Assistant Professor of English at the University of Victoria
Anchored in critiques of media through new media practice, this talk explores prototyping as inquiry in the arts and humanities, with a focus on wearables, electronics, and fabrication research. I argue that prototyping fosters rich understandings of: 1) how this becomes that, 2) how technologies are embedded in culture, 3) the sources, endurance, and afterlives of objects, 4) speculation and conjecture as critical methods, and 5) how discourse and matter are intertwined. In so doing, I drawn upon research from the University of Victoria’s Maker Lab in the Humanities “Kits for Cultural History” project (http://maker.uvic.ca/kch/), which prototypes inaccessible technologies dating back to the 1800s. One such prototype is an “early wearable kit” that allows audiences to not only reassemble electric jewelry from the second half of the nineteenth century but also contextualize the jewelry’s social functions. To create these prototypes, Maker Lab researchers combined patents, designs, notes, biography, and news media from the 1800s with techniques in sculpture, physical computing, computer-aided manufacturing, and structured-light 3D scanning. After arguing for the relevance of prototyping to arts and humanities inquiry, this talk navigates audiences through the process of making the early wearable kit and concludes with its implications for history and material culture studies.