Comments for FAB at CHI 2013 Workshop Digital Fabrication Tools, Design, and Community Thu, 16 May 2013 18:11:51 +0000 hourly 1 Comment on Fabrication as Syndication: 3D Printing, Communication, and Narrative by Joshua Tanenbaum Thu, 16 May 2013 18:11:51 +0000 Interesting follow up to this idea I just encountered: Disney has a project running that allows you to 3D print a stormtrooper action figure version of yourself:

Comment on The Phoenix Rising: 3D Printing and Design Immortality by Ryan Schmidt Mon, 22 Apr 2013 17:07:13 +0000 Great story!

Regarding the infinite reproducibility…that is a choice you make. You are free to delete the digital files after you create the physical object. I knew a CG artist who worked this way…she would make one ‘final’ rendering and then delete all the assets.

Comment on The Phoenix Rising: 3D Printing and Design Immortality by Joshua Tanenbaum Sun, 21 Apr 2013 05:19:09 +0000 I really enjoyed the story and the point of view in this piece! It raises a bunch of questions and responses from me, and I’m looking forward to talking with you further at the workshop.

I was fascinated that you chose to characterize physical objects as “ephemeral” and “mortal” while digital objects are viewed as somehow transcending mortality through their digital nature. It’s an interesting inversion of the tropes around “materiality” and “virtuality”: it used to be the case that the “realness” of digital objects was the subject of some debate. Fabrication, and the ability to materialize these digital forms turns that on its head, because the physical object can be broken or lost – it ages and weathers and degrades over time while the digital file remains impervious to the ravages of entropy.

I’m not certain, however, that I’m ready to ascribe immortality to the digital object quite yet. I’ve been making art and music on computers since 1996, and I’m sorry to say that in the last 17 years I’ve probably lost more work than I’ve kept: some was created with software that is now obsolete. Some was saved on fragile (and now also obsolete) media – first magnetic, and then optical. Some required a very particular ecosystem of hardware and software to operate – and ecosystem that would be almost impossible to re-create. Moore’s law, and the rapid transformation of media technology all but guarantee that preserving a digital object is not something to be taken for granted. In particular, it bears mentioning that a digital object is highly dependent on some sort of physical substrate in order to manifest: consider all of the work that people at the Electronic Literature Organization have undergone to preserve not just the software objects of early hypertext fiction, but also the hardware environments needed to run them

Perhaps as digital files migrate into the cloud this will change. Perhaps I just had the misfortune to be creating digital art during a particularly unstable period in the history of computing, but I suspect that it will be generations before the rate of technological advance slows to the point where a digital object will not be threatened by the march of progress in the same way that a physical object is threatened by entropy.

All of that said, I think there is another very interesting idea to be taken from this post, about what Walter Benjamin would have called an object’s “Aura”. In “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” Benjamin celebrates the power of reproduction to strip art objects of their “cultic value” by making them widely viewable. The “aura” of an original artwork is a function of its uniqueness in the material world: it is an almost metaphysical value that is often ascribed to the implied material presence of its creator; the idea that this physical object is the only one of its kind, and can only be viewed in its particular location. The question you raise at the end, about the meaning of artifacts, is fundamentally a question about “aura”, but one with an interesting twist: how do materiality and meaning manifest in objects whose origins are immaterial, and infinitely replicable? Does the digital file take on some sort of “aura” as the original “source” of the material artifact? Does the concept of “original” even have meaning in this context?

All of this is super interesting to me, and I look forward to discussing it further in Paris.

Comment on A Personal Design Manifesto by Mark D Gross Wed, 10 Apr 2013 18:47:57 +0000 Yes to all that, and Amen.

I’ve long believed that software (design tools) are the key to widespread citizen (er, “consumer”?) adoption of fabrication technologies. In the Desktop Publishing Revolution, the development of Postscript led to a raft of desktop printing applications, from text editing to page layout to illustration, which made it possible for citizens to take advantage of the hardware technologies of laser and ink-jet printing. The hardware was necessary but not sufficient to create the revolution. We’re seeing fabrication hardware come nicely along the curve, and we must attend to the software infrastructure that will be a bottleneck if we don’t.

That’s why Gabe Johnson and I have been working on “Sketch It, Make It”, a tool for precise sketching for laser cutter designs (with plans to move forward in to 3D for printing). See our video at .

Indeed the DRM issues are also crucial – see, for example, Michael Weinberg’s “It Will Be Awesome if They Don’t Screw it Up.”

I’d only add that while Borchers and Bohne say ” This is an HCI research problem,” some of us see it as much as a design research problem. HCI ≠ design, and there’s a rich body of work in design methods research on how to enable end users, not only to participate in designing things, but actually to make design decisions on their own. But that is another story.