Shifting towards community-building in opening up FabLabs for non-expert users

Katrien Dreessen, Selina Schepers
2020 Strategic Design Research Journal  
In the early days of Fablabs and other digital fabrication spaces (e.g. hackerspaces, makerspaces), these community spaces that offer public, shared access to high-end manufacturing equipment (e.g. 3D-printers, laser cutters) were often described as having the democratizing potential to empower everyone as future makers. However, research showed that non-expert users are often impeded to engage in such spaces due to various challenges (among other things, the unfamiliarity of available tools
more » ... available tools and machines, a lack of skills and experience). By describing a case study in which we elucidate different strategies that were used to engage non-expert users in FabLab Genk, this paper focuses on the mediating role of the design researchers who become part of a non-expert user community. This allows the design researchers to negotiate between the existing practices of the community and the potential of a FabLab. Furthermore, the case-analysis stresses the importance of networks of peers for opening up FabLabs for non-expert users. We also emphasize the complementarity between different strategies that can be employed to engage non-expert users in a FabLab. By highlighting these findings, the papers shows how a FabLab's shift towards community building can change the focus on the technical and spatial infrastructure towards social infrastructures, which is essential for engaging non-expert users.
doi:10.4013/sdrj.2020.131.03 fatcat:jdtgl35esvcqbcc6mydoiegh3i