Tuesday 12pm, 2 October 2018

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Of Watches, Weavers and Textile Work: A Design Inquiry into the Gendered Labor of Technology Innovation

Samantha Shorey

PhD Student - University of Washington


The history of computing is a history of textiles. From Ada Lovelace to the Navajo women of Shiprock New Mexico, weaving is a practice that has informed the design and manufacturing of modern technology. This talk presents the case study the Apollo Guidance Computer’s core memory, hardware that was hand woven by women for spaceflight. I’ll share how we enlivened this moment of engineering history through a participatory workshop that engages participants in collaborative acts of creation. In an appeal to the tactics of design, this recuperation opens an indeterminate past to illuminate the networks of labor called into being by technological artifacts. Integrating media studies with “critical making” methods can produce new, feminist histories of material practices—bringing people and places into the present along with their associated artifacts.


Samantha Shorey is a doctoral candidate in Communication at the University of Washington. She is a research associate at the Tactile and Tactical Design Lab in the department of Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE), studying the intersection of techno-culture and craft. Her research engages overlooked stories of innovation, to recognize the contributions of women to technology design – both presently and in the past. Her dissertation research is an ethnography of women makers, artists and student who create technological artifacts. It asks how making things can help us think differently about technology and think differently about ourselves.