Mission Statement and Prospectus
The Industrial Crafts Research Network is an international, interdisciplinary research network of academics, museum professionals, designers and practitioners dedicated to the study of and communication of skill and knowledge within Industrial Crafts. ICRN focuses on skilled practices specific to industrial contexts. It deploys ethnography and leverages the theoretical perspectives of embodied, enactive and distributed cognition to understand these practices in the context of tools, materials, procedures and working environments. ICRN publishes research about these understandings and applies them in developing exhibits and displays that communicate ‘know-how’ in museum and pedagogical environments, using sensor, robotic and interactive technologies.
What are ‘industrial crafts’?
By ‘industrial crafts’, we mean a wide variety of skilled and artisanal practices from the early modern period to the present day that have emerged in association with the development of industrial technologies and thus may be contrasted with both pre-industrial crafts and ‘studio’ crafts. Industrial crafts are defined by scenarios of distributed cognition among externally powered machine systems that combine varieties of information ’storage’ with varying degrees of process automation. They involve new materials, especially cast iron, and new power sources (e.g. coal fired steam) related to new processes of extraction, refinement and synthesis – mining, metallurgy, chemical engineering. Examples of environments of industrial crafts includes printing, industrial ceramics and musical instrument making, as well as all manner of skilled practices in the textile industry, to metal trades (precision machining and manufacturing) to heavy industry (boiler-making, shipbuilding and foundry-work).
Why study industrial crafts?
In the UK and Europe, and in parts of the USA, the notion of Industrial Heritage has a key place in cultural and social history, and the teaching of such. Much of this work, for obvious reasons, has focused on the history of invention, and the history of economic development, and has drawn on textual historical records, the built environment, and archeological remains. This has tended to fall into the conventional ‘history of great men’ mode that has been roundly critiqued from feminist, post colonialist and labor perspectives. What is less well examined and less celebrated is the of experience of workers, and their special skills (the exception being in ‘working museums’). Such skills, owned by workers, were seldom documented (seen as unimportant) and are inherently difficult to document (cf: Tacit knowledge, Polanyi). But without these skills, usually passed on on-the-job (sit by Nellie) the entirety of industrial production could not occur. Embodied cognition is therefore an evanescent but key component of industrial history. As deindustrialization transforms workplaces and the last surviving practitioners of many of these skills are passing, there is an urgency in capturing this knowledge, in order to create a more complete representation of the history of the period and in order to communicate the embodied qualities of such skills. ICRN proposes interdisciplinary study of skilled practices in this domain. We see this as adding a new dimension to the study of and of history of the industrial period its presentation. In doing so, it also provides understanding these matters as they have unfolded during the 20th century, which is important to understanding the present, but also will help generate insight and raise questions about more distant pasts.
ICRN focuses on the human experience of industrial crafts, with particularly their cognitive dimensions. ICRN leverages paradigms of embodied, enactive, situated and distributed cognition in its analysis of these practices. Where experts survive, ethnography is central. In other cases, we rely on literature and other ephemera (surviving objects, designs, floorplans, managerial records) and have to interpolate bodily practices. New methodologies may need to be developed. Aside from its radical interdisciplinarity, ICRN’s emphasis on embodied experience informs a range of novel theoretical, methodological and design questions.
Emergent historical process, not revolution:
Avoiding totalizing and technologically determinist historical models. Artisanal crafts were not replaced, wholesale, by automation and mass production. The transition from artisan to factory-fodder was neither instantaneous nor uniform, with significant discrepancies between industries and between geographical locations. The process evolved over 150 years of technological and social development (emergence of urban proletariat, anarchism and socialism, unions, child labor laws, planned communities and colonialism, etc.) where crafts people became skilled machine operators and new cognitive ecologies slowly formed. Artisans developed or adopted new technologies (as they do today) or were drawn into larger industrial complexes that needed their skills. In the process their skills underwent slow transformation (as was the case, for instance, with digital technologies in clerical work in the last C20th).
Cognitive history: the ‘sooty stepchild' thesis.
While we will not pretend that industrial working environments were some kind of historical Cinderella, we argue that the industrial crafts comprise an under-recognised and important historical stage in the transition from the (romanticised) artisanal crafts to the (valorised) human computer interaction.
