The Political Imaginaries of 3D Printing: Prompting Mainstream Awareness of Design and Making

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Design and Culture, 2017, 9 (1), pp. 3 - 27
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© 2017 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. 3D printing is not only a diverse set of developing technologies, it is also a social phenomenon operating within the political imaginary. The past half-decade has seen a surge of “futuring” activity and widespread public attention devoted to 3D printing, which is typically represented as a harbinger of economic revival and political transformation. This article explores how 3D-printed futures are imagined across a broad political spectrum, by undertaking a multidisciplinary analysis of academic and popular literature. Three influential political imaginaries of 3D printing are identified: the maker-as-entrepreneur; the economic revival of the nation state; and commons-based utopias. In spite of stark contrasts in political alignment, these imagined futures share one important thing: an increasing awareness of design, making, and production. This insertion of design into mainstream discourse is an important development for design history and theory, as it potentially enables an increasing public comprehension of the profound significance of design in the world, in both historical and contemporary terms.
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