Photo by Georgia Andersen
Photo by Georgia Andersen

John Harrison is a musician, electrical/computer engineer, educator and new media artist. He is best known as the inventor of Friendship Lamps, interactive lights that connect you with those you love. To manufacture the lamps and to further explore related technologies, John founded Filimin in 2015. He sold Filimin in May 2021.

During John’s tenure, Filimin manufactured, sold and shipped more than 250,000 Friendship Lamps. The lamps have been featured on major online media, including Buzzfeed three times, Mashable twice, The Today Show, The Washington Post, and Business Insider. Buzzfeed’s video about Friendship Lamps went viral, receiving nearly 5 million views.

John feels that all companies have an ethical responsibility to contribute positively to their communities and the world, and not just in regard to the products they offer but also in how their products are made. This is why all Filimin products were manufactured with a team of employees in Wichita Kansas and not overseas. Filimin’s team included participants from the Women’s Network (WIN) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). WIN is a non-profit that helps women in transition from abusive situations to independence and the workforce. IRC helps refugees seeking asylum to make Wichita their home. Participants from both of these organizations were critical employees in contributing to Filimin’s success since job satisfaction, innovation and personal growth are best served with diverse points of view.

Before his work at Filimin, John was an Electrical and Computer Design Engineer at PWI Inc, a small engineering design firm specializing in electrical solutions for aircraft manufacturers. PWI is most well-known for their work designing and implementing the lighting systems on Air Force One.

John has a deep commitment to teaching. Previously, John was a full-time faculty member at Wichita State University’s (WSU) College of Engineering. He also served as Founder and Director of WSU’s Center for Research in Arts, Technology, Education, and Learning (CRATEL). Before this he was a tenured Associate Professor of Violin at Wichita State University’s School of Music.

Inspired in part by Professor Gerhard Fischer’s publications about renaissance communities, John was a founder of Wichita’s new media artist collective Hack.Art.Lab (H.A.L). As part of H.A.L, John created and installed new media art in such places as Wichita, Kansas City, Richmond VA, Weimar Germany and Sao Paulo Brazil. Recent installations include Touch #1 and Touch #2, both inspired by the playfulness he witnessed that low-functioning autistic children experienced in immersive environments. John was also a co-founder and Vice President of MakeICT, Wichita’s first Makerspace. MakeICT now has over 400 active members. More recently he founded TechArtICT, an active collective of artists and engineers who create interactive and immersive art installations together.

John’s work is informed by his studies at MIT’s Media Lab, where he was a graduate assistant researcher under Barry Vercoe (Music Mind and Machine), Tod Machover (Opera of the Future), and Mitchell Resnick (Lifelong Kindergarten). Working with these three professors concurrently gave John a unique perspective on learning, innovation, music and creativity. John volunteered at Professor Resnick’s flagship Computer Clubhouse in Boston, co-creating projects such as Digital Puppetry. John’s Master’s thesis pioneered new ideas and implementation in tangible learning and creativity through music and sound.

John still continues his activities as a professional violinist. He has recorded for Koch International Classics and New World Records and has been broadcast internationally on Public Radio International. As First Violinist of the Montclaire String Quartet his touring and performance schedule included internationally televised and recorded concerts. He has also performed as First Violin of the Amernet String Quartet, first-prize winners of the Banff International String Quartet Competition.

As a violin soloist, John has performed with orchestras in major cities internationally. His former leadership positions include Concertmaster of The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and The Vermont Symphony Orchestra. He served as Concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra (WSO) for 19 years and was also a regular substitute member of The Boston Symphony Orchestra and The Boston Pops Orchestra. His recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has been featured as one of the best sounds available on the English Wikipedia.

John is also an active teacher of technology, having led classes in programming and electronic audio and video at various middle schools, high schools and colleges throughout the region. He pursued his undergraduate degrees at Eastman School of Music and Cleveland Institute of Music (BM: Violin Performance), as well as Case Western Reserve University and University of Rochester (BS: Computer Science). He holds a Master’s Degree in Media Technology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he pursued graduate research at the MIT Media Lab.