I’ve been trying to define what it means to be an activist electrical engineer, as an open question to myself, for the last year or so.
One of my main concerns is electronics literacy. So far my efforts include Fuzzy Logic, the education/toy kit I made, running MITERS and holding electronics workshops there, making a certain breadboard sweatshirt, and assorted recent adventures at Noisebridge). However, I’m still refining my answer to the question.
Dustin asked me to define both engineering and activism, and by simply combining my definitions, I decided that engineering activism, as an act would be “the thoughtful design of something technical which most efficiently causes change.” That’s a good phrase to check against what I’m doing, to see if it counts, but it doesn’t tell me what to do, or how to act.
Most recently, I got the chance to observe a friend who’s done a lot of work in electronic activism and learned by his actions that it’s crucial to not only create and act on things you think are important, but also to know what other people are working on, and support what they do.
You’ll never be able to do enough just working on your own thing, so it’s really crucial to pay attention and help out other on other efforts as you can (by for example in the instance I witnessed, scanning a copyright-free book to the internet archive).
Secondly, I observed that it rather helps to be principled enough for the world to irritate you into action — in this way you can rely on your perception of the world to inform you of opportunities to make changes.
On the other hand, maybe electrical engineering activism may look more like my friend Alex Hornstein who is in Ahmedabad, northern India, building solar concentrators right now!