Uses This

Interview

What do people use to get the job done?

Sean Bonner
Photo by Nokton.

Sean Bonner

Activist, musician, co-founder (Safecast)

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Sean Bonner and I'm the co-founder & Global Director of Safecast & one fourth of Cross My Heart Hope To Die. I'm on the Board of Directors of CicLAvia and Crash Space, and Advisory Board for the LA Makerspace. I'm a Shuttleworth Fellow and a visiting researcher with the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media. I'm a mentor for the Highway1 incubator and advisor to a handful of artists and companies like kithub.

I also blog and tweet a lot, take photos and publish a regular newsletter and an irregular podcast. Amusingly, this is kind of the trimmed down list. In a previous life I produced art gallery exhibits and designed record covers.

What hardware do you use?

This question is the reason it took me so long to reply to this interview, because it's all over the place. For communication I used a 11" MacBook Air, an iPad Mini and an iPhone 5s. For photos I shoot with a Leica M Monochrom with a 1970's era 50mm Summilux, and make noisy music with an ever changing combo of synths which currently includes an Arturia MiniBrute, a few Korg Volcas, a Roland MC-303, a Moog Werkstatt and a handful of handmade noisy things, all running through a Mackie mixer and a Line 6 DL4. Though I think I'm about to swap out the digital delay for some analog pedals, and I'd love to trade the Werkstatt for a Microbrute. I record my podcast with a Zoom H4n and read off a Kindle Paperwhite. I make shit in my garage with a Makerbot Replicator 3D Printer, an Othermill, Weller & Hakko soldering irons and a Zing laser cutter.

To inspire all this I depend on my Sonos sound system to kick out the jams, and when I want to get serious I heat up my vintage Marantz 1060 & tube amp system and play records on my Technics 1200. I type NSA-proof letters to friends on a 1959 Hermes 3000 and I never leave home without my Spyderco titanium Sage 2 and a lock pick set. I'm also kind of obsessed with tiny short little charging cables and often cut longer ones down.

And what software?

I have to say I'm a lot less software dependent these days. There's been too many programs or apps that I've fallen in love with, gone all in on, and then the company sells or fold and the software falls apart or is shutdown entirely. So I'm jaded now and try not to rely on anything. There was a time when I lived in Photoshop and Illustrator all day but now I just pull those out for special purposes. On my laptop I tend to have Chrome, Safari and Firefox running all the time for different purposes, though I absolutely depend on Slack to keep my teams organized. I process photos in Lightroom and audio in GarageBand, Audacity and Sound Studio. Actually I process photos in Audacity too. On iOS I love TweetBot and hate every calendar app ever.

What would be your dream setup?

This is a hard one because I'm so damn indecisive in my old age. I used to know exactly what I could never have so that became my dream setup, but now that I'm actually able to get my hands on some of this stuff I end up tinkering and fine tuning way more than I should. But I like to consolidate when I can. Right now I'd love to replace my Summilux with a Noctilux, and I'm currently lusting after the new Korg MS-20M + SQ-1 setup. Not that I'd know what to do with it honestly.

A Sonos Sub and Connect (so I can play my records through the system) are on my wishlist, but these days my dream setup tends to be less rather than more.