Standarisation and Ergonomics.
The increasing theorisation of standardisation and industrial labor developed parallel to industrialisation, from Adam Smith’s pin factory to the studies of Babbage’s industrial efficiency studies, Taylorism and Fordism time and motion studies, and ergonomics. When human power is exchanged for external power derived from waterwheel or steam engine, the work of the skilled worker transitions to a new mode of monitoring, adjustment, calibration and maintenance.
Engineering as a scientific and academic discipline.
The discipline of engineering came into existence during industrialisation, and was slowly professionalised. Brunel senior brought the technique known as technical drawing with him to Britain from France, where it had been a military secret. The professionalisation of the discipline and the use of technical drawing also served to take control of design from the mostly illiterate (working class) artisans, moving design and specification from an artisanal/apprenticeship mode to a mathematised and representational practice. In the USA, the first PhD in engineering (technically, applied science and engineering) was awarded by Yale University in 1863. Union College (Schenectady NY) was the first liberal arts college to offer a civil engineering program (1845).
A text, table or diagram stores abstract information, but a machine can store dynamical processes and procedures. In a simple case, setting a stop for a moving carriage permits repeatable events without constant monitoring. A mechanical drive and simple sensor (limit switch/latch/linkage) automates such a process. In this way, not only positions but temporal procedures are made almost infinitely repeatably - this is the essence of automation. A further refinement is establishing repetition with incremental change – taking up woven fabric on a roll or lowering the cutting tool on a planer. These are algorithms (programs) instantiated entirely in metal mechanisms. Operators were in some sense also programmers. The pre-history of computing is found in industrial machines, and the mechanical calculators that developed in parallel, with many commonalities (cf Babbages’ Difference Engine).
Our interdisciplinary project draws upon diverse constituencies and we recognize that different manifestations of skilled practices will demand different methodologies.
Among those manifestations are:
We are actively research methodologies and approaches, including ethnography, micro phenomenology and the potential use of technologies like eye tracking, 3D video, etc. We encourage experiments with hybrid approaches.
Ethnography and methodology.
Highly attuned skills and awarenesses are often obscured to operators themselves, and untrained observers are usually entirely oblivious to them. In previous work (Twisthands at the deadstop) group members have employed ethnographic techniques. Part of the work of ICRN is to develop methodologies that capture the knowledge we seek with veracity. This may most effectively occur in sequential reflexive knowledge gathering in specific contexts.
Epistemological and ontological challenges.
We explore and speak of embodied knowledge. As thinkers from Ryle (know-how/know-that) to Polanyi (tacit knowledge) to Pickering (performative and the representational idioms) have observed, there are deep challenges in representing such practices in the culture of the text, and in the medium of the museum exhibit. The ‘flipside’ of this problem arises in our project to build exhibits that communicated embodied knowledge more or less directly via kinesthetic/proprioceptive experience.
Industrial archeology and material culture analysis.
In the absence of trained practitioners, we must rely on inference from extant material culture, such as surviving objects, machine design, factory floor layout, first and second person reports, drawings and photographs, and business records. Of special interest is damage and wear on machines, and ‘witness marks’ – marks made by users for calibration or as aids to memory.
The importance of skilled observers.
Some participants in ICRN (including the directors) have long experience in relevant making skills. We are persuaded of the importance of this kind of experience, (and training in material analysis) in making informed observation. In this work we endorse the reconstructive practices in contemporary archeology.
Distributed cognition and ‘cognitive ecologies’.
In cognitive science over the last 30 years, increasing emphasis has been placed on the role of the body in cognition, and the role of structured physical and social contexts. These new approaches are called embodied, enactive, extended, embedded, situated and distributed, and material engagement. In some cases, they build on material, cognitive and cultural anthropology, also phenomenology, as well as contemporary neuroscience and neurophysiology. We find the concept of ‘cognitive ecologies’ (Hutchins) particularly useful as a way of understanding the development of working environments in which workers developed sophisticated new sensibilities in sympathy with the machine environments they tended and worked in.
