Reflections on Class
3D printing is so much fun! There is a certain sense of accomplishment in seeing something that exists only on your computer screen appear in the real world. If I had to describe it, I would honestly say that it is like high tech knitting. For some reason, the learning curve for the high tech version of knitting (3D printing) had a lower learning curve than the low tech needle and thread version. I had to learn to knit three times before I could reliably complete even a single row – this over the course of years. Last week, I walked into a room with a bunch of 3D printers having never used one before, and walked out with a one of a kind luggage tag. My first knitting project took me over 2 weeks to finish (and it didn’t look nearly so good!).
The other thing I found interesting about 3D printing is the ease with which someone can design something of their own to print. With knitting, I am still considerably dependent of patterns that other people have created over the years. This isn’t a bad thing – there is a certain feeling of carrying on some grand history that people have passed down for hundreds of years. However, it does serve show the amazingness of the 3D printing platforms. With what I can barely call moderate competency with a computer, I made a labrador retriever in a little under an hour.
That sense of almost instant accomplishment in seeing your computer pixels become a real object has so much potential to empower. I found that empowerment with knitting during a tough period of my life, but it was also a period when I had time. I had time to spend months working on a single project. Not many people, or even children these days, have the luxury of waiting that long for that sense of completion. It seems to me that 3D printing offers the right mix of timeliness and learning curve to inspire confidence. That confidence is so very important for people of all ages. For some it proves that they can learn, for others it is confirmation their ideas have merit, and for others it is simply fun.
Reflections on Readings
Having never considered the relationship between scientific inquiry and childlike curiosity, I am surprised to find the concept fitting so nicely in my view of the world. It is a very similar way to how I have always felt about the World Fairs and Columbian Exposition, which has always exuded a sense of purity to me. It was a celebration of accomplishments and hope, much like childhood play.
What does not fit so well, is the seemingly constant need society seems to have to define and shape it depending on what is going on in the world. That is not to say it isn’t interesting or a real phenomenon worth exploring as it has a real affect on our world. It is like when we talk about makerspaces and STEM. It has been articulated in Kristin’s blog that there is a sense of continually being bounded by coding and STEM activities. When we talk about the very pure celebration of the basis on scientific exploration in children, we then bind it down with ropes of perception and expectation. In short, it bothers me. Just because the current ideology prescribes something be a certain way, does not mean that it should be that way. Just because STEM exists (promotes “valuable” activities) and is applicable to makers spaces does not mean that it should be the only thing valued in those spaces.
The scientific utopia of the Brooklyn Children’s Museum community ties in a little bit here. I am torn. I feel the rub of the idea that a child could do whatever they want, as long as it is what the museum promoted. I also feel the acute necessity for spaces like this museum which was open for everyone to experience and learn. However, I also know that it was only that for the middle class who had the leisure to spend time there. Working class and immigrants were not reached by this movement. This is contrary to the World Fair phenomenons where it seemed like almost everyone was aware and impacted by it in some way. Further, the museum exclusion seems to mirror the tension that currently exists in the maker movement.
For many, 3D printers are irrevocably beyond reach. In a world where 3D printing and related skills are valued above knitting, this creates a bit of an exclusionary problem. Yet for some reason, it is a problem that seems to be systematically pushed aside throughout history. That sense of inclusion that surrounded the World Fair seems to have disappeared.