Hyperrhiz 13 »Kits for cultural history

Kits for Cultural History

Jentery Sayers and the Maker Lab in the Humanities (MLab)

University of Victoria

About this Kit

A project at the University of Victoria's Maker Lab in the Humanities, the Kits for Cultural History ("Kits") are small boxes of inexpensive materials assembled for media history. Building on the intermedia legacies of Fluxkits, they emphasize the importance of everyday experience and tacit knowledge to remembering the past. Research for the Kits focuses on technologies that are inaccessible in today's galleries, libraries, archives, and museums. This research complicates histories framed by screens and expressed in books, asks what is missing from both, and then prototypes the absences for circulation and critique. Through this process, design becomes inquiry.

Early Wearable Kit on display at the Rutgers-Camden Digital Studies Center, October 2015.

From a design perspective, the Kits ask how technologies are culturally embedded, and how meaning is entangled with matter, through a sort of accidental theory: instead of starting with a program, supporting it, and ultimately proving it, the Kits present a collection of positions and parts for material investigation, which then prompts participants to attend to specific issues at the intersections of politics and aesthetics. The Kits also bypass appeals to "real history" and "exact replicas" by versioning the past. They variously articulate components to demonstrate how technologies are constructed, replete with editorial decisions, scripted with values, and subject to change and alteration over time. Ultimately, this process declares that the history at hand is incomplete, yet it also uses three-dimensional media and computer numerical control (CNC) techniques to rethink how scholarly communication happens.

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