While writing my dissertation, I found (unsurprisingly) that the footnotes were some of the most exciting parts. Because of that, I’ve decided to pull those footnotes out of the dissertation and present them on their own. In this form, they lack their original context, but they become, I think, a small story of their own.
Just the footnotes
1 Its publisher claims a combined online and print readership of 216,000 (Rogers Publishing, n.d.), a not inconsiderable amount in Canada’s relatively small market.
2 It might be instructive at this point to look at a concept from Ruth Schwartz Cowan (1983), who argues that housework is a decentralization of tasks which, if given over to industry, would be centralized. She offers the examples of laundry, meal preparation, and child care. Industrial versions of these services take advantage of economies of scale in a way that individuals cannot, and might even be capable of providing a better service than a single housewife (or increasingly, a cooperative, task-sharing family), given the ability of industry to specialize. We could view the home 3D printer as an equivalent, but opposite move: turning more of the work of the manufacturing industry into housework.
3 Or at least its peak of popular recognition. Braverman (1974) argues that we no longer talk about scientific management not because it no longer exists, but simply because the dominant paradigm does not need to have a name.
4 Scientific management didn’t just stop in factories and offices, but also made its way onto bodies, and especially those of women: “Recasting corset fitting as a science in the 1920s relied on the widespread knowledge and faith in the practices of scientific management. The transformation of industrial work in the early twentieth century through implementation of the concepts of efficiency and rationalization, as well as the turn to technology for problem-solving promoted de-skilling of workers, and thus loss of an important basis of their power in the workplace. Utilizing the ideologies of scientific management, corset manufacturers transformed the consumption experiences of saleswomen and their customers when they bought, sold and wore corsets. While this strategy sought to keep women customers bound in corsets, it did, at least temporarily, give corset saleswomen a measure of new status and prestige. However, women’s bodies were literally the vehicle for the successful shifting of scientific management ideologies from the workplace to the marketplace and the home” (Fields, 1999, p. 370).
5 Conversely, one might try to fit into norms and standards through tactics like—in the case of fitting into the norms of fashion—the use of constrictive undergarments like the corset. As Fields (1999) argues, through the use of charts and classifications, women shopping for corsets in the early 20th century were encouraged to find fault with their bodies, as “[m]anufacturers and retailers colluded in subjecting women to the scrutiny and discipline of scientific rationalization” (p. 373).
6 F/LOSS, Free/Libre Open Source Software, is an inclusive term for a whole family of software development and distribution practices and ideologies. The Free/Libre Software and Open Source Software movements/communities share some practical similarities and have a number of ideological differences. Crucial to the narrative of this dissertation is that all F/LOSS prizes the idea that source code, the human-readable code in which software is written, should be available to all users, who should also be free to modify and re-distribute it. This holds true of both Free/Libre Software and Open Source Software. The primary differences between software termed “Open” and software termed “Free” or “Libre” run along ideological lines. As Richard Stallman, one of the founders of the Free Software movement puts it, “[o]pen source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative” (2009, p. 31). All of this is to say that the concept of Open Source is often used pragmatically, while the use of the term Free Software, and the adjacent term Libre, implies a fundamentally political viewpoint which puts the idea of user freedom at the centre of its thinking. In practice, possibly because of this distinction, the idea of Free/Libre software is often associated with activism and grassroots applications for software and its development, while Open Source is considered a business-ready mode of software development and distribution. For the purposes of this dissertation, however, all of these factors are collapsed into one concept. To me, there is something inextricable in the relationship between the Free/Libre Software movements and the Open Source software paradigm. What is crucial to the understanding of the F/LOSS project covered in this dissertation is the idea of collaboration, agency, and free distribution of software. In this sense, the important ideas are that a variety of users and developers (and user-developers) can get together to work on software together, to mutual benefit, and that the software they produced can then be released into the wild, in a way which permits others to make use of the codebase that has been developed. That is the functional and ideological definition of F/LOSS taken in this dissertation.
7 Soylent is a comparatively new entrant to the meal-replacement market, purporting to have all of the micro and macronutrients necessary to sustain a human. The promise of Soylent is that it takes away the concern for balancing nutrition, leaving its users able to enjoy food as they wish and choose, but to not depend on food for nutrition.
8 Channelling Woolgar’s idea that an object can “configure” a user.
9 “This, then, is the core of the actor-network approach: a concern with how actors and organizations mobilize, juxtapose, and hold together the bits and pieces out of which they are composed; how they are sometimes able to prevent those bits and pieces from following their own inclinations and making off; and how they managed, as a result, to conceal for a time the process of translation itself and so turn a network from a heterogeneous set of bits and pieces each with its own inclinations, into something that passes as a punctualized actor.” (Law 1992, p. 386)
10 In treating much of my data, I do not anonymize, as anonymization would require me to also change the names of the projects in question. Instead, if a name is a matter which can be easily discovered by anyone doing a cursory look at the materials being described (as in the case of the work done on the zine mentioned above), I use it.
