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Katrien Dreessen, Ollivier Piqueray, Jessica Schoffelen, Danny Leen

Great expectations and big challenges: a FabLab as a facilitator for personal fabrication of tools to self-manage diabetes

Katrien Dreessen, Ollivier Piqueray, Jessica Schoffelen, Danny Leen

Affiliation: Social Spaces, Media, Arts & Design Faculty, LUCA School of Arts/Catholic University Leuven and University Hasselt

Conference activity: Presentation Fri 11th July

Keywords: FabLab, participatory design, personal fabrication

Project summary:

This project discusses a FabLab as a research and production environment within the project Bespoke Design. Bespoke Design (www.designopmaat.be/) deals with the participatory design of self-management tools for and together with people with type 1 diabetes. The project explores the role of FabLab Genk (www.fablabgenk.be) for developing these tools and how sharing and documenting the process of these tools enables others, e.g. people with diabetes or designers, to redesign them (Schoffelen, Huybrechts, Dreessen, 2013).

Although the context of a FabLab as an open and accessible workshop is very beneficial for the idea of personal fabrication, some important challenges remain. A major obstacle is having the necessity of skills and expertise for using the different machines in a FabLab since lack of these will lead to time and cost consuming trial and error, questioning the relevance of developing personalised tools. For instance, to use a 3D-printer one needs to know how to design for it and have specific knowledge of the characteristics of the material. However, we believe that including FabLab Genk in a participatory approach provides the designer and FabLab expert with a new role in these kinds of design projects, i.e. a mediator between the participant and the machinery. Furthermore, designing in this context expands this mediator-role from conceptual design (exploring problems and possibilities through co-design methods and techniques) to the technical production of designs. We will elaborate on this changing role and what its implications are for participatory research projects more specifically applied to the project ‘Bespoke Design’.

A question that arises from your project: What is the role of a designer in a participatory design project that takes place within the context of a FabLab?

Full paper

Dreessen, K., Piqueray, O., Schoffelen, J., & Leen, D., (2014). Great Expectations and Big Challenges: a Fablab as a facilitator for personal fabrication of tools to self-manage diabetes. In K. Bunnell & J. Marshall (Eds.), All Makers Now: Craft Values in 21st Century Production, International Conference Proceedings, Autonomatic Research Group, Falmouth University, 10/11 July 2014 (pp. 37 – 44). Falmouth University, ISBN 978-0-9544187-9-3