Conclusions

The semantics in which the Arduino is used by artists and designers points to its success and growth within its intended audience. The findings situate the Arduino microcontroller differently than former art and design tools. The most significant finding shows that both form and function in art and design pieces are strong contenders in reasons why modifications are made to the Arduino microcontroller. The usability, community and open source initiative of the Arduino microcontroller empower artists and designers to manipulate their tool and iterate new versions of the Arduino microcontroller. The LilyPad Xbee and the StandAlone are examples of functional modifications. Book Radio was modified for its physical footprint and later morphed into the Arduino Mini. Both form and function were incentives for the creation of the LilyPad Arduino. The Arduino microcontroller also assisted in the creative process, largely through time and functionality. It is a tool that caters to experimentation and quick prototyping due to the time allotment saved from having an attainable device. Inspiration benefits from a community-driven tool. The Arduino microcontroller is also a tool that is ever-changing, both by the Arduino community and from further development of the Arduino team. As Igoe states in his interview with Computer World, if something needs to be altered on the Arduino, the change happens: "I don't think there is an answer to 'what would you do differently', because when we encounter something we'd do differently, we make a change."[1]

The consideration that the Arduino microcontroller is malleable by a non- technical audience is important to the future new media art and the field of design. Kollath maintains, "We are adjusting to a new medium, and a historical movement of a revolution in art using a new technology". The medium is the Arduino microcontroller, and the movement is one of open source hardware. Microcontrollers in art may be a difficult new concept to grasp as art and technology collide once again. However, the Arduino is an open source, cross-disciplinary tool, which makes it rich in its knowledge and language. To quote Shanken on the topic of cross-disciplinary frontiers, "… to understand the evolving relationship between contemporary art, science, and technology, one must grapple with the complex processes and products that sustain and result from collaborative research."[2]

The open source hardware movement has stirred the art and design communities with the Arduino microcontroller. Speculations of where designers and artists will find future flexible, accessible and adapt them to open source tools was summarized by Labrune, Buechly and Zambetti. Labrune asks, "What data will influence other projects? Will the heuristics of the future become a conversation? What other open source platforms will artists use as their tool, such as the BUG of Bug Labs?" Buechley's current work is with paper circuits, which blends electronics with traditional forms of painting and drawing. She utilizes non-traditional electronic materials, such as conductive thread and conductive ink, as she jokes: "conductive fabrics aren't just for the military anymore!" Zambetti says the future of Arduino can also expand in terms of its community, "Making more languages available to Arduino is also important for the future of the project, for example, MAX/MSP, opens up another user group to Arduino".

The history of the Arduino microcontroller within art and design has already begun. The Arduino microcontroller affects the creative process, is attainable as a malleable art and design platform, and well designed for its intended audience. It will surely flourish through its various communities as it gets molded and transformed into descendant boards resulting from artworks and designed constructions.


  1. The A-Z of Programming Languages: Arduino's Tom Igoe. ComputerWorld, http://www.computerworld.com.au/article/321749/-z_programming_languages_arduino_tom_igoe (visited on 10/12/2009)
  2. Edward A. Shanken, Concluding Reflections: Art History, Interdisciplinary Collaboration, and the Interpretation of Hybrid Forms. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007, Media Art Histories, 65