11 Musson (1972) tells us that the British cotton industry of the early 19th century “was in many ways exceptional in its use of power-driven machinery and factory production” (p. 18).
12 The term “slop” was used from at least the 14th century to refer to a loose garment, a “jacket, tunic, cassock, mantle, gown, or smock-frock” (Slop, n.d.), but had expanded by the 15th century to also include baggy trousers, including those of sailors (ibid). By the 17th century, the term encompassed “[r]eady-made clothing and other furnishings supplied to seamen from the ship’s stores; hence, ready-made, cheap, or inferior garments generally” (ibid), which is the sense I employ here, and the sense apparently used in the term “slop shop.”
13 The work of custom dressmakers might be considered to be “honourable” because it kept women in the company of other women, in small shops which could be seen to have a domestic flavour to them, and out of factories and the company of men.
14 Although Stoneley (2006) conveys an account from Thoreau about his inability to convince his tailoress to fashion him a waistcoat in what she considered an out-of-date style.
15 A “sweater” in this case being not a garment, but a capitalist controlling a stable of sweated workers.
16 Marx (1861) argues that the condition of the sweated worker or outworker is one of having “sunk down below the average level of the normal workers,” allowing sweaters to act as middlemen, taking a standard wage from a factory owner and putting work out at a reduced rate, deriving profit from the differential.
17 “Cabbage” being a tailor’s perk, bundles of scrap fabric picked up off of the floor of the tailoring establishment and sold to scrap merchants, with the profit going to the individual tailors who collected and sold the scrap (Linebaugh, 1992).
18 The implication here being that tailors had adopted patterns long before dressmakers did.
19 Anthropometry being the science of human measurement and proportion. See coons, 2014 for a more thorough history and critique.
20 Raster-based graphics are comprised of a number of pixels set out in a grid. Each pixel contains colour information, allowing the grid of pixels to make up an image. In vector-based graphics, images are generated by programmatic or mathematical definitions of points, lines, and curves. This means that vector graphics can, in effect, be written the same way one would write other software code. In open formats like SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics), the easy parsability of the markup language defining the graphics makes programming or auto-generating graphics especially accessible.
21 The term “Free Culture” is derived from the work of Lawrence Lessig, who wrote Free Culture , a book which has become something of a bible for individuals and groups who want to emphasize sharing and enrichment of the public domain in their works. This desire is most often instantiated in the use of either permissive (licenses which place minimal restrictions on the distribution or modification of the work) or copyleft licenses (licenses which require re-users of a work to license their derivative works under a similar license), allowing others to re-distribute and modify free cultural works, with varying stipulations about the conditions of reuse.
22 The term “planet” is commonly used in F/LOSS circles to indicate something like an aggregator, a venue (whether it be a blog, an RSS feed, or something more complex, like the infrastructure of LibrePlanet) for representing a set of related interests. The major hallmark of a planet is that it hosts material produced by a number of different people or groups engaged in one particular subject or interest area.
23 Ensmenger also notes that this discovery was accompanied by a notable shift in the gender of computer programmers. When programming was considered clerical work, it was dominated by women. When it became skilled, creative, analytical work, it masculinized, to the detriment of the women who had pioneered the field at a time when software was considered secondary to hardware.
24 It is also possibly for this reason that skilled needlewomen did not call themselves seamstresses, but instead went by such appellations as dressmaker or mantuamaker (Crowston, 2001; Miller, 2006).
25 I say “largely voluntary” because some members of the group were paid for their labour, either in the form of commissions, or as employees of the sponsoring organizations.
26 Although this is not to say that the digital spaces in which they meet are not also reliant on physical infrastructure. Indeed, as I have stated elsewhere in this dissertation, it is impossible to untie the digital from its physical substrates, to such an extent that the term “digital” as a differentiator seems almost meaningless.
27 Dugnad being a form of collective labour, much like a barnraising, but with the distinction that, unlike in a barnraising, the ultimate benefit is collective rather than individual.
28 Though it may seem slightly cumbersome to consistently refer to CBM Canada by its full name, I do so in order to prevent confusion in the moments when the global organization enters the picture.
