Context of the project
Fablab is a short term for Fabrication Laboratory.
“Fablabs are a global network of local labs, enabling invention by providing access to tools for digital fabrication. Fablabs are available as a community resource, offering open access for individuals as well as scheduled access for programs.” (definition according to The Fab Charter: http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/charter/).
The idea of fablabs was conceived in 2005 by renowned inventor and scientist Professor Neil Gershenfeld at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The idea was simple: to provide the environment, skills, advanced materials and technology to make things cheaply and quickly anywhere in the world, and to make this available on a local basis to entrepreneurs, students, artists, small businesses and in fact, anyone who wants to create something new or bespoke.
A fablab is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent. Fablabs work towards democratizing access to technology by offering access to shared infrastructures, digital fabrication machines and communities of practice around digital fabrication.
Nowadays, fablab network is an open, creative community of fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students, amateurs, professionals, of all ages located in more than 78 countries in approximately 1000 fablabs. From community based labs to advanced research centers, fablabs share the goal of democratizing access to the tools for technical invention.
Fablabs, sometimes called also makerspaces, hackerspaces or medialabs, are physical spaces, as well as online communities. Based on a general pedagogy and approach to making, oftentimes described as “tinkering”, they provide their users with resources, both human and technological, community expertise, high- and low-tech tools.
The learning methodology in fablabs is based on knowledge sharing, it values mentorship and joint engagement. It is also based on ethos of DIY culture, on a maker’s curiosity, trial and error, and resourcefulness. It is as much do-it-yourself as it is do-it-with-others and make-to-learn approach. The emphasis is much more on peer-to-peer learning and spontaneous inspiration than strict didactic approaches.
Fablabs are usually equipped with lot of digital fabrication tools and materials, such as 3D printers, milling machines, laser cutters, electronics workbench, computers and programming tools, supported by open source software, and their activities range from textile crafts to electronics, advanced robotics to traditional woodworking.
Although focused on innovation, prototyping and production, fablabs are first of all true communities of practice that support learning new skills and capabilities based on interest-driven learning, learning by doing, learning through real-life experiences, self-expression and creativity. Using a learning-by-doing approach they give learners access to previously inaccessible tools and skills that are necessary for success in the 21st-century economy.
The number of fablabs in Europe has increased greatly in the last decade. Right now, most big cities in Europe have one or more spaces devoted to digital fabrication and new technologies. Yet, their legal types, forms, activities and target groups vary much across different European countries. In some countries fablabs are usually placed at universities, in others they take form of non-governmental organisations.
Within the proposed project we would like to take advantage of taking a closer look on these differences and also on various approaches to adult education that is organised within fablabs. We want to investigate the value of fablabs to local communities, as they truly provide open access to lifelong learning and social and economic innovation for all citizens.