Free and Native

Native is the journal of the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, which is a joint initiative between Arts Council England, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Nesta. They recently commissioned me to write about Makers, the New Industrial Revolution by Chris Anderson, and you can see the rather sceptical article I wrote here.

Anderson is best known as the populariser of the ideas of ‘free’ as a business model, and of ‘the long tail’. Makers is his take on 3D printing and how it might revolutionise manufacturing, amongst other things. You can read the essay for my full take. I can see all sorts of creative possibilities – I want to see a machine version of Raymond Queneau’s One Hundred Thousand Billion Sonnets – but take issue with his enthusiasm for exploitative business models, for the seemingly trivial uses this technology is being put to (so far, I admit) and for the idea that more is better. This is my conclusion, responding particularly to his line ‘What we will see is simply more’:

‘I’d argue our task is to use the kind of technological and social changes Anderson describes to think about Less and Fewer. How do we add to the beauty and richness of the world with less damage to the environment? How do we, in the Western world, learn together to live with less? How do we make a more sustainable living? How do we wean ourselves off the sugar rush of buying ‘stuff’ to make ourselves feel better? Especially if it’s a 3D printed Sharpie holder?’

Gillian Welch’s rather pithier response to the idea of Free can be enjoyed in the video above.