about me

Portrait of Austin holding a scarf and wearing a Free Hugs shirt

Austin Toombs is a PhD student in Human Computer Interaction Design in the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University, with a minor in Inquiry Methodology. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from Ball State University and a M.S. in Human Computer Interaction Design from Indiana University.

Austin's research centers on maker cultures. He is particularly interested in the formation of maker identities in specific contexts (hackerspaces, makerspaces, Fab Labs, and other co-working spaces), and how these contexts intersect with the politics of making, gendered practices, urban vs. rural geographies, and creative hardware and software developments. Austin's research involves an ongoing ethnography of a hackerspace, investigating the ecological relationships among self-made tools, maker identity, and the hackerspace as a locus of a particular kind of creative practice.

Austin’s research is supported by the National Science Foundation and the Intel ISTC Social Computing program. He is a member of the Cultural Research In Technology (CRIT) Group at Indiana University.


In my research I focus on hackers, but not the kind that most people think of right away. People who break into bank systems and "hack" into other people's computers and databases are not the hackers I'm interested (they're actually called crackers). What I'm more interested in are the people that will take apart their dead laptops and cannibalize the parts. That will re-wire their entire houses to work off of solar panels they built themselves. That will go backpacking with radio equipment cobbled together in a way so that it can double as a walking stick. Those people. Because they're awesome.

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