May 3, 2016 | By Tess

Thingiverse, the 3D model sharing platform, is known for fostering innovation and open-source sharing within the maker community, as it allows people from all over the world to share and 3D print innumerable designs, from quadcopters, to home decorations, to handy tools and even to art. Recently, however, the platform has been used for something else, which has stirred up some controversy amongst the Thingiverse community.

Shiv Integer, which users of Thingiverse may have come across, is not your ordinary Thingiverse maker, as the profile is actually a bot which has been programmed to create strange 3D object models based off of existing Thingiverse designs. The bot, which has been active now for several months, has made over 300 of these mashed-up, glitchy 3D models, and has provoked a number of responses from Thingiverse users, ranging from frustration and anger, to support and enthusiasm.

Just last month, two artists, Matthew Plummer-Fernandez and Julien Deswaef, took credit for the creation of Shiv Integer in their exhibit The Art of Bots, which was hosted at London’s Somerset House. The realization that two artists were behind the project, which some believe to be a spambot, hMatthas shed some light onto the motivations behind the project as well as begged the eternal question of “what is art?”.

As the artists explain of their project: “Shiv Integer is a bot that inhabits Thingiverse, a site for sharing 3D printable models. The bot downloads models and uses them to make randomised mash-ups that get posted back on Thingiverse. The bot adheres to the Creative Commons copyright licensing granted by the model’s authors, only remixing files that are published with the freedom to be modified. The bot has been running anonymously since February, receiving hundreds of complaints and online harassment from the Thingiverse community, amid a few fans responding with poetry and defending its rights.”

As mentioned, the bot does adhere to the Creative Commons licensing and only toys with 3D models that have been licensed for remixing, but even its being a bot has raised some questions about its legality on the Thingiverse platform, which explicitly forbids bots and site scraping in its Terms of Use. Other criticisms have also been aimed at Shiv Integer, including the concern over its saturation of the Thingiverse front page. Some believe that Shiv Integer, which uploads several of its almost surrealist 3D designs a day, is unfairly affecting other makers’ visibility, as the constant stream of uploads pushes real 3D designs further down on the front page at a quicker rate.

Along with this concern, is the annoyance that makers whose designs are remixed by the bot get email notifications every time this occurs. To fix this, a number of Thingiverse makers have suggested to the artists behind Shiv Integer to put their bot onto a separate platform, removing it from Thingiverse’s website altogether. So far, the artists have yet to respond to the users and have yet to address the concerns raised by the Thingiverse community at large.

Another prevalent concern raised by the existence of the Thingiverse bot has been the quite heavy question of what constitutes art. Though the pieces the bot generates would not look out of place in most contemporary art galleries, many people criticized the project saying that a robot could not make art. The names of the 3D models, themselves mash ups of the original model names, are themselves amusing and though many of them are simply random, some do suggest some sort of artistic motivation. With titles like “Dual Elf near a ram,” “Sweet compound hummingbird,” and “Head merged with a single bookcase”, one could easily imagine these designs displayed as art.

Of course, the short answer would be, yes the project is art, simply judging by the fact that two artists conceived of it in the first place. On Shiv Integer’s About Me page, the artists also state the following to answer the question, “Yes, this is art made from found objects and using chance, collage, generative and remix approaches. Art has been made using these methods for a century.” Even as art, however, the question of whether the bot belongs on the Thingiverse platform remains.

 

 

Posted in 3D Design

 

 

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Corey Warren wrote at 5/4/2016 2:18:52 AM:

Thingiverse is a platform for 3d files. It allows for end users to download and 3d print the objects. I am willing to bet that not one single individual has downloaded any of these pieces of "art" and 3d printed them. They belong on another platform dedicated to "art."

ModernGnome wrote at 5/4/2016 12:14:14 AM:

Ignoring the fact that these (293+ at the time of this writing) misleadingly named files are diluting the value of Thingiverse by making it harder to find non-garbage files, the most relevant factor here is the fact that this bot violates the Thingiverse terms of use. I happen to think that this so-called "art" is garbage, but that's not a good enough reason to request their removal. But violating the site's Terms Of Use *is*. The link below confirms that the model assemblies, file names and their accompanying postings were created by a bot. It has been confirmed by the OP as "created by an automated 'art-bot.'" Thus, these posts violate several Thingiverse Terms Of Use: the scraping may be considered site manipulation Bot postings may be considered Site mayhem Server space costs money, so it also violates the "if this thing cost us any money..." clause. Section 3.3 forbids spam, and specifically disallows harvesting data or to "introduce software or automated agents or scripts to the Sites or Services so as to produce multiple accounts, generate automated searches, requests and queries, or to strip, scrape, or mine data from the Sites or Services." http://prostheticknowledge.tumblr.com/post/139750860306/shiv-integer-automated-art-bot-constructs-new

ModernGnome wrote at 5/4/2016 12:04:19 AM:

It violates the Thingiverse terms of use. The link below confirms that the model assemblies, file names and their accompanying postings were created by a bot. It has been confirmed by the OP as "created by an automated 'art-bot.'" Thus, these posts violate several Thingiverse Terms Of Use: the scraping may be considered site manipulation Bot postings may be considered Site mayhem Server space costs money, so it also violates the "if this thing cost us any money..." clause. Section 3.3 forbids spam, and specifically disallows harvesting data or to "introduce software or automated agents or scripts to the Sites or Services so as to produce multiple accounts, generate automated searches, requests and queries, or to strip, scrape, or mine data from the Sites or Services." http://prostheticknowledge.tumblr.com/post/139750860306/shiv-integer-automated-art-bot-constructs-new



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