Hyperrhiz 19: Essays
Touchable Speculation: Crafting Critical Discourse with 3D Printing, Maker Practices, and Hypermapping
University of Maryland, College Park
“Touchable Speculation” explores the scholarly value of making things and then writing about them. Extant digital humanities (DH) research on 3D printing often addresses its impact on artifact replication and preservation, museum programing, data visualization, and art practice. This project extends this discourse by exploring the epistemological and methodological impact of the 3D printer on humanities research and writing. Drawing from Johanna Drucker’s speculative computing and Matt Ratto’s critical making, this project is a DH experiment in speculative making. To concretize these ideas, an object created by the author, entitled fleshLAB, which explores human-computer entanglements and encounters, resides at the heart of this project. “Touchable Speculation” argues that speculative making in 3D is a particularly useful research method to examine the ideologies embedded into things, spaces, and encounters, and specifically evokes affective, haptic, temporal, and spatial epistemologies.
For some maker-scholars, after the making comes the writing, and thus evokes the question, “how do we write about the things we make?” In response, this project’s second major argument is that scholarly making necessitates new modes of writing and publishing to fully incorporate the objects created in the process. Modeling one approach, this project utilizes hypermapping—scholarly writing overlaid upon an image of a 3D object via a digital, annotated image map. “Touchable Speculation” is but one example of what working in 3D and with a 3D printer can uniquely offer humanities projects in terms of epistemology, methodology, and writing, and how these practices may shape future (digital) humanities scholarship.
Keywords: 3D printing; making; design; digital humanities; digital writing