In these new industrial contexts of varying degrees of automation and use of external power, new cognitive skills developed which extended sensing and productive capabilities of workers. The machines often function as proprioceptive cognitive prosthetics. The ‘fine-tuning’ of constant sensory awareness – to certain flappings or clickings or grindings, amid a cacophony of machine noise, is a typical dimension of such cognitive development, as are: the sensorimotor attunement to the force required to pull a lever or turn a crank; attunement to other sensory cues such as odors; and the timing and choreography of complex whole-body operations. We propose to apply these new approaches to cognition as a way of understanding these practices as the expression of whole-body intelligences.
Offloading of cognition and labor.
A key concept in distributed cognition is the notion of offloading cognition onto tools and structured environments. This allows for the streamlining of task and workflows and creates a situation in which a worker is dependent upon and immersed in a ‘network’ of non-human actants. Cognitive functions were offloaded onto closed loop mechanical systems and data and instruction storage (ie, Jacquard cards) that together comprise an industrial cognitive ecology. Industrial work environments are case examples of such structured environments, and their refinement was a characteristic of the development of the industrial work environment.
Progressive museology - the lived experience of the worker.
To the conventional culture of exhibition of objects and texts (and the celebration of owners and inventors) we propose to add presentation of the experience of those whose daily work involved machines. This demands the development of a new kind of exhibit that can communicate something of the experience of use.
Simulation learning in exhibit design.
On the basis of our research, we propose to develop sensorimotorically complex, embodied, interactive, partially ‘immersive’ or ‘augmented’ experiences that can stimulate the kind of embodied learning we are focusing on. Questions of the qualities of, and assessment of, experiences learned in simulation are central.
Industrial Crafts Research Network - Symposium 1. Developing methodologies for documenting, understanding and communicating skilled practices of industrial environments. Sponsored jointly by UCI, UMass Amherst and Nottingham Trent University. Nov12-14 2021, online.
Twisthands at the deadstop (video) Twisthands and Shuttlekissers. Penny and Fisher. BICCS, May 2021. Pub: Form Akademisk.
Machine-made lace, the spaces of skilled practices and the paradoxes of contemporary craft production, Fisher and Botticello, 2018.
Consulting and presentations
American Psychological Association. Aug2021. Panel. Tools, cognition and skill in artisanal, industrial and digital contexts. Penny, Whitted, Fisher, Mazalek, Noel.
ICRN Affiliated Persons
Simon Penny, professor, Art, University of California Irvine, USA (Co-director) email@example.com
Tom Fisher, professor, Design, Nottingham Trent University, UK. (Co-director) firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Ingold, professor emeritus, Anthropology, University of Aberdeen, UK (Advisory Board member)
David Kirsh, professor, Cognitive Science, University of California San Diego, USA. (Advisory Board member)
Emily Whitted - PhD student, History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Kirstie Blair – professor, English, Strathclyde University, UK.
Amy Woodson Boulton, Professor, History, Loyola Marymount University CA, USA,
Chris Baber, professor, Computer Science, Birmingham
Giovanna Urist, Associate Director, Foundation and Government Grants, Winterthur Museum, Delaware USA Matthew Bellhouse Moran, curator, Scottish Maritime Museum
Michael Moore. CEO, MCM Group of Companies. Marla Miller. Director of the Public History Program and Professor of History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Graham Harwood, Goldsmiths College London.
Matsuko Yokokoji, independent artist, YoHa.
Michael Kimmel, Cognitive scientist, University of Vienna.
Iryna Kuksa, Senior Research Fellow, Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University.
ICRN Affiliated organizations, institutions and businesses
University of California Irvine, USA.
Nottingham Trent University, UK.
Public History Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, USA.
Lowell National Historic Park, Lowell, MA. USA
Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Wilmington, DE USA
American Precision Museum, Windsor, VT USA
Framework Knitters Museum, Ruddington UK
STICK – Scottish Transport Industry Collections Knowledge Network, UK
Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine, UK
John Smedley Ltd., Matlock, UK (pending)
Nottingham Industrial Museum, Nottingham UK
Science and Industry Museum, Manchester, UK
Advisory Board members will, as appropriate:
- Initiate or participate in ICRN research and design (etc) projects
- Meet quarterly on or about the solstices and equinoxes.
