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“Grassroots industrial design”: My latest Slate column

By now, you’ve no doubt heard of casemodding — the geek craze for stuffing the guts of a computer into an interesting, weird, or useful case. My latest column for Slate uses casemodding as a jumping-off point to argue that what’s happening is the rise of “grassroots industrial design”: Cheap electronics components making it possible for people to design their own digital-age tools. As I argue:

When was the last time you trimmed goose quills to make a pen? The genius idea of industrialism was the concept of the Model T: In exchange for something cheap and well-made, we’d forgo unique, lovely design.

But the Model T is old news. Nowadays, people want consumer goods to have serious aesthetic appeal. If they can’t find what they want in stores, they’ll build it themselves. You could call it “grass-roots industrial design.”

You can read the rest of it for free — and if you have any thoughts, post ‘em in Slate’s discussion area The Fray! That casemod above, by the way, is the lead example in my piece: The gorgeous “Osh-Kosh”, a computer stuffed into an old-school vanity case for use as a portable DJing device, created by Dustin Smith.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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