Space, Tooling, and the Internet of Things- DIRT and Agency in Archives old and New

Research output: Unpublished conference presentation (presented paper, abstract, poster)Conference presentation (not published in journal/proceeding/book)Academic researchpeer-review


What messiness lies in the gap between the consumption-desire archive of the “internet of things,” and the creation of a physical object? What role do digital archives play in the normalization of aesthetics and industrial production, and what is left out in the transition from pre-information-age messiness? Digital fabrication and customization are creating new, sparklingly clean archives of desire. Places like,, and, store objects in clean, information-only form. The creation of a thing, according to information age industrial logic, is a “file-to-factory”, clean connection between databases and armies of 3-D printers, laser cutters, and CNC mills. Technologists like to think of this as a totalizing progression, not only clean but endlessly iterable and customizable, a tool for ultimate consumer agency. This paper questions the positivism of this technological revolution by examining the messy externalities of old and new production cycles, particularly production in Hong Kong and South China. Surveys, photo essays, and design collaborations with metal workers reveal an older archive of tacit knowledge, social connections, and urban environmental “dirt” that suggests the individualization and normalization of the internet of things may be both less prevalent and more fraught than anticipated. As an examination of a coming colonization of one archive by another, this research asks less how we can stop the transition, but rather proposes objects and design research to embody the strengths and weaknesses on both sides.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusNot published / presented only - 10 Nov 2017
EventDIRT - Intersectional Approaches to Messiness Symposium: Ryerson University Studio for Media Activism - Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
Duration: 10 Nov 201713 Nov 2017


CompetitionDIRT - Intersectional Approaches to Messiness Symposium


  • Digital Fabrication
  • 3D Printing
  • 3D printing technology
  • Digital Culture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture


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