From Consumerism to Makerism with Neil Gershenfeld

MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld talks about the future of digital fabrication technologies via global Fab Labs.

At the recent Emerge conference at Arizona State University, Neil’s brother Alan Gershenfeld coordinated a design workshop exploring the future of Conscious Makerism, a sustainability-infused version of the Fab Lab movement. Alan and 20 artists, designers, programmers, students, and faculty — including one Nobel Laureate — designed a walk-through ‘prototype’ of a gaming console that could function as a technical manual for future Fab Lab units. Basically, a user inputs some basic design parameters into the digital fabrication machine of the future, perhaps through a verbal conversation with the software, activating a gaming architecture that the user can explore as a deliberative design tool. Instead of buying your fiancee a pair of shoes, you spend a few hours, or days, making dozens or hundreds or thousands of design decisions. Instead of printing the shoes, you send the specs and a digital demo to your fiancee, who critiques your judgments or accepts. The process allows sustainability considerations to enter the design process. It also could turn consumers into makers.

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