Artists troll Thingiverse with 3D model mashup bot

Shiv Integer is a bot created by artists Matthew Plummer-Fernandez and Julien Deswaef; it downloads Creative Commons-licensed models from Thingiverse, mashes them up into weird and often amazing new shapes, adds machine-generated titles and descriptions to them, and posts them.

So far, so good, but the bot is awfully prolific — it's posted more than 300 models to date — which means that it tends to dominate the front page of Thingiverse, meaning that it pushes off the 3D models that community members have slaved over and posted in the hopes of pleasing their fellow user and getting some kudos in return.

The artists refuse to discuss the project on Thingiverse except on the bot's about page, which defends the project against the charge of spam with some pretty unconvincing art-speak: "These objects have no utilitarian function. The description has been used as best as possible to describe from what they were made and how they were made. There is no rational thought process behind these works…"

Which is a pity, because many of these models are beautiful and fascinating in their own right, and from my perspective, the artistic merits of the project are not improved by causing emotional distress to the creators who provide the raw material for the bot's creations. Recognition is an important currency in projects like Thingiverse, and arrogating it all to your own project is just trolling.

Some users responded by suggesting that perhaps Shiv Integer could put its work on a separate website so that people on Thingiverse would stop getting e-mail alerts when their work was remixed—and so that the bot's work wouldn't shove things down the front page. The artists did not respond nor did they engage with the community beyond their "About Shiv Integer" page. As a result, one has to conclude that part of the intent behind the Shiv Integer project was to troll people on Thingiverse. It was a mild trolling, but it definitely pissed people off. If you look at the comments on the bot's Thingiverse design page, you'll see that most of them are negative, ranging from grumbles to all-caps rage. Perhaps Plummer-Fernandez and Deswaef wanted to figure out a new way to make confrontational art, and this is what they came up with? Or maybe they were just hoping that their bot would roam freely and finally find acceptance among its human counterparts. Either way, Shiv Integer isn't just about quirky, silly gadgets. It is also about making trouble. This bot forces us to wonder whether art and creativity are just another kind of spam.

Shiv Integer [Thingiverse]

That time a bot invaded Thingiverse and created weird new 3D objects
[Annalee Newitz/Ars Technica]

(Images: Shiv Integer)