Trip to V&A – Modernities aboundeth

Had a working from home day and spent the afternoon at the V&A fuelling more thoughts on a presumably upcoming article/talk on digital materiality.

Ventured to the rapid response and modernist collections which I don’t often do. There’s always something fun about analysing the material product through the theoretical framework of the designer/maker in question.

A photo of the display of 'The Toaster Project' by Thomas Thwaite. There is a homemade toaster and the associated casing. Around it are all the tools used to create the casing, to smelt the metals and so on.Really dug Thomas Thwaites ‘The toaster project’. Design often obscures the truth about thermodynamic symmetry – that time and effort saved at one end of a process will incur a cost at another. This is one reason why the question of ethical design or ethical tech is either insultingly trivial or stereotypically complex – the time saved in a washing machine (for example) is taken in the form of excavating, purifying and shaping metal ores to provide circuit components. To reiterate a question asked at Sheffield’s doc fest panel, asking whether a particular example of tech is ethical requires a strong stomach.

The conservation of energy has financial as well as work-based components. The fact that a cheap toaster costs £120k to reproduce by hand speaks volumes about the hidden siphonings throughout the process.

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African metallurgical practices

A list of papers, books and other readings on topic of African technological practices from before contact with European imperialists:

Departments and Projects

Pre-colonial African metallurgy

 

People

Peter Schmidt

Louse Iles