People have been making things for a long time, yet digital manufacturing techniques have mostly evolved within an industrial context, where the potential input of non-digital craft cultures is largely ignored. The research team led by Amit Zoran and Jennifer Jacobs favor a collaborative approach with indigenous techniques. Seeking methods that can bring us closer to these cultures, he tries to assess how they, in turn, may contribute to digital design tools.
The team set out to the Kalahari Desert in Sub-Saharan Africa, to a hunter-gatherer community which preserves an ancient technique of jewelry-making. Bringing their digital tools with them, the team established a joint workshop with the locals, merging their own digital inventory with the traditional craft of producing beads from ostrich eggshell. The experience raised new insights on making as a form of communication, highlighting the importance of appropriation and immediacy in collaborations, the challenge of combining abstract design tools with concrete approaches, and the value of design and making in communal life.