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Design Bildung through Digital fabrication (PhD project)

In the project Design Bildung through Digital fabrication, I investigate the introduction of digital fabrication tools and materials in schools. The term digital fabrication can be used with different meanings ranging from simple use of 3D-printers for producing a standard key-chain to innovations of digital artifacts solving societal challenges. Technologies include 3D-printers, CNC-routers, laser-cutters, a variety of electronic toolkits and microprocessor-boards. I view the global fablab movement and its maker-culture as embodiments of digital fabrication. The technologies and the maker-culture, enable consumers to tinker with products, to remix different technologies and above all to produce a wide range of objects to fit their needs and ideas.

I have started the project with a call for a new theoretical framing of digital fabrication in education. I argue for a concept of Design Bildung from two different perspectives. One is that digital fabrication has to do with Design Ability, and of being Designerly with technology, and that this is not something that can be taught as a skill or even a competence. It has to do with more fundamental personal development. As such it should be seen as a process of educational formation or using an ancient German notion – as Bildung.

Another perspective on this is, that when we choose to spend the limited time of the students in schools on digital fabrication (or any other matter), we should be able to justify our activities by answering the question of why we do this. One way of doing this, is through the concept of Bildung. Bildung as defined by Wolfgang Klafki rests on emancipation, empowerment and citizenship. More recently, Gert Biesta has re-framed this in terms of qualification, socialization and subjectification. In his view, qualification and socialization empowers the students to participate in the society, whereas subjectification aims for emancipation. The question then is whether or not digital fabrication seen as education in being Designerly with technology has a place in this Bildung-thinking and I have argued, that being Designerly does in fact have a potential to empower and emancipate students and for qualifying students for the 21st century, that they are already a part of.

Selected references

Hjorth, M., & Iversen, O. S. (2014): FabLab@ School: From Digital Literacy to Design Bildung. In FabLearn.eu, Aarhus, Denmark.