FabLabs are places where with a small set of digitally controlled machines individuals can make ‘almost anything’. In the Netherlands there are currently three FabLabs in operation, and half a dozen or so initiatives ongoing to create a FabLab. This means the Netherlands has a unique density of FabLabs.
FabLabs operate from the notion that designs and experiences are shared globally and build locally based on whatever material is available. Design global, build local. However thus far we think the amount of sharing being done can be improved on two important dimensions.
First, we want to improve the ease with which experiences and projects can be documented. It is hard to ask people visiting the FabLabs to document things after their work, or interrupt them during the flow of their work to do so. Also the sharing of experience between lab managers can be improved, concerning the smooth running of a FabLab etc. It is around these stories, experiences and descriptions that interaction will take place.
Second, we want to improve the way people can connect, locally around a single FabLab, nationally within the ecosystem of personal manufacturing of both FabLabs and other groups, and internationally between both individuals and FabLabs. It is along these relationships within the wider FabLab community that knowledge and experience will flow.
By making initial sharing of content easier we stimulate interaction and the building of relationships. By making connecting to others easier, we stimulate the wider sharing of knowledge. Both dimensions strengthen each other.
Brainstorming Joris Summarizing
During last week’s brainstorm session on starting the project at the Amsterdam FabLab
So last week we started a project to create a platform to do just that. It will be a Drupal-based platform. Each FabLab will be able to have their own web presence, but the underlying Drupal fundament will ensure that every FabLab website will be able to pull in content from all other FabLab websites using the Drupal fundament. It also means that when a new FabLab starts operations, it will be able to install a web platform out of the box that immediately gives access to any content they find relevant for themselves. Relevant for instance in terms of the machines they have available, or the languages they want to present content in. It also means being able to grant access to people from throughout the FabLab community. All FabLabs together will create a cloud as it were.
With contributions in time from the FabLabs in Amsterdam and Utrecht, as well as my self (I’m a board member of the Dutch FabLab Foundation), we have enough expertise and resources to get going. FabLabs from Iceland, Norway, Canada and the UK are interested in working with us on this as well. It would be great if we could also involve members of the Drupal community. We will document the project transparantly so all our work will be in English, ensuring the ability for the wider FabLab network to contribute and comment.
We aim at smaller tangible steps in development, that can be implemented piecemeal as they are delivered. First up is creating the initial basic platform and content types needed. On that basis we can start adding functionality. The labs in th Netherlands, due to the high number of FabLab initiatives here, are in a unique position to quickly experiment with using different types of functionality, and iteratively build a modular platform.
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