A future of bricolage

Could new technologies and different business models combined with a healthy dose of necessity see us run quickly into the age of bricolage? While in literature “bricolage”  means to create a work of art from diverse pieces or forms, in a wider sense it means to create a product or service from whatever is at hand.

While bricolage has long been the default approach of the very poor, and by the way a source of innovative ideas for the developed world if we look carefully enough, there are a good reasons to suggest that the rest of us may soon join them.  Why? Because the costs of participating in an increasingly unsustainable consumption society will make some of what we now take for granted either unaffordable or unobtainable. Bricolage may become the hallmark of resilience.

This may not be a bad thing. In the process, many of us may rediscover the joy of ‘creating’ or ‘fashioning’ or ‘growing’ things that have high levels of emotional investment and oft times more than a little ingenuity. Bricolage is after all the default option for children with little understanding  of, or access to money, as they create gifts for their parents – or at least it was before we allowed them to be turned into consumers before they could barely talk!

Soon bricolage will have a few helpers along the way. The advent of 3D printing – the ability to ‘spray print’  or form through ink jets three dimensional objects – will provide a platform where designers can bypass mass production techniques and connect directly to small scale manufacture close to the source of consumption. For example, I know of instances where designers of ‘rally’ car parts operate in one corner of the room and formers are creating those parts in almost real time in the other.

As the technologies related to this manufacturing revolution become better understood those who can design will multiply, the products that are possible will explode and the materials used will proliferate beyond our wildest imaginings. This design and manufacturing revolution will drive the bricolage phenomena. In the end we might wonder how it was that we once experienced a society where we allowed ourselves to be seduced by an ocean of poorly made generic products not specifically tailored to our needs, made without our input. Makes the idea of bricolage sound almost fun.

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