I will have on the bus as part of the nomadic FabLab will be small and low-resolution, but I will have access to a much higher resolution, larger scale setup back at FabLab HQ in Adelaide.

To finish with, a hypothetical. What would you be doing if computers didn’t exist?

Sharing the minutiae of life (i.e. what i had for breakfast) over the back fence with my next door neighbour while tinkering in my shed hacking something together, probably.

That thing I’m hacking is probably going to be taken down to some kind of community space (like, the pub) where I’ll exchange it for something that someone else hacked, or show them how i made it in exchange for them showing me how they made their thing.

Because really the world is round, and moves, and belongs to everyone. Much like creativity.

Check out Fee Plumley’s crowdsourcing campaign at reallybigroadtrip

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What Others Are Saying

  1. Thomas Cotterill October 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Very interesting post, Max. Canada is like Australia in that we have huge regions where access to “culture” and the latest technology is supposedly limited. The funny thing is, some of our best and brightest keep coming from those very same regions. Margaret Atwood, for example, spent much of her childhood in Northern Quebec, a place of tiny aboriginal villages, isolated mines, and remote lumber mills. Any chance of a follow-up anti view after Plumley’s bus hits the road?

    • Max October 29, 2012 at 12:28 am

      A follow up would be interesting, Thomas. Also interesting is this Margaret Atwood, who I wasn’t familiar with. Thanks for introducing me to her work!

      • Thomas Cotterill October 29, 2012 at 2:50 am

        Happy to steer you Atwood’s way, Max. Try her science fiction novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s also a film version, if you want a faster introduction.

  2. Thomas Cotterill October 12, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Very interesting post, Max. Canada is like Australia in that we have huge regions where access to “culture” and the latest technology is supposedly limited. The funny thing is, some of our best and brightest keep coming from those very same regions. Margaret Atwood, for example, spent much of her childhood in Northern Quebec, a place of tiny aboriginal villages, isolated mines, and remote lumber mills. Any chance of a follow-up anti view after Plumley’s bus hits the road?

  3. fee plumley (@feesable) December 2, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Hi Thomas, and thank you for both connecting the dots re Canada (a place very dear to my heart) and for suggesting that Max does a follow up!
    For the record, we just found the bus and have started modifications so details are beginning to firm up. Keep following http://reallybigroadtrip.com :)
    I’m a big fan of Margaret not least because of her love for Twitter… always the nerd!

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