- Facilitate new collaborations and other activities
- Publicise activities of ICRN in their networks
- Advise in grant writing and other fundraising
- Support activities such as meetings, conferences and publications
Affiliated organisations, institutions and businesses
Affiliated organisations, institutions and businesses will take part in and facilitate research, fundraising, networking, dissemination and exhibitions of the work of ICRN.
If you have further questions about the ICRN or would like to join our mailing list, please email us at IndustrialCraftsNetwork@gmail.com
Research Papers and Reports
- Understanding Industrial Craft Skills via embodied and distributed cognition
by Simon Penny and Tom Fisher
Industrial Crafts Research Network - Symposium 1. Developing methodologies for documenting, understanding and communicating skilled practices of industrial environments. Sponsored jointly by UCI, UMass Amherst and Nottingham Trent University. Nov12-14 2021, online.
The primary goal of this paper is to attempt to understand the skills of machine tool use – specifically automated manufacturing machines of the C19th – as craft practices. These practices employed externally powered and automated tools and around them new cultures of practice emerged. We draw upon situated/embodied/enactive/extended/distributed (SEEED) approaches to cognition as a way of explicating the sensibilities of these practices, as well as history of science and technology, Anthropology, STS (Science and Technology Studies) and related fields. Based on this approach, we then apply the understandings gained through application of SEEED approaches to advance some design ideas for developing museum exhibits that provide an understanding of the know-how, the kinesthetic/proprioceptive skills and procedures - inherent in these crafts/trades. This design agenda addresses the challenge that this ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ presents to students of these crafts and to museums, and the benefit that might accrue to their visitors if this craft knowledge were more accessible. We take as a case study a body of work that has focused on embodied/ embedded knowledge in the textile industry – specifically in the making of machine lace. It concludes with a proposition for a multimedia approach to give museum visitors hands-on access to complex machines and techniques. The authors are both long term practitioners of crafts, both traditional and industrial (see biogs). This experience informs the research at every step.
Wait - what did I just do? (episodes in amateur autoethnography).
Restoring French Horn valves by plating and lapping
Tom's work making and restoring instruments is a source of autoethnographic data for this project. He is capturing this through video and self-reports of his reflections on the processes he undertakes. This video clip describes part of the process of restoring the rotary valves of an 80 year old French horn. The skills he deploys to do this are 'craft' skills, in that they rely on his embodied knowledge in a tactile dialogue with the materials at hand - brass, copper, nickel, abrasive lapping compound, hand tools. What makes them relevant to this project about industrial crafts is that they are also skills of the modern era. Tom’s skills are in dialogue with the process of electroplating, and he is literally in dialogue with Wayne, who uses his skills as an electroplater to deposit as near as possible the ideal amount of metal on the rotors. The matters of principle at issue in the video are complex and various – what sort of ‘mental model’ does Tom operate with to guide his actions; how does he know what to do? How does he know what he has done, and how does this guide what he does next at any point in the process? The talk over the video gives some clues to this – it indicates that there is an internal dialogue in which Tom works with the evidence of his senses; gathered by sight and touch. So the intelligence at work has an ‘inner’ dimension, but that is necessarily connected to the world of things through both reflective and unreflective, sensory, action.
Embodied Cognition and Industrial Crafts Bibliography(d2).
Baber, Chris, Tony Chemero, Jamie Hall. (2017) What the Jeweller’s Hand Tells the Jeweller’s Brain: Tool Use, Creativity and Embodied Cognition. Philosophy & Technology, (20171129): 1-20
Bateson, Gregory. (1972) Steps to an Ecology of Mind. University of Chicago Press
Brown, Liane, Robert Doole, Nicole Malfait. The Role of Motor Learning in Spatial Adaptation near a Tool. PLoS ONE 6(12): e28999
Dewey, J. (1925). Experience and Nature. Open Court Publishing Company, Chicago and London. Revised edn. 1929.
Dreyfus, Stuart and Hubert Dreyfus. A Five stage model of the mental activities involved in skill acquisition. Operations Research Center, U.C Berkeley, 1980.
