“Digital Do It Yourself”, an interview with Luca Mari, coordinator of the DiDIY project
Digital Do It Yourself (DiDIY) is a socio-technological phenomenon of growing importance, due to the widespread availability of technological devices and applications –3D printers, rapid prototyping boards such as Arduino and Raspberry PI, and more – which make the production of “material and immaterial objects” easier and more economic, coupled with increased accessibility of online data, projects and knowledge.
Creativity is now within everyone’s reach and in the emerging scenarios the traditional distinction between producers and consumers will gradually disappear, with opportunities and problems affecting individuals, organizations and the society as a whole. We discussed these complex issues with Professor Luca Mari from Carlo Cattaneo University – LIUC of Castellanza, coordinator of the DiDIY project, funded by the European Commission under the Horizon 2020 programme, involving international partners including the Polytechnic University of Milan, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Westminster, American College of Thessaloniki, Ab.Acus and Free Knowledge Institute.
Professor Mari, how is Digital Do It Yourself changing our relationship with objects?
The spread of personal computers has led to the well-established idea that digital technology has to do with the immateriality of software. This is not wrong, but it is incomplete: with digital devices, such as 3D printers, projects become printed objects, and other digital devices, such as those of the Internet of Things, collect data from the physical world. We have named this phenomenon Atoms-Bit Convergence –ABC, a possible new language of knowledge.
What will be the impact on working environments?
Industrial automation transfers the work of human beings to technology systems. What options do we have to prevent this from increasing unemployment and inequalities? Those engaged in DiDIY, by themselves or as a community, are testing new ways to use technology tools. If we manage to direct this change, we will learn how to use technology not only to produce in our place, but also to broaden our creativity.
And what about education systems?
If the hypothesis about the future of work makes sense, school takes on the critical function of helping people to develop the attitude and the pleasure of doing things in a creative manner. The value of being able to repeat, which school has found in Taylorism, is not eliminated but loses its centrality. The much discussed fourth industrial revolution, if there ever is one, will have to be this one: people and communities, “technology-based” creatives, who regain a central position in the society to create value.
What personal and collective benefits can come from its diffusion?
DiDIY can help improve the ability to concretely solve concrete problems, which are not only something to avoid “to have a quiet life”, but tools that can improve ourselves and the environment around us. A DiDIYer often discovers problems, rather than their solutions. Just like some startuppers. I have no doubt that a greater diffusion of the entrepreneurial spirit would be of great benefit to individuals and the community.
What are the risks?
The diffusion of DiDIY certainly generates concerns which need to be considered carefully. For example, if consumers progressively become producers, “prosumers” according to Toffler, what will happen with “self-made” objects in terms of warranty and legal liability for damages caused by defective products? Not to mention the issue of “self-made” weapons or drugs: there is an ethical dimension in DiDIY still to be discovered.
What are the regulatory and legal aspects of the so-called “shared knowledge”?
DiDIY often has an explicit orientation towards open knowledge, but not all types of DiDIY are shared, and, of course, there are contexts of shared knowledge unrelated to DiDIY. A matter of great importance is what we may call the “rights to do”, starting with the results of the work of others: between copyright and copyleft. The experience of open source/free software and Creative Commons licenses is a reference.
Recently you have signed the “DiDIY Manifesto”. What are the aims of this document?
With our project we tried to better understand the phenomenon of DiDIY, while it is still under development, but also to propose guidelines for public and private decision-makers who, understanding the potential of what is happening, want to help direct the phenomenon towards goals of social relevance. Our Manifesto is the synthesis of these guidelines: a short presentation of the social objectives that we shared with the people involved in the project.