Gray Area Research


Where new creative technology projects come to life.

Gray Area Research is our framework for innovation and experimentation. Our Research Program is designed to empower promising creative technology projects to reach their full potential, and to amplify the social, cultural, scientific, and technological impact of these projects as much as possible.We support projects that exist on the cutting edge of today’s technological spectrum, taking advantage of the newest digital and physical tools available to push the boundaries of what is possible.

Our goal is to be an arts organization that promotes action, a civic organization that innovates, and a technology organization that embodies creativity.


The components of Gray Area Research are as follows:

  • Large-scale, community-driven Initiatives
  • Transformative, in-depth, and exploratory Research Projects
  • A series of hackathons which facilitate rapidly-produced, experimental Hacks
  • Collaborative Research Residencies for creative technology teams and individuals


Gray Area Research Initiatives are large-scale creative festivals, collaborations, and urban experiments which facilitate the creation and demonstration of cutting-edge, transformative projects. Our Initiatives have brought together developers, designers, artists, urbanists, technologists, journalists, city officials, community members, and more to actively reimagine cities, art, technology, and culture.

Recent Initiatives include Summer of Smart Urban Innovation Festival and City Centered Festival of Locative Media and Urban Community – both of which have received national attention for their innovative models and outcomes.

Summer of Smart


Through our Research Program, GAFFTA supports creative projects that expand boundaries and demonstrate real, lasting social and/or artistic value. In this capacity, we act as an incubator for nonprofit, community-driven innovation. GAFFTA Research Projects receive funding stipends, co-working space, organizational partnerships, and nonprofit fiscal sponsorship and other fundraising support.



“Prototyping is the shorthand of innovation” – Tom Kelley, IDEO
Our Research Program is designed to constantly inspire, and be inspired by, the processes of hacking and rapid prototyping. To this end, we have created a home for Hacks - creative prototypes – to live, explore, be explored, and earn public recognition. We host regular hackathons based around a wide variety of civic, social, and technological issues and platforms which bring diverse sets of people together to collectively create and discover new ideas.


Our Research Residencies support individual artists and collaborative groups working on exciting art, technology, and civic projects. In 2010, our first residents – Gabrial Dunne, Ryan Alexander, Alphonzo Solorzano, Miles Stemper, and Daniel Massey – produced a full exhibition and accompanying book of their work, PROTOTYPE.

Our first class of Residents in 2011 emerged from Summer of Smart, and were announced in October. This Residency Program is designed to use hackathons as a launching point for creating and incubating long-term, sustainable projects – more than just an end in themselves. These four projects are Public Art Spaces, Market Guardians,, and SMART Muni.