What is the response to the Arduino microcontroller among artists and designers?

The Arduino microcontroller is an evolving tool for art and design. The Arduino can be thought of as the brain that runs the artwork or interactive design. It is the vehicle data runs through to convey art, similar to how a brush is a vehicle for paint. Four artists likened using the Arduino with electronics to using a paintbrush with paint. The Arduino differs as a tool from traditional artistic tools because it is embedded within the artwork. Prior to electronics, artists did not have to leave their tools in their works. Paintbrushes or chisels were not left in paintings or sculptures respectively. Leaving tools within the piece brings an additional cost to the artist or designer. Removing the Arduino from the piece altogether or writing over the chip changes the piece, and could destroy it. Christine Paul comments that "…it would be highly problematic to ignore the art"s material and components and the hardware that makes it accessible."[1] Ayah Bdeir wrote about electronics as material in her paper presented at Tangible and Embedded Interaction in 2009.[2] The Arduino and its components are materials for artwork, and as discussed in Section 3.4 have been shown in museum environments. The Arduino is used with multiple and diverse materials from traditional electronic components such as LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes), and sensors, to new found conductive materials, such as conductive thread and conductive paint. Another material is information. Raw data and code is a non-traditional material, increasingly prevalent with the turn of the century and the advent of the Information Age. Designer, Mike Kuniavsky[3] says "The Arduino is a tool that makes it easier to treat information processing as a material." Artists have always liked to make cultural commentary so it is only natural that in the Information Age, information and bits would become a material for art.

Arduino's open source initiative and the relationships developed within the Arduino community were two prominent topics interviewees discussed at length as to why the preferred the Arduino microcontroller. Other aspects discussed throughout were the usability of the Arduino microcontroller and the cost.

  1. Christine Paul, The Myth of Immateriality: Presenting and Preserving New Media. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007, Media Art Histories, 252
  2. Ayah Bdeir, Electronics as material: littleBits. Cambridge, UK: Tangible and Embedded Interaction conference, 2009
  3. Mike Kuniavsky (Co-creator of BlinkM's and co-founder of ThingM) in discussion with the author, September 2009.