There is a fundamental need to modify the world around us that is amplified, but not addressed, by the rising tide of data in our lives. This “Fabrication Divide” is a largely unspoken corollary of the much-studied “Digital Divide”. Unprecedented sociocultural and political expression is emerging from an international network of Community Design Labs (a.k.a. Makerspace, Hackerspaces, etc...) in response to this novel challenge. In a fascinating example, a well-established German CDL called Chaos Computer Club protested a proposed biometric passport system by acquiring the proposing minister's fingerprints from a drinking glass and publishing them on wearable mylar strips in the magazine Die Datenschleuder, thus demonstrating the unrecoverable nature of lost biometric passwords and ultimately dooming the proposal.
The OpenLab research project is seeking to identify the impact of CDLs on social and political behavior in Hungary, particularly in terms of civic participation and technological innovation within youth culture. Over the past 20 years, these community centers have spread across much of the world, allowing citizens to engage challenging problems across multiple scales from encrypted communications networks for human-rights journalists to very low cost pre-fab toilets that generate energy. Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig, in his 2008 book Remix, borrows terms from digital storage to cast this looming cultural shift as a return from a brief period of “Read-Only” to the historical norm of “Read/Write” activity, with passive consumption being replaced by active creation, modification and transmission.