Fabrication as Syndication: 3D Printing, Communication, and Narrative

Joshua Tanenbaum, Simon Fraser University
Karen Tanenbaum, Simon Fraser University

Many of our visions of the future of fabrication are focused on utilitarian applications: how home fabrication allows people to rapidly iterate prototypes, to easily replace damaged parts, and to facilitate hands-on learning and create communities of Makers.  While all of these are valuable applications, we believe that home fabrication technology isn’t just a powerful tool: it’s also a medium.

Cory Doctorow’s novel Makers explores a potential near-future of the Make movement in general, and 3D printing in particular (http://craphound.com/makers/download/).  In a not-too-distant future, an economic downtown has created rampant unemployment. Two genius tinkerers, Lester and Perry, help create an era of “New Work”, where rapid fabrication techniques allow for fast-paced innovation and creativity.  Small, local collectives of Makers create scads of crazy new inventions and throw them on the open market, knowing at least one will succeed and fund the next cycle of innovation.   “New Work” is fun and successful for about a decade, but eventually its bubble pops under the weight of lawsuits, knockoffs, and poor business decisions by the not-business-inclined inventors.   Continue reading