Our inaugural issue focuses on craft. We interview Gillian Crampton Smith, one of the founders of interaction design. She describes the practice of designing the right thing – and designing the thing right. As virtual and physical worlds converge, Gillian argues that we need craft to inform how we interact with connected objects.
John Thackara, renowned author and critic, writes that the Internet of Things is missing a value benchmark. ”We’ve created a global infrastructure that is brilliant on means, but unambitious when it comes to ends,” he laments. How might we build technology that considers the true cost of production while respecting human dignity and repairing the Earth?
Craft considers the materiality of an object throughout the object’s lifecycle. Researcher Vladan Joler investigates the death and afterlife of things. From the graveyards of the cargo ships that carry our electronics to the cartels that shorten the lifespan of everyday objects, we begin to see the invisible forces that are making IoT a costly endeavor.
Ever since humans began making objects, we had to consider the materials available and the knowledge of how to shape them. Justin Marshall recounts how tools evolve and adapt based on local needs. Historian Andrew Prescott illustrates how constructing medieval cathedrals required sharing skills and even early computational thinking.
We also hear from the ThingsCon community, who curated a map of local solutions for local needs. The design studio Quicksand in Bangalore reflects on how they use a craft approach to build more thoughtful and long-lasting products. The digital jeweler Jayne Wallace describes how the Eames’ India Report, written over fifty years ago, provides a template for how to think about craft and the internet today.
Today we live with digital technology that’s primarily manufactured in Shenzhen and designed in Silicon Valley. Centralization of production means that there is less choice and less inclusion. We need decentralized ecosystems, where craft thrives so that people can deploy the materials around them to make local solutions that last a long time. We hope you enjoy this issue and that it sparks ideas for crafting technology in healthier ways.