Over the last weekend we’ve attended Fab10, a festival celebrating 10 years of FabLabs around the globe. I came to Barcelona to personally check out the creative outburst of this proactive, ingenious and grassroots community.
As I arrived in the magnificent Disseny building, Fab10 is just as I envisioned it to be- a congregation of makers, engineers, artists, urbanists, architects, designers, musician and professors. An eclectic mix situated in the vaguely defined space between geek and cool. The expression of their practice results in a diverse range of objects, environments and techniques opening a tiny window in our future. The objects they created are often simply demonstrational in order to show the possibilities of a certain technology or medium. However, Fablabs often produce more concrete and marketable ideas ready to be tested and presented to a market- the wooden bike from the Turin FabLab, the molecular architecture, the open-source wheelchair and the Smart Citizen board by FabLab Barcelona are all great examples of this.
Fab10 is to the world what a child is to society. A community of enthusiast makers keen to learn, ask questions, experiment, discover and invent without fear of failing, just like a child. People at FabLabs are in a perpetuous learning experience that is slowly opening up the most complex and secret mechanisms of our monolithic society. Just as a child continuously takes apart its toys, put them back together, breaks them or sporadically eats them, the Fablab community is constantly emulating this approach in an exercise of counter engineering of its toy of choice: technology. Counter engineering is used as a learning tool to understand technological taboos. This set of knowledge is then reinvested back in society through workshops, open days, conferences and exhibitions.
Metaphors on a side, at Fab10 there was a huge number of real kids jumping and screaming as they’re meant to, but also soldering, coding, tinkering and prototyping. Speaking with representatives of Fab 10 they explained me why they placed so much emphasis onto kids. “We believe kids is where we need to start, if we are to change the way society perceive and relates to technology we have to start from them. We have the social obligation to offer them an alternative to mere consumption of technology. We need to show them how much fun it is to understand technology and adapt it to your personal needs.” All throughout the festival a series of interactive workshops and presentations were made for groups of kids from local schools.
Under a more conceptual lens this event could be understood as the physical manifestation of the speculative approach to design proposed by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby in their book Speculative Everything. The Fab10 seemed to me to represent an active community constantly testing what-if scenarios through concrete objects that question our very existence as consumer. What if the digital fabrication they are advocating could really change the way we look at objects? What if a world where manufacturing happens at home rather than in big plants in the opposite side of the world is not too far away? What if in the future you could 3d print the tooth you lost in the last bar fight at your local pub? What if I could 3d print my next pair of trainers? What if the smart city every Silicon Valley ‘s shark is promoting was to happen in your backyard instead of some tech hub somewhere in LA?? And lastly what if the future we want is built by us instead of sold to us?