BY: ORVIS STARKWEATHER
|Me being scanned using the Skanect software. Photo Credit: Roger Orvis|
If you’d asked me a couple years back about who could create a 3D scan, I would have thought that only a handful of individuals or organizations could have afforded the technology. But last year I encountered Skanect, which since its release in January 2013 has allowed people use a XBox Kinect sensor to create 3D models. Since Skanect is free for non-commercial use and the sensors themselves retail for around $110 new with many cheaper used versions on the market, the technology is surprisingly economical. Additionally, the Toronto Public Library’s three Digital Innovation Hubs have 3D scanners, making the technology even more attainable to residents of the city.
|Bust of a Female Deity captured by David Neff as part of the Met MakerBot Hackathon. Source.|
Thingiverse is a platform where many models are shared mostly with the intention that they will be 3D printed. Many people within the community, however, attach personal stories to the objects and give background information on why they were made or scanned. These objects can exist side by side with art contained in galleries such as this Bust of a Female Deity from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I confess that my scan is technically not a selfie; I enlisted my mom’s help to capture my shape. But when dreaming up a title for this piece, I wanted to emphasize the role of the self in user generated scans. These scans are a way to document and connect to material culture across vast geographies. The ability of publics to share the stories invested in objects offers possibilities for fostering social museological approaches.
|Screenshot of the finished 3D model of me. Photo Credit: Orvis Starkweather.|
The elimination of gatekeepers allows different sorts of collections to be built. Digitized facsimiles allow items that are not museum collection quality to have a public life. Museums have traditionally been selective in which types of bodies are included in their content, but self-scanning expands who is allowed to be represented and how. Additionally, scattered content creation locations can disrupt notions of the superiority of the center over periphery regions.
When encountering an exhibition, I often ask myself “Who does this museum serve? Who is excluded? Where does the balance of power lie between the creators of an exhibition and the source communities represented?” While certainly not a panacea to such complex issues, self-generated 3-D scans are one tool out of many that can be used to chip away unequal systems. They also come with their own set of limitations which should be carefully considered and complicated. Technologies, even affordable ones, always establish boundaries over who can access them.