Seems like every week there is some new type of punk steering aesthetics or technology. From punk rock, to post-punk, Cyberpunk, Steampunk, even Biopunk, these gritty ways of life have tried to gain your interest and allegiance. Humblefacture, thought also an ethos which could result in a distinctive styling of product, will hopefully escape the fadish fadings of these movements. But in order to imagine what Humblefacture might become, it might help to compare it to the latest crowd of punks onto the scene -- the Bushpunks.
Bushpunk is an entirely new word -- with only a handful of Google hits, and no Wikipedia page, it almost doesn't exist. It's not mine. As far as I know, that honor goes to Bunmi Oloruntoba, who has used it occasionally on his blog A Bombastic Element since August of last year. The general consensus (shared by uber-game-mistress Jane McGonigal) is that projects like those shown at last year's Maker Faire Africa defined this genera. In the words of Bunmi:
[Bushpunk taps] "a power source that's already there, hence necessitating a world of low-fi tech gadgets and devices which, like root hairs, are desperate to tap the power source of the sun, soil, air and what have you for that extra mobile phone or laptop charge. Thus, in Bushpunk, gadgetry makes everything take on a root hair-like quality desperate to tap everything around it for the purpose of charging the batteries of a more conventional world."In this definition, Bushpunk is a response to a world that is trying to achieve the function of high technology (wireless communication, computing, automation) without being to afford to costs of high technology (high infrastructure manufacturing, fossil fuel inputs, high quality energy). This is what interests me. Take a second. Stop imagining these Bushpunk innovators as dark-skinned people in faraway deserts. Now imagine instead that they are perpetually unemployed people in Detroit or Philadelphia; Imagine they areold guard hippies who have given up fossil fuels in Seattle or San Fransisco; Imagine that they are self sufficient ranchers in Colorado, Idaho, or Iowa. Take away the bush, and you've still got a valid need.
No matter where we are, we are realizing that we want (even need) the function of high technology, but cannot afford to pay the costs, particularly in terms of fossil fuel use, or excessive energy consumption of any kind. We need the root-hair technologies, accessible on a local or regional level, that can afford us these functions.
For another perspective on the same problem, take a look at this TED talk from Louise Fresco on how to feed the world. Unfortunately, she takes a common TED tact, and presents a false dichotomy: That we must choose Wonderbread or whole meal bread -- high energy low labor high tech, or low energy high labor low tech.
However, toward the end of the talk, she presents a very interesting graph:
In it, she describes where she thinks that modern science and technology could bring high quality food to more people without going back to all the bad things of pre-industrial agriculture. This is the third choice of that false dichotomy. This is what Humblefacture aims to do for manufacturing: Not to send us back to hand craft for the sake of increasing labor, but to empower more people to seize the reins of their situation, whether they are at the top of the pyramid, or the bottom.
The humble in Humblefacture makes it maleable: it is the "*punk" waiting to be definied as Bush, Bio, Steam, or Cyber by the situation and people who adopt it.