So this semester I am teaching a class on 3d printing. One of the advantages of being a chair I guess is that the same person proposing a somewhat out there idea for a class is also the same person approving it. I have managed to track down a handful of classes that are focused on 3d printing, but all of them focus on the engineering aspect of this technology, its uses and applications, or as a way say to quickly model a product prototype. But I am more interested in the social aspect, the cultural side, if 3d printing is the medium what is the message?
But I also didn’t want to have a class that is just talking about 3dprinting. 3d printing has transformed the way I look at the world, in part this is because of all of the reading I do about printing, studying its trends, looking at what is being done in the field, and reading the academic research. But also in part this is because I spend a lot of time printing, actually doing the work of printing in 3 dimensions. Learning by doing. I want to replicate this experience with students. And finally because nothing I have seen students interact with recently has amazed them as much as 3d printing. Students I show this to are genuinely excited about giving it a try and I wanted to harnesses this “excitement” and wonder. You know the old saying about any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic . . .and that sense of magic is a nice starting place from which to begin a class.
I ended up designing a syllabus that tries to capture both of these tracks. You can see the schedule here. The way I designed the course is for Tuesdays to be “theory” days. We will do readings and discussions on these days. My hope is that students will come to appreciate the cultural questions here, but also to understand the longer history of the way that information and materiality are connected and constructed. Thursdays are print days in which early on, I plan to construct exercises to introduce them to printing and hopefully over the second half of the class to turn their creativity loose and see what they come up with.