If you sat down and made a “pros” and “cons” list of the ways in which the internet has changed or at least had a notable impact on your life, what might your list look like? Would it be heavy on one side or the other? Fairly even? I found an amusing list on which the pros and cons were identical and everything depended upon your perspective. My two favorites were: “You can see what your friends are up to” and “Anyone can easily share their ideas.”
Seriously, though. Inasmuch as the internet can be a true life- and time-saver (who doesn’t cherish the convenience of internet banking and shopping?), it can also be the place where ownership and originality go to die. That’s the sentiment echoed by Kanye West after he found himself staring down a future in which 3D printing figures significantly in pretty much every direction a person might turn.
West visited Armenia with his family, a visit that was documented in a recent episode of the television show Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and had an opportunity to visit the Tumo Centre for Creative Technologies in Yerevan, the capital city of Armenia. It’s the largest city in the country and, incidentally, one of the longest inhabited cities in the world. Yerevan is on the cutting edge where 3D printing technology and digital design is concerned and, to foster further growth in the industry, companies like Tumo are ensuring that the young people of Armenia enter adulthood with “a competitive edge in a digital world,” as their website proclaims.
Tumo merges art and technology, providing after-school educational programs for kids from 12 to 18. They’re learning animation, web design, robotics, filmmaking, and more via hands-on practice. Kanye’s tour, which would surely have impressed most anyone, instead apparently set off alarm bells for the aspiring fashion designer, who made his debut in that regard last spring to mixed reviews by the industry elite but accolades from his fans. When he saw firsthand at Tumo what 3D printing could do for the fashion and, specifically, textile industry he wasn’t whistling a happy tune.
“This is what I’m afraid of because the Internet destroyed the music industry and now, this is what we’re afraid of right now with the textile industry,” West remarked.
Rather than being impressed with the capacity of 3D printing to reduce costs and close the gap between design, prototyping, and manufacture, West sees a dismal future where–gasp!–people are “making their shoes at home.” The musical-performer-turned-fashion-designer, who just recently released the second edition of his collection, an intriguing meditation on gender and androgyny, race, nudity, and more, which he calls Yeezy, took a rather dim view of what most people in the industry see as a dazzlingly bright future for 3D designing and printing and, while he probably has a point where both music and clothing and some of the major drawbacks of digital technology are concerned, perhaps he’d worry less if he knew that, aside from bespoke clothing, shoes and accessories, the fashion industry is still far from the point of seeing 3D printed prêt à porter replace conventional textile and garment manufacturing processes.
More to the point, rather than focusing on the potentially negative impact of the 3D revolution on his own work, I wonder how much thought West gave to the phenomenal, positive environment of learning and progress that the folks at Tumo are creating in their bustling corner of the world while Kanye is reorganizing his wife’s closet.
Discuss this story in the Kanye Fears 3D Printing forum on 3DPB.com. Check out this video of work by students at Tumo who 3D printed objects for their stop-motion animation: