(In)tangible Arguments about Play, Creativity, and the Political Economy of 3D Printing: The Free Universal Construction Kit

  • Jan Løhmann Stephensen Aarhus University, Denmank
  • Lone Koefoed Hansen Aarhus University, Denmank
Keywords: 3D printing, Intellectual Property Rights, Political Economy, Art, Critical Design, Appropriation, Creativity, Play,


With the increasing economic accessibility of 3D printers, the lessons learned and the logics cultivated on digital Web 2.0 now seem applicable to the world of material things. Released in early 2012 by the artist groups F.A.T. and Sy-lab, the Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of 3D drawings that enable everyone with access to a 3D printer to make connectors between intellectual property restricted toys like LEGO, Tinkertoys, and Fischertechnik. However, when describing this project as “reverse engineering as a civic activity”, it becomes obvious that the Kit’s greater agenda is not just to enable cross-over playing, but rather, to problematize and perhaps ultimately open up closed formats through critical appropriation. But how does that, for instance, conform with the fact that the connectors are parasitically attached to these toys, whose logic it is simultaneously defying? And which (implicit) notions of creativity and play are at stake in this project, and to what extent do they fit the more general philosophical underpinnings of this project?

Author Biographies

Jan Løhmann Stephensen, Aarhus University, Denmank

PhD, Postdoc at the AU IDEAS Pilot Centre The Democratic Public Sphere, Aarhus University, Denmark. He is co-founder and editor of Conjunctions: Transdisciplinary Journal of Participatory Culture. Most recent relevant publications include Kapitalismens ånd & den kreative etik (The Spirit of Capitalism & the Creative Ethic), Aarhus: DARC, 2010; Performative Economics, Knowledge and Creativity: Talking the Creative Economy into Being, in Profiting from Words: the Intellectual History of Economic Normativity, edited by Mikkel Thorup (in press); V-v-Vertov R-r-Re-made — From Avant-Garde Documentary to Participatory Culture: the Digital Journey of Man With a Movie Camera (in press) co-authored with Peter Ole Pedersen.

Lone Koefoed Hansen, Aarhus University, Denmank

Associate Professor in digital design and aesthetics, currently part of PIT, Center for Participatory IT, Aarhus University. Her research focuses on how we might analyze and understand digital technologies through the way that artists use and criticize them. She has published papers in journals and at conferences covering the spectrum of design, aesthetics, social sciences, cultural studies, and IT research.