Felkin, W. (1867). A History of the Machine Wrought Hosiery and Lace Manufacturers. Longmans, Green and Company.
xxxx., and Botticello, J., (2016). ‘Machine-made lace, the co-production of knowledge and the spaces of skilled practice’, Cultural Geographies, 25, 1: 46-69. DOI: 10.1177/1474474016680106
Goodrich, C.L. and F.A. Stanley. Accurate Tool Work. McGraw Hill 1907
Groth, C. (2017) Making sense through hands, Aalto University
Heidegger., Martin. Being and Time (1927) Albany, N.Y. State University of New York Press 2010
Holmes, Nicholas P., Daniel Sanabria, Gemma A. Calvert, Charles Spence. Tool-use: Capturing multisensory spatial attention or extending multisensory peripersonal space? Cortex. 2007 April; 43(3): 469–489.
Hutchins, Edwin. (1995) Cognition in the Wild. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Hutchins, Edwin. Imagining the Cognitive Life of Things. (2006). Lambros Malafouris, and Colin Renfrew (eds) Cognitive Life of Things: Recasting the Boundaries of the Mind. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.
Hutchins, Edwin. Cognitive Ecology. Topics in Cognitive Science ,2 (2010) 705–715
Hodder, Ian. Entangled: an archaeology of the relationships between humans and things, John Wiley, Chichester, 2012
Gibson, James. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Ingold, Timothy. Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture, Routledge 2013.
James, William (1910) The principles of psychology, 2 vols, New York, Henry Holt and Company
Kirsh, David. and Paul Maglio. (1995) On Distinguishing Epistemic from Pragmatic Actions. Cognitive Science. 18, 513-549
Latour, Bruno, ‘The Berlin Key, or How to Do Words with Things’, in Paul Graves-Brown (ed), Matter, Materiality and Modern Culture, pp 10 – 21, Routledge, London, 2000.
Leroi-Gourhan, Andre. Gesture and Speech. MIT Press 1993.
Malafouris, Lambros. (2004) “The Cognitive Basis of Material Engagement: Where Brain, Body and Culture Conflate.” DeMarrais, Elizabeth, et al., eds. Rethinking Materiality: The Engagement of Mind with the Material World. Cambridge: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. 53-62.
Marchand, Trevor H.J. Embodied cognition and communication: studies with British fine woodworkers. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.), S100-S120
Maravita, Angelo and Atsushi Iriki. Tools for the body (schema). TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences Vol.8 No.2 February 2004 Elsevier.
Martel, Marie Lucilla Cardinali, Alice C. Roy, Alessandro Farnè. Tool-use: An open window into body representation and its plasticity. COGNITIVE NEUROPSYCHOLOGY, 2016, VOL. 33, NOS. 1– 2, 82–101
Merleau Ponty, Maurice. Phenomenology of Perception, (1965) Routledge and Kegan Paul. 2002
Moore, Wayne. Foundations of Mechanical Accuracy. Moore Special Tool Company, Bridgeport Conn, 1970
Nimkulrat, N. (2012). Hands-on intellect: Integrating craft practice into design research. International Journal of Design, 6(3), 1-14.
Osuriak, Francois, Christoph Jarry, Didier Le Gall. Grasping the Affordances, Understanding the Reasoning: Toward a Dialectical Theory of Human Tool Use. Psychological Review 117(2):517- 40, March 2010
Penny, Simon. Making Sense: Computing, Cognition, Art and Embodiment. MIT Press. 2017.
Polanyi. Michael. (1966). The Tacit Dimension. Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday.
Polanyi, Michael, Personal Knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, Routledge, London, 2002 (1958/62)
Piper, A. (2016). ‘Code, recode, decode: Constructing, deconstructing and reconstructing knowledge through making’. In P. Lloyd & E. Bohemia (eds). Proceedings of DRS2016: Design+Research+Society – Future-Focused Thinking, Volume 7, pp 2959-2963 DOI: 10.21606/drs.2016.415.
Piper, A. and Townsend, K. (2015). ‘Crafting the composite garment: the role of hand weaving in digital creation’. Journal of Textile Research and Practice. 3, (1-2): 3-26.
Ryle, Gilbert. (1949) The concept of mind. University of Chicago Press.
Samuel, Raphael. (1977). ‘The workshop of the world: steam power and hand technology in mid-Victorian Britain’. History Workshop Journal, 3.
Shapiro, Lawrence, Embodied Cognition, Routledge, Abingdon, 2011.