29 Rachel and Woolgar (1995) make the very instructive point that what counts as a “technical” problem is a moving target and varies from group to group and moment to moment. They describe the delineation of a task as “technical” as representing a “break between those outside and those within” (p. 261), with the technical acting as a kind of black box, accessible only to those inside its space. They couch this observation in the apparently obvious, but often ignored relationship between the technical and the social, suggesting that “[t]echnical work is construed and displayed in such a way that it acquires a robustness which defies deconstruction. This is not just a result of the amount of conspicuous resources expended on technical work. The point is that such expenditure commits people to a course of action whereby they display and reaffirm the separateness and distinctiveness of the technical from the human world which necessarily creates, maintains, and uses it in all aspects of its existence” (p. 270). This characteristic of “the technical” is of particular interest in the way the barrier between technical and organizational work is represented in the PrintAbility case.
30 Since then, Microsoft has released a new generation of Kinect sensor which is based on entirely different technology. Our early tests suggest that it is not currently usable as a 3D scanning device.
31 Harvey notably refers to Modernism as aiming to “speak to the eternal” (1990, p. 21).
32 In the Semaphore space, the “fishbowl” is a glassed-in, ventilated area which centralizes the activities of the Critical Making Lab and its members. The fishbowl is where 3D printers, laser cutters, power tools, and other potentially disruptive, loud, or smelly items are kept.
33 In reality, two different methods are used at CoRSU. The ICRC method, described above, is the one with which the PrintAbility project is in dialogue. However, for affluent patients able to afford more expensive medical care, CoRSU also offers components which would be entirely at home in a Canadian prosthetist’s office, including the pyramid joint.
34 Throughout the majority of the project’s duration recounted in this chapter, the piece of software now known as Socketmixer did not have a name. Instead, we referred to it simply as “the wizard” because we considered it analogous to the software installation wizards, common in the early days of home computing, which walked users, step-wise, through the process of installing a piece of software.
35 I address the Canadian testing sessions further in a white paper on the subject of how prosthetists engage with new-to-them 3D modelling software (coons, 2015).
36 This is a glib reference to a certification program offered to us with the purchase of a professional-grade 3D scanner, which involved a trainer travelling to Toronto from the company’s office in Quebec.
37 Thingiverse is an online repository of models for digital fabrication, run by Makerbot Industries. Though it is largely used to host and share models designed to be 3D printed, there are also users who distribute control files for milling machines and laser cutters.
38 In 1972, the fender of an Apollo 17 mission moonbuggy broke in half and was repaired, ad hoc with duct tape, by one of the astronauts on the mission. His fix didn’t last long, but allowed, with repeated reapplications of tape, a day of exploration. But the problem needed a better fix. As a story on NASA’s website tells it, “[b]ack in Houston, NASA engineers understood the seriousness of the situation. If they couldn’t come up with a solution while Cernan and Schmitt slept, the next day’s exploration could be severely curtailed. The astronauts might even be limited to walking distance” (NASA, 2008). And indeed, the engineers did spend the time overnight devising a solution, which the mission astronauts were able to implement the next day with the materials at hand: duct tape and laminated maps (ibid).
39 An API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of specifications which allow third-party developers to build applications compatible with an existing software platform. For example, the API for Twitter allows developers to build clients which make use of the Twitter infrastructure, providing access to the functions required for operations like publishing a tweet or sending a direct message.
40 In realizing these mitigating factors, I owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Cara Krmpotich, whose generous sharing of experience from her background and interest in both post-colonial and anthropological issues helped me solidify an understanding about the capacity and agency of CoRSU’s employees and administrators.
41 The term “vaporware” implies a project which is promised but never delivered. Vaporware, in contrast to other kinds of “ware” (hardware, software, freeware), has no characteristics other than its absolute etheralness.
42 Club-Mate is a caffeinated soft drink popular with members of European hacker communities.
43 ABS (Acetyl-Butyl-Styrene) is a plastic used commonly in 3D printers. However, if the print bed of the 3D printer is not heated, ABS has a tendency to not stick to the bed properly, causing the edges of the print’s lower (first) layers to lift up, a phenomenon which often causes the deformation or failure of the print.
44 PLA: Polylactic Acid, a type of plastic popular in consumer-grade 3D printing. Made from vegetable sugar, most often derived from corn.
45 For more on this subject, see coons & Ratto, 2015.
46 Although not the actual internet, of course, as AOL was a walled garden with very little real relationship to the larger internet and emergent World Wide Web.
47 Indeed, in an industry like the garment trade, which I address later in this section, it would have been positively wasteful for workers to not make use of their trade skills for their own benefit outside of work hours.
48 I am concerned with their benefits to their purchasers because their benefit to their sellers is fairly obvious and already well documented: increased revenue and, as Zwick, Bonsu and Darmody (2008) suggest, improved consumer retention and satisfaction.
49 All of the prosthetists, orthotists, technicians, and technologists I have interacted with have referred to the people they are building devices for as “clients.” To me, this feels slightly awkward, although I do understand and empathize with the idea of not wanting to pathologize someone who will always need to wear a medical device.
50 Or, to invoke Marx, dead labour.