Reflections on the Reading
I found each of the readings we went through during the past few weeks enlightening in one way or another. Whether it was McCarthy’s Engineering definitions were quite interesting as someone who comes from the field. Her definitions encompass the soft and hard sciences in ways that I could relate to as someone who came from a computer engineering background but am now in a design+art field.
However, the readings I had a more substantial reaction to was Lipson’s “biofabricating” chapter. Despite its informational about the evolution of bioprinting and associated fabricating technologies in conjunction with stem cell printing was helpful, it felt very strongly optimistic on the future of the field. Particularly, when it starts talking about prosthetics and bone implants, I cannot help but be skeptical of the transhumanist ideas. Sure, utilizing prosthetics has been the central driving force for assistive tech and design but using it to enhance an able-bodied human might result in a body race which you can imagine would immediately draw the interest of corporates ushering in a new wave of biological inequality.
It is something to keep in mind, that technological conservatism isn’t always a bad thing, particularly when you’re trying to figure out the exact implications and contexts within which these new technologies will be arising.
Reflections on the Industry City Trip
The Industry City trip was a fascinating look into the fabrication industry particularly with the MakerBot. I was fascinated primarily by how their floor layout was cleanly segmented into two sections divided by a wall with glass windows. On one side was the design team, with clean floors, cubicles and an aesthetic that wouldn’t be far from a Silicon Valley tech startup company that Makerbot is seldom identified with.
On the other side was the assembly and manufacturing of the components of the different Makerbot printer models. As we passed from one side to the other, the transition was jarring and reminded me of just how stark the contrast was between these two places that shared the same workplace on the floor.
Of course, it was easy to notice too the demographic split between the two sections. The design/tech cubicle part of the office was dominated by young, white males while the manufacturing part was mostly filled with women and people of color.
It felt to indicate a recurring ideology from Makerbot about adopting Silicon Valley/neoliberal capitalist policies while thinking they were somehow “above” (read: better) than those tech startups in San Francisco. This was particularly reflected when they described the reason they were in NYC and hadn’t outsourced their labor to a more industrial part of the country and they referred to the short distance between their HQ and their manufacturing and design team which felt more like a sidestep than an actual answer to the question. Even the mild joking of the fact that Makerbot wasn’t outsourcing their labor to other countries (for cheaper solutions) made them superior than other tech companies merely hinted the deep-rooted issues in the “maker” community of the holier than thou attitude.
The trip to Eyebeam was fascinating even if I had been there before and knew Erica and some of the other residents from having worked with them at an event last year. It was interesting to see some of the conceptual work that some of the artists were engaging in which has become synonymous with the Eyebeam Residency program. It was a bit weird to be staring at artists’ workplaces in their absence, almost as a relic of what they had left behind in their absence.