A few posts ago I mentioned a large South Valley ethnographic project I spent roughly eight months working on and around. Mixed in among the highs and lows were a few stillborn (and inspired) insights about the changing face of innovation and manufacturing. For Steinbeck the South Valley was the epicenter of a cruel, Hamitonian, shift in the technology and scale of mechanized agriculture and it is my belief that it could today become the epicenter of another, more Jeffersonian, shift in the nature of manufacturing.
Our biggest and boldest idea was to introduce a Fabber – either a RepRap or Fab@Home – into the hands of a middle school robotics club and allow them to make, or not make, something of interest to them. In this way we could allow them to be connected directly (physically through the internet and sympathetically through shared interest) to cutting edge manufacturing and design projects. Not just sad, devolved approximations, but to authentic innovation labs like the FabLab who were working in similar directions. We (I mean we in the broadest sense encompassing all who were involved) were sadly denied the opportunity by the vagaries of bureaucratic fiat.
Even though the project was axed I still wonder what they might have made with a fabber. Perhaps a Soap Box Derby Racer, or a doorknob, or maybe a new cover for one of these. With a little space to work they might have even created their own cell phones and portable Turning Machines.
Here is a scripting language betwixt and between “programming” and “writing”.
This IBM project from the Indian Research Lab should be the model for bridging the “Digital Divide” in rural areas of the United States.
Research I conducted in California’s Central Valley certainly supports the wisdom of their assumptions. Mobile web devices are ubiquitous and the ability to master and adapt digital tools to local conditions (creating mobile mashups for local social networks or interfacing agricultural hardware with digital technology, and a billion variations) is now the key IT skill. One billion people will carry a Turing Machine connected to the internet in their pocket by 2011.
GPS tractors may be all the rage in the US, but can GPS powered Oxen be far behind
IBM India sees this everyday, but who in the US is bothering to look in the nooks and crannies?
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