3-D printing certainly offers a vast amount of possibilities for teaching, learning, researching and (needless to say) for artistic practices. The usage of 3-D printers by individuals or groups operating in different fields might be obviously characterized by different scopes, but the large range of these scopes is the precious outcome. In Neely’s reading it is said that “Museums are a natural fit for these types of informal learning activities.” Karen Wilkinson, director of the Tinkering Studio at the Exploratorium, spoke on the panel “What’s the Point of a Museum Makerspace?” at the MCN conference in November, 2012. She argued, “The difference between ‘make-and-take’ and ‘makerspace’ is the variety in the end product, and the ownership over the full process that the maker feels” (Wilkinson, 2012).”
That made me think that 3-D printing is just another result of the consumeristic society that allows ownership over objects that we can finally make ourselves instead of buying, reinforcing the consumer’s compulsive desire of possession, which leads to overfilled basements of endless objects. Despite this aspect, I don’t think we can consider 3-D printing overall as a harmful nor useless discovery. In fact, in addition to its beneficial effects (from student engagement through hands-on experience, to the ability of making replicas of fragile objects for research purposes), 3-D printing has the possibility to foster the conversation on authorship, hierarchy and cultural production which started with post-modernism and might involve an interesting twist: given the opportunity for everyone to make things, I can’t help but asking what would they make? Is 3-D printing going to reinforce the top-to-bottom model of production or reverse it? Maybe, there is no a univocal answer to this question. The “makerspace” is currently part of cultural institutions, in one way or another, and it is used by artists to continue to make objects in a creator-to-consumer fashion which is not much different from painting and sculpture, therefore it might be too early to speak of a cultural shift, but it is also true that “with a minimal amount of preparation and training, a fully engaged 3D printing experience is a likely outcome” (Neely, Langer). And the opportunities spurring from and within that experience are countless.
What I also found interesting is what Turkel and Elliott highlight in their article which is that historians, for the most part, have tended to ignore this problem of learning tacit knowledge, and continue to concentrate on the representational sources with which they are most comfortable, even at the cost of being excluded from a crucial understanding of their subject matter (p. 6). Shifting towards a more open attitude might turn the question “How does our own engagement with fabrication change our experience of what is methodologically possible?” (p. 9) into: How does our own engagement with visualization-making change our experience of what is algorithmically possible?