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Bling! Bling! The ‘Bling’ 3D Printer is Much More than a Pretty Machine

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bling4Technology is what has led us to become the race that we are today: the human race. You know, Homo Sapiens, the species that originated hundreds of thousands of years ago, innovating, inventing, and experimenting its way to where we are today. Technology has led us to not just one industrial revolution, but two, and some believe we are on the brink of yet a third industrial revolution, thanks in part to 3D printing. 3D printing is a relatively new technology, especially when you consider that humans have graced the earth for hundreds of thousands of years.

I remember when the first affordable PCs hit the market. I was a youngster, only in grade school, but I caught on to the new technology within a few days, while my grandparents just couldn’t seem to grasp it. With all new technology, there are past ideologies that must be thrown out the window in order for the “new way of thinking” to take hold. I must admit that it took me a while to get used to not only the technology behind 3D printing, but also the reasoning for it, when consumer-level 3D printers became widely available a couple years ago.

For one sociologist, named Lina Bergstrom, from Denmark, 3D printing represented much more than simply a new technology. It represented a metaphor for general unfamiliarity.

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“I am a sociologist that studies open knowledge and new technologies,” Bergstrom tells 3DPrint.com. “I have just finished my master’s thesis about peer production, using the 3D printer (the RepRap project) as a case. I have also studied Danish hackerspaces and hacker culture, and I built the ‘Bling’ [3D] printer when I started to investigate development of technology in the civil sphere as a part of my master’s degree.”

It would be an understatement to say that 3D printing technology and sociology don’t seem to have much in common. In fact, they are part of two separate realms of study. One looks at social behavior, while the other is a form of robotics. How on earth could a sociologist use 3D printing to get a better understanding of human behavior?

“Coming into this field of hacking and 3D printing, I saw that there were many items that I had not seen before, [nor] knew the name or function of,” explains Bergstrom. “It was for me, in a way, just as foreign as taking to an unfamiliar country and I could feel myself distanced from the visual expression, and thus I [also lost] the ability to interact with the features of the technology. I am the kind of person [who] always makes everything and never [is] afraid to start a new project, so I was asking myself; why are you not building technology?”

bling2In Bergstrom’s view, 3D printing represented something. It represented something rather complex, in the way in which the technology made her feel. It was a metaphor for the feelings one gets when introduced to a foreign society.

If you have ever visited a foreign country, where you do not speak their native language, you probably understand the feelings of helplessness, and feeling as though you were almost invisible to the society around you. This is the way 3D printing made Bergstrom feel: completely lost, and rather helpless.

So, unlike many people who refuse to visit places where they can not understand the culture, language, or people, Bergstrom instead decided not to let these feelings conquer her, but rather to face the technology head on.

“I had the feeling that if I were to work on this, I was forced to absorb it,” explained Bergstrom. “The technology should not be foreign to me. Building the printer was definitely a learning process where I learned about technology, but it was also a process where I worked with my own inferiority towards technology, which I considered to be foreign and ‘dangerous’. The ‘Bling’ 3D printer is an exploration of my own reservations about technology and its visual expression.

The printer is a study of my own dissociation from the elements that the technology consisted of, and playing with technology terms, as well as an attempt to inculcate it in my own universe, as an extension of my own identity,” explains Bergstrom. “In this project, I have toyed with the symbolic values in a field [which] I had never had social contact with before, and therefore felt foreign to.”

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The results of this project are quite stunning. The ‘Bling’ 3D printer is not only a work of art, but it is a representation of a form of social anxiety faced by many in the world today. It also represents the hurdles faced by previous generations when being thrust into a world that is always improving upon its current technology. While it can be a very scary realm for many, it is also what has led us through those two industrial revolutions, with that potential third revolution on the horizon for humanity.

What do you think about what this 3D printer represents, and what do you think about ideas behind it? Discuss in the ‘Bling’ 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.

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