science | design | engineering | common sense

Cooperative Tinkering

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[UPDATE : Rewritten  9-12-2009]

TechShop is riding the wave of the future, and if it isn’t, then shame on the future. TechShop is a workshop where you pay for access (like a health club or gym) and you get to come in and use  equipment and workspace. For expensive and/or dangerous equipment, you have to take a short training course. Not only do they have screwdrivers and pliers, they also have advanced equipment such as a laser cutter, 3D printer, and milling machine.

Since I’m a student, I have access to a library, workshops and other facilities that a university has available. While State universities and the public school system do perform some of the functions, they are limited and centralized, especially regarding advanced resources such as a laser cutter or machining tools. Access is privileged, not universal, if someone can get access at all it will be based on their connections, and such “who-you-know” arrangements don’t bide well with me. What if governments picked up on this concept, modeled along the lines of public libraries and recreational facilities, such as pools and parks? Have a sort of public workshop where people can come and work, perhaps not with equipment as advanced as what TechShop has, but at least equipped with workspace and facilities for people to tinker, build and learn.

There has also been a large push in recent years away from privileged, meritocracy or financially based systems towards distributed empowerment through technology. The Open Source software movement is one facet of this, as is anyone who builds and modify s to suit their needs. This harkens back to “the old days” – while building a carriage required equipment, any knowledgeable person could build themselves the right tools and construct a serviceable carriage. With the industrial revolution, products became too complicated for people to produce/modify themselves. With increasing miniaturization, robust libraries of “pre-built pieces” of software code and hardware technology are making real technology innovation and do-it-yourself possible again.

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Written by logand

September 26, 2008 at 1:23 pm

Posted in Society

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