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Fabricating Community: Connected Community Design Labs for STEAM Learning and Development

Academic & Research
Thursday, May 12, 2016, 12:40 pm

There is a fundamental need to modify the world around us that is amplified, but not addressed, by the rising tide of data in our lives. This “Fabrication Divide” is a largely unspoken corollary of the much-studied “Digital Divide”. Unprecedented sociocultural and political expression is emerging from an international network of Community Design Labs (a.k.a. Makerspace, Hackerspaces, etc...) in response to this novel challenge. Over the past 20 years, these community centers have spread across much of the world, allowing citizens to engage in challenging problems across multiple scales from encrypted communications networks for human-rights journalists to very-low-cost pre-fab toilets that generate energy. James will give a project-oriented history of Community Design Labs, present preliminary international survey findings on these organizations, discuss the development of low-cost toolkits aimed at increasing access to fabrication and will discuss his current work in developing STEAM secondary curriculum with a focus on the effects of desktop digital fabrication on youth participation in social and civic life.

James David Moffet is a Fulbright Fellow currently pursuing graduate research on Community Design Labs and the intersection between technology, design learning and civic participation. James took a degree in Computer Science from DePaul University in Chicago, USA and worked for several years as a data scientist for SEIU labor union in the US. In 2012, he opened a data consultancy and became a board director and executive secretary of the Portland-based urban renewal nonprofit Depave. Thereafter, James pursued graduate studies in Architecture and Design at Harvard and Columbia Universities and is planning to complete his Masters in Design Studies at Harvard in 2017. His current research agenda is influenced strongly by Prof. Neil Gershenfeld at the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT, particularly the Fab Foundation and his theories of the “Fabrication Divide”. During his current fellowship, James intends to describe the transformative power of desktop fabrication, as “the ability to make (almost) anything” spreads across the globe.