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From material scarcity to artificial abundance: the case of FabLabs and 3D printing technologies

Publication of Creating 010
P. Troxler, | Article | Publication date: 25 December 2015
Digital media allowed for the emergence of new artistic practices and innovative modes of production. In particular, the advent of Internet and digital technologies drastically enhanced the ability for multiple authors to collaborate towards the creation of large-scale collaborative works, which stand in contrast to the traditional understanding that artistic production is essentially an individual activity. The significance of these practices in the physical world is illustrated by the recent deployment of FabLabs: Fabrication Laboratories that employ innovative technologies – such as, most notably, 3D printing, which is recently gaining the most interest – to encourage the development of new methods of artistic production based on participation and interaction between peers. By promoting a Do It Yourself (DIY) approach, Fablabs constitute an attempt to transpose the open source mode of production from the domain of software into the field of art and design. Yet, as opposed to the information realm (where scarcity has been added artificially – by legal means – to inherently abundant resources like software and creative expression), artistic and design production in the physical world is riddled by the problem of material scarcity: physical resources are inherently limited and cannot be reproduced without using, converting or otherwise disposing of others kinds of resources.Over time, open source practices have managed to “hack” these provisions by means of contractual instruments designed to eliminate artificial scarcity so as re-instate the original state of abundance in the information realm. One has to wonder whether similar instruments could be conceived to eliminate – or,at least, reduce – material scarcity in the physical world. The underlying question that will be addressed throughout the paper is, therefore, “how could we hack the law to turn technical material scarcity into artificial material abundance?”


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