On the (MIT) class 'How To Make (almost) Anything' and the impact of programmable personal fabricators and Fab Labs http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,69495,00.html -
"These surprises have recurred with such certainty year after year that I began to realize that these students were doing much more than taking a class; they were inventing a new physical notion of literacy. The common understanding of "literacy" has narrowed down to reading and writing, but when the term emerged in the Renaissance it had a much broader meaning as a mastery of the available means of expression. However, physical fabrication was thrown out as an "illiberal art," pursued for mere commercial gain. These students were correcting a historical error, using millions of dollars' worth of machinery for technological expression every bit as eloquent as a sonnet or a painting." pp 7.
"And "art" did not mean just creative expression; it meant much more broadly the mastery that was developed over each of these domains. Liberal arts originally has the rather rousing meaning as a mastery over the means of personal liberation. They're now associated with academic study that is remote from applications, but they emerged in the Renaissance as a humanist pathway to power... Unfortunately, the ability to make things as well as ideas didn't make the cut; that was relegated to the artes illiberales, the "illiberal arts", that one pursued for economic gain. With art separated from artisans, the remaining fabrication skills were considered just mechanical production. This artificial division led to the invention of unskilled labor in the Industrial Revolution." pp 34.
"The invention of industrial automation meant that a single machine could now make many things, but it also meant that a single worker who used to do many things now did only one."
Gershenfeld, Neil, 2005. Fab: the coming revolution on your desktop - from personal computers to personal fabrication. (Basic Books: New York).