Simondon, Gilbert. On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects. (Trans Cecile Malaspina and John Rogove). University of Minnesota Press, 2016.
Suchman, Lucille Alice. (1987) Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication, 2nd ed. (Cambridge. Cambridge University Press.
Vaesen Krist. The cognitive bases of human tool use. Behavioral and Brain Sciences Vol 35:4, 2012
Varela, Francisco, Evan Thompson and Eleanore Rosch. (1992) The Embodied Mind: cognitive science and human experience. MIT Press.
Vygotsky, Lev. Mind and Society. Trans - Andy Blunden and Nate Schmolze. Harvard University Press 1930.
Whitworth, Joseph. Miscellaneous Papers on Mechanical Subjects. Longmans, Brown, Green, Longmans and Roberts, Manchester 1858
Wilson, Frank R. The Hand: how its use shapes the brain, language and human culture, Pantheon Books, New York, 1998
Woelert, Peter. Tool use and the human mind: From basic to materially mediated operative intentionality Cognitive Semiotics vol7issue2 De Gruyter 2014.
Assembled by Tom Fisher and Simon Penny
Tom Fisher is a gardener, craftsperson, musician and academic. Professor in the School of Art and Design at Nottingham Trent University since 2007, he has worked in art schools since 1985 and made his living as a furniture designer/maker before his first university appointment. He is now developing a business custom-making French horns. His academic interests derive directly from this – prominent themes include materials in everyday consumption (the subject of his 2004 PhD from the Sociology Department at the University of York) and the acquisition of skill in material practices, informed by theories of cognition. His research has produced a book on the everyday re-use of packaging, (Designing for Re-Use, Earthscan, 2009), a recent special issue of the Journal of Design History on the meaning of materials’ surface qualities, a special issue of Critical Studies of Fashion and Beauty on fashion and materiality, a 2017 book for Gower, Design for Personalisation, and an edited collection of essays on design and ethics for Bloomsbury in 2019. He has led funded research on sustainable clothing (Defra), and industrial heritage (AHRC). His current work is focusing on embodied knowledge; the ethics of design and technologies; design, culture and innovation.
Simon Penny is an artist, teacher and theorist with a longstanding focus on emerging technologies and on embodied and situated aspects of artistic practice. Penny has built interactive installations and robotic art since the mid 1980s. His longstanding concern for embodied and situated aspects of aesthetic experience, along with a critical analysis of computer culture, has led to a focus on what of he refers to as postcogntivist approaches to cognition - the focus of his book Making Sense: Cognition, Computing, Art and Embodiment (MIT press 2017). He was director of A Body of Knowledge: Embodied Cognition and the Arts conference UCI 2016, and An Ocean of Knowledge: Pacific Seafaring, Sustainability and Cultural Survival at UCI in 2017. As Professor of Art and Robotics at Carnegie Mellon (1993-2000) he developed VR and robotics projects. He then went on to found the Arts Computation Engineering (ACE) graduate program at the University of California Irvine, 2001-2012. He was Labex International Professor, University Paris8 and ENSAD in 2014. He was visiting professor in media theory, Cognitive Systems and Interactive Media masters, University Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, 2006-2013. Penny is currently professor of Electronic Art and Design (Dept of Art) at University of California, Irvine, with appointments in the dept of Music and in Informatics (School of Information and Computer Science). More at simonpenny.net
Marla Miller's primary research interest is U.S. women's work before industrialization. Her book The Needle's Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution (University of Massachusetts Press, 2006) won the Costume Society of America's Millia Davenport prize; Betsy Ross and the Making of America (Holt, 2010)--a scholarly biography of that much-misunderstood early American craftswoman -- was a finalist for the Cundill Prize in History, and was named to the Washington Post's "Best of 2010" list. In 2019 she completed a microhistory of women and work in 18th-century New England titled Entangled Lives: Labor, Livelihood, and Landscapes of Change in Rural Massachusetts (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019). A public historian and public history educator, Professor Miller teaches courses in Public History, American Material Culture, Museum and Historic Site Interpretation, and History Communication, and consults with a wide variety of museums and historic sites. The work of the ICRN resonates at the intersection of her research into United States labor history and material culture, and the contemporary documentation and interpretation of those subjects in museums and historic sites. Her National Council on Public History presidential address, “'In the Spaciousness of Uncertainty is Room to Act:' Public History’s Long Game," can be found in the August 2020 issue of The Public Historian.
