Nathan Schneider’s article about the Joy of Slow Computing is a fantastic first step to the book the world needs on this subject! It’ll be like the Joy of Cooking or the Joy of Sex (definitive informative work on going deep on the topic in a way that is engaging and timeless). The brogrammer culture that further genders am already male identified dominate culture has made the tech/geek space hustle and unfriendly to folks” the learning curve as people like Lilly have already pointed out. There are of course other intersections of identity to consider in this quest such as race and class. Taking hours to switch your digital life over is something of a luxury for the middle to upper class who either have savings or one job around which they can work on such a time heavy hobby and endeavor. Similar to low income individuals being separated from the tech community because of the high entry price of time that folks need to work their jobs while going to school, etc. There is also the hegemonic nature of tech groups, thankfully changing to better reflect the population at large. But as a black woman, I’ve already experiences how I have to pay a black tax and a gender tax (work twice as hard to get half as much) in other areas of my life and tech spaces are very similar. The proving of oneself already inherent in such spaces is coupled with the surprise, shock, or distrust that a woman, a BLACK one no less can hold her own as a coder/programmer/gamer etc makes that learning curve more like a black diamond slope I’m at the bottom of (as a beginner) and have to schlep my way up to the top without one of those handy ski lifts. More of the culture, as ppl like me join and participate, is forced to change and hopefully together we can flatten the learning curve and lower the cost of entry to slow computing.
Tag-Archive for » machines «
Recently I was up at the Institute of Cultural Inquiry (of which I am a longtime Associate), where I discovered that the ICI has acquired one of the tabletop die-cutters that have become popular in the last few years. This particular model comes with an insert that turns the die-cutter into a small letterpress printer. As one can tell both from the machines themselves—usually plastic and often cast in ‘feminine’ colors like pink and aqua—and the blogs where one finds information about their use (Not Another Craft Blog, Paper Pile Kitten), they are associated almost entirely with those activities that are currently designated as crafting. That is to say, the unimportant, largely unpaid leisure activities of women; the modern descendants of Victorian flower-pressing and hair jewelry. As Lilly observed in an earlier post on DIY, crafting is often cast as the opposite of design, and it’s also often cast as the opposite of technology and skilled work generally (never mind the facts).
What I wanted to talk about here, though, is not so much the problematic social status of crafting itself, but two specific aspects of the circulation of these kinds of small machines. The first might be thought of as a variation on the network effect. Traditionally, letterpress printing and die-cutting have been highly skilled occupations, and their products—hand-printed wedding invitations, small-run artist’s books, high-end PR materials with elaborate cutouts—have largely been luxuries for the well-to-do. The limited market has, in turn, helped to keep the industry small and operating under an almost guildlike mentality. So what happens when thousands of these machines get into the hands of untrained or semi-skilled individuals? Quality of output will initially go down in many cases—at least until the process of education-by-internet takes off—but public appreciation of letterpress printing and die-cutting goes way, way up. Two niche trades rather suddenly become part of a much larger arsenal of broadly practiced design-and-making techniques such as papermaking, woodworking, photography. And as Julia Lupton pointed out in a dialogue with Lilly, you never know what can come of “having access to tools that will help you shape your outlook in dialogue with other people, in ways that might not be predicted.” As with other downsized or simplified technologies—small cameras, for example—it is easy to view these small machines primarily as technological downgrades. But when I think of all those people out there experimenting with their tabletop presses and diecutters, what I see is a field of cultural potentials.
The second aspect of these machines that strikes me is how clearly they reflect the strict partitioning of the larger internet conversations about ‘new’ technology. The sites most associated with geekery, like boingboing or slashdot (not to mention all those ad-supported geek blogger-reviewers), are quick to parse every tiny iteration of the iPhone operating system or the latest inkjet printers. Many of these changes are really minuscule in their practical effects on users and form part of a larger pattern of hyping anything in the computational sphere. DIY technologies get some mention, but almost exclusively in their male-centric forms (think robots and 3D printing of nerdish objects). The development of small, hand-cranked die-cutter/presses whose early adopters include a lot of scrapbookers? Not interested.
The image below is the call-for-entries flyer for a gallery show in nearby Costa Mesa:
“Man and machine”? Are we to understand that the sexualized cyborg babe qualifies as both the man and the machine? Not human, not even woman; a convenient female assemblage of fetishistic flesh and prosthetics. Love that belt—is that the lock of a chastity belt or the metaphorical ‘lock’ of the always-available female? And it’s not enough to propose a union of art and the graphic novel; apparently it has to be a marriage, with all the conventionalized baggage of that state.
The statement of “Exhibition Intent” continues this line of thought:
“Artists will address the idea of man’s manipulation of biological and mechanical systems and their convergence in an improved and customized physiology: the perfection of the species.
I’ll spare you the rest of the futuristic drivel, but the key question appears towards the end of the intent statement:
“Can we, for example, design the perfect mate?”
I’d say the “answer” to this silly question is right there in the ad…
Full info, including show blurb, at the Grace Lane Gallery website.