Some bits on the path taken into the Maker Movement and involvement in the Fab Lab Network

While many arts and visual designer students have found a way to contribute to society after their studies, I found my way in the department of New Media at CBC/Radio-Canada. My work consisted mainly to provide visual design for the web portal. From the Olympics events, sport or cultural events and the wide range of news we had to cover, the Iraq war really took a toll on me. Every morning, I would have to go through the photographic news database to search for a picture that would serve the daily news of the war. Pictures had to be true enough to the storyline but not “deliberately offensive” (not sure of the right term). One of the pictures portrayed a parent holding his child, both died frosted with a biological chemical weapon. They lay there with the rest of the village that was attacked. Another picture showed pieces of human bodies scattered around the building crumbles after a bomb had exploded. I could only imagine how it was like in Laos during the Vietnam war. How orange chemical ravaged the people’s humanity and how, today still, have negative effects on the people and on the land. How devasting war can be and how little we are against such atrocity. Delivering news has its own honour in fighting against the war but I felt my role was too minuscule.

As I go through life, from trying new start-ups and capital ventures funded projects to better the world, between many failure and cases of success, I was lucky to find the right environment to make a contribution towards a difference in the world: The Maker Movement and the fab lab network. Below is a description by authors Troxler, Gourmand and Labrune, that defining what I mean.

“Maker practice is as much about building something yourself than building something for yourself – that is to say, a demonstration of skills and the expression of one’s autonomy: I shape objects, therefore I act on the world. Autonomy is a form of liberty in action that we can exercise to work out or define our relationship with everything around us and the way we act in their midst. It has nothing to do with the realisation of a certain isolation that privileges self-sufficiency, in which case we could just as much talk about autarchy. Autonomy is a practice of empowerment, the development of a relationship with the world and with others which converges towards collective formations. A complex togetherness where our perspectives overlap and we recognise the necessity for certain affects and obligations.” – Troxler, Gourmand and Labrune.

As my design practices changed from creating artefacts to designing experiences and services, creating space for meaningful conversation that would shape the way we live and inhabit our space, I needed a way to also shape my world.

In the Fab Lab network, I found not only the means but a way to grow, learn, live my passions and connect with people that shared the same mindset. I learned to use machines tools that can revolutionize our way of producing, collecting data and interacting with the world. In a Fab Lab, I feel everything is possible. As Neil Gershenfeld, Director of the Center for Bits and Atoms at the MIT and founder of the Fab Lab movement, I could now practice that “possible is a mindset”. I went from knowing to practising and that made all the difference.

That led me to participate in events across countries (Canada, Laos, Spain, France, US, China) connecting with extraordinary people that would later help me shape policies for new digital labs in cultural places in my province (QC). This summer, I have gone with an amazing team across Canada to connect all the labs together. More information can be found at fablabsnation.ca. This same summer at FAB13, the 13th edition of the International Fab Lab conference was held in Chilli. Marc-Olivier Ducharme, my Fab Labs Nation colleague and friend was there with me. We proposed to host the International Conference in Montreal and we got selected for the year 2020! Communautique, founded the first fab lab in Quebec, échoFab, and had done tremendous work throughout the Province and lately in Canada for the movement. We could not have done it without the support and implications of all team members and all our partners. We are growing stronger. Things are moving forward for the movement in Canada and there is a lot of work to do!

As Cindy Kohtala said: “as people, as fabbers, as managers, we need to look at the stars and our feet and the road all at the same time. The Impact is part of this.” That is why I have started a research thesis to look deeper into the what is happening with digital fabrication spaces. With name brand TechShop and many other going out of business, we can not help but wonder about their precarious future.

My research at Carleton University, School of Industrial Design is to see how co-design processes may help stakeholders make a successful digital fabrication lab. While writing my thesis, I have been contracted by Digihub in Shawinigan, in Quebec Province, to design the new Fab Lab. I shall be publishing more updates about this project soon…

 

Bibliography

Troxler, P., Fourmond, T., & Labrune, J. (2016). Digitally-operated atoms vs. bits of rhetoric: a mash-up, (5), 11–14.