15 March 2010

I'm a Fan of the J-bad FabLab

Given my musings about making (manufacturing?) organizational change the past couple of days, I thought I'd take a moment to mention an interesting experiment in fabrication and communication happening in Jalalabad, Afghanistan (aka "J-bad," at least according to some buddies who have been there). The whole FabLab movement involves a loosely connected worldwide network of small manufacturing shops to custom-build needed technology and design solutions at a local level.

Wow. That was a mouthful of jargon. Let me try again: FabLabs design and build cool stuff cheap, in order to effect change at a local level. Here in the American Midwest, there are examples at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, as well as one up in Wisconsin.

But, like I said above, it's also reaching all the way to Afghanistan.

Blogger Kanani Fong, who writes variously on military and mil-spouse issues, the writer's craft, and the art and business of fashion--along with her armed-and-dangerous-civilian buddies at Free Range International--has been relaying the story of how a couple of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) faculty and students have been, among other things, installing a Wi-Fi network in Jalalabad. Apparently, these "FabFi" types have been beating the technological pants off of better-funded efforts by more-established agencies.

As an architectural geek, I've always daydreamed about hooking up with a multidisciplinary, purposeful design effort--like Samuel Mockbee's Rural Studio, Stanley Tigerman's Archeworks, or Cameron Sinclair and Kate Stohr's Architecture for Humanity.

As a technology and communications guy for the U.S. Army, I'm also really digging the technological character of the J-bad project.

And, of course, there's the appeal of a hands-on, do-it-yourself, be-the-change, think-global-act-local approach to solving the world's problems.

In other words, I think I'm an Afghan FabLab and FabFi Fan.

Go to Fong's blog to see how you might be able to help the Afghan FabLab by donating books via Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. Great article.
    Should any of us be surprised that a small group of computer geeks have totally bypassed a larger project by the World Bank & USAID, to get the city of J-bad outfitted with Wifi?

    Oh, Amy got the books. They were heaped on her desk, however, Amazon failed to include packing slips to say who they were from. She figured it out by going online, but it wasn't easy.

    Anyway, we're going to discuss the whole reading room thing. The books are being selected by Afghan university professors, as well as by Afghans who have recently graduated from the local university with a master's degree and work for FabLab.

    We're hoping to get a better way of distribution, since they don't have an APO. Marc Danziger (Winds of change.net) knows a lot of people, having at one time been the COO of Spirit of America. So he and I will work with Amy to get it set up.


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