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Sebastian Piatza: “We want to bring creative technologies to rural areas”

© Sebastian Piatza

14 June 2018

For people in the country, 3D printers and laser cutters are mostly hundreds of kilometres away. So young people who want to experiment with these digital technologies of the future mostly come away empty-handed. Designer Sebastian Piatza and his colleagues want to change all that. In their mobile laboratory, the “Fabmobil”, they’re heading off to schools, youth centres and other meeting places in eastern Saxony with the aim of bringing digital technologies to the young people who live there.

Name:
Sebastian Piatza

Age:
32

Occupation:
Designer und Designforscher, DIY-Pädagoge und Busfahrer

Website:
www.fabmobil.org // www.theconstitute.org

What is the Fabmobil?
The Fabmobil is a mobile art and cultural laboratory of the future for Upper Lusatia. It’s a double-decker bus equipped with digital technology and machine tools and offers workshops and courses – for kids, teens and older people alike. The aim behind the Fabmobil is to bring creative technologies like 3D printing, virtual reality, robotics and programming to rural areas. To re-energise and lend new vitality to what’s already on offer and create new digital and contemporary cultural and hands-on formats. The Fabmobil regularly hits the roads in eastern Saxony, calling in at schools, youth centres and meeting places.

How did the idea come about?
The idea grew out of an intensive study of rural areas and the prevailing demand to be found there for new and digital technologies. Many young people have moved away, and there is virtually nothing happening in terms of innovative or contemporary developments in rural and far-flung areas. Our commitment also has a political angle, since, with our projects and workshops, we’re working with open systems and thereby of course creating a more open society.

What are your objectives with the Fabmobil?
In the rural areas of eastern Germany there is a gaping void when it comes to cultural and political education and training in the new media. The aim of this project is to develop a deeper understanding of the digitalised world of today and tomorrow by regularly designing, testing and working with new technologies. In our opinion, this is essential if you're going to get anywhere in life in the 21st century. Our discussions focus above all on cultural, social and socio-political issues. For us it's a personal priority to make a socio-political and sustainable contribution to improving the cultural, artistic and social skills of young people in these areas.

"With the Fabmobil the information material is being more widely disseminated, and we’re generating awareness of a regional cultural programme which could lead to the forging of new networks."

Sebastian Piatza

Why did you opt for a rolling laboratory?
The Fabmobil allows us to reach young people directly, which is a huge advantage in the countryside. With its intergenerational programme, the Fabmobil connects young smartphone professionals with experienced and, in some cases, retired technical experts - giving rise to a long-term and intergenerational learning process. The mobile character of the project is leading to closer ties between the cultural and training centres spread through the region. In this way, the information material is being more widely disseminated, and we’re generating awareness of a regional cultural programme which could lead to the forging of new networks.

But the biggest challenge is ...
… the lack of time at our disposal. We need more time and more resources to broaden out the project.

Why did you choose eastern Saxony as the location for your project?
Because that's where we’re originally from. I'm a Sorb, my colleague Christian Zöllner is from Upper Lusatia ... We’re rooted in the region in many ways. But without any overly sentimental attachment to the region as home.

"We're going to continue touring eastern Saxony in the Fabmobil in 2019."

Sebastian Piatza

How is tinkering with 3D printers, laser cutters or robotics building kits contributing to the emancipation of young people?
Independent initiatives to acquire the skills needed for machine functions and processes are a shining example for many things in digital contexts. It's all about getting started in a straightforward way, asking questions, researching in online fora, being together constructively, and shared intercultural and interdisciplinary work ... This gives people an experience of self-realisation and leads to emancipation.

What's next for the Fabmobil?
We're going to continue touring eastern Saxony in the Fabmobil in 2019. But we may also make forays into other regions; who knows, maybe there'll be a mini-Fabmobil.

Which digital product has yet to be invented?
A time machine. Although you'd have to ask the question: “Would it need to be digital?”

And which products can you do without?
99% of all devices and services that begin with the word Smart

Would you like a household robot?
Yes, of course.

Which technical application will always remain something of a conundrum for you?
Leaf blowers

When were you last offline for 24 hours?
Offline, online... that’s such a twentieth-century distinction.

A holiday without Wi-Fi - is that a dream or a nightmare?
What's a holiday?

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