Emily Whitted is a history doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst studying the intersections of skill, labor, and early American material culture. A recent graduate of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware, her MA thesis, “Made in Germantown: Production, Wear, and Repair of American Frame-Knit Stockings 1683-1830,” examines the embodied knowledge of early American frame knitters through material evidence of the machines they operated, archival documentation, and experimental archaeology. Her dissertation research focuses on textile repair in early America, and she is also pursuing a public history certificate with a concentration in museum studies.
STICK is the Scottish Transport & Industry Collections and Knowledge network and as a Subject Specialist Network (SSN) it aims to promote care and enjoyment of these collections. Established in 2006 as a membership body, STICK formalised the running of the network in 2010 when a constitution was introduced. More at stickssn.org
Symposium Nov 13-14 2021
Understanding, documenting, and communicating
in historical industrial environments
Register Official Program Symposium Overview Tech notes for Presenters
Nov. 13, 2021 [Day One]
Nov. 14, 2021 [Day Two]
The Industrial Crafts Research Network (ICRN) is an international, interdisciplinary research network of academics, museum professionals, designers and practitioners dedicated to the study of and communication of skill and knowledge within industrial crafts. ICRN focuses on skilled practices specific to industrial contexts. It deploys ethnography and leverages the theoretical perspectives of embodied, enactive and distributed cognition to understand these practices in the context of tools, materials, procedures and working environments. ICRN publishes research about these understandings and applies them in developing exhibits and displays that communicate ‘know-how’, using sensor, robotic and interactive technologies.
ICRN focuses on the human experience of industrial crafts, particularly their cognitive dimensions, drawing from paradigms of embodied, enactive, situated and distributed cognition, to inform a range of novel theoretical, methodological and design questions. New methodologies are needed to make these practices accessible to analysis. An ethnographic approach is viable where experts survive, but where they don’t, we rely on literature and other ephemera (surviving objects, designs, floorplans, managerial records) to interpolate bodily practices. Documenting skilled practice is particularly urgent in the context of deindustrialization, as contemporary audiences are decreasingly familiar with skilled industrial labor and many industrial heritage sites experience difficulty preserving skill in their communities and communicating those skills to their public audiences.
This wide category includes a vast number of skilled material practices that emerged alongside industrial technologies; they are distinct from both pre-industrial and studio crafts. Industrial craft work arose in response to new materials, power sources and labor processes, as part of new industries. They are evident in textile production, ceramics and engineering, from precision machining to foundry work, among many other settings. Industrial craft skills involve a greater degree of mechanical mediation between worker and material than in their artisanal predecessors and in many cases this mediation involves some of the cognitive work of production being embedded in the machinery. This last characteristic makes them a little-studied aspect of the development of the digital technologies that characterize our times.
The goal of this event is to build an interdisciplinary discursive environment and community, with the aim of identifying platforms for future work. It will bring together industrial craft practitioners, museum professionals, historians, designers, anthropologists, cognitive scientists and others to address the questions outlined above. Given the international nature of the ICRN’s work and caution for the health and safety of presenters and attendees, this symposium will be an entirely virtual event held on November 13-14, 2021. Each day’s content will be scheduled to best accommodate the multiple time zones of presenters and attendees. All presentations will be captured on video and disseminated free online and archived in the ICRN website. Papers will be collected and archived in University of California’s eScholarship open-source online publishing platform. As the content of the symposium clarifies, ICRN will pursue the potential for a special issue in a journal or other collective publication, but this is not a requirement of presenting at the symposium.
The ICRN is grateful to our sponsoring institutions for support in mounting ths event: Claire Trevor School of the Arts, University of California, Irvine. Public History Program, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. School of Art and Design, Nottingham Trent University.
Simon Penny: Director (ICRN co-director)
Emily Whitted: Assistant Director
Symposium board: Marla Miller, Kirstie Blair, Tom Fisher (ICRN co-director)
Sookyung Cho: webmaster
Allison Smith and Kelly Donahey: Zoom tech
Evan Stanfield: Graphic design