Digital fabrication technologies (3D printing, laser cutting, CNC milling, electronics) and practices of participation (craft, DIY) have been hailed as a way of reconfiguring our understandings of categories like professional and amateur, work and leisure, and of dissolving the boundaries between them. They stand for a lateral approach that disrupts traditional, normative forms of production, expertise, and consumption. These forms and categories are themselves historical products, though.
My work considered how the emerging practices and technologies of digital fabrication draw on specific and powerful historical discourses about work, production, expertise, and creativity, while, at least in narratives, attempting to reshape the long-standing, modern relationship between amateur makers and design professionals.
I applied a qualitative methodology combining an ethnographic survey with a critical historical analysis of the relationship of design to making from the perspectives of expertise, values, and participation. The empirical study included fabrication laboratories and makerspaces in several countries, all built upon the idea of digital fabrication as open to everyone.
The project intersects the fields of science and technology studies (STS), design research, and the history of technology and design.