This book proposes a re-articulation of media archaeology that includes feminist, intersectional and queer perspectives and focuses on genealogies of making and crafting. In order to do so, I ground my study in a network of practices that involve levels of gendered labor and interrogate interfaces between cultural materialist histories and digital remediations and algorithmic imaginaries.
I look at the complex mediation of practices that involve reuse, whether through recycled materials or upcycled crafts and which intersect with contemporary digital culture through e-commerce platforms like Etsy, gig economy jobs such as TaskRabbit, and informal craftivist networks like the Pussyhat Project. I examine these practices because they have become endemic to major modes of production and have brought about changes to labor, materials, and distribution, particularly in relation to gender. By investigating these practices, I draw an intricate web of relationships that bring together issues of technoliberal ethos and labor precarity with forms of authenticity and performance, and aesthetics and nostalgia.
In the first section of the book, I turn to examples of creative reuse, wherein objects or materials have gone through some form of transformation, such as the use of old typewriter keys for earrings sold on Etsy. I use these examples to engage the relationship between complex environments and materialism of original object as well as complex environments and materialism of repurposed object and interrogate what that translation process does. Thus, I argue that the upcycling or creative reuse process acts as a further rematerialization process that reiterates gendered norms and values thereby affecting the cultural, social and economics values associated. Remaking through upcycling, recycling and other related practices wherein the ‘thing’ (object) is rematerialized for different purposes is highly transformative and in the process of bringing into being the thing it names, it enters into a series of already existing complex materialities as the name of the thing and the thing itself and the thing’s new function have already been materialized within various sociohistorical contexts. I argue that what occurs is ‘transmaterialization,’ which I define as the consistent negotiation of materialization, performativity and deconstruction of discourses & norms, cultural practices, and social relations in the repurposing of objects, elements, and infrastructural component.
In the second section of the book I weave together critical readings of erased women’s computing histories with sociohistorical and contemporary practices of knitting and sewing, exposing not only the gendering of labor, its normalization and concealment but critical technocultural infrastructures – both material and discursive – that inscribe these gendering practices in social, economic and technical relations. From female migrant workers in Chinese electronic manufacturing plants to Navajo women in microchip assembly factories in the United States, gender and gendered bodies have played and continues to play an essential function in media industries, specifically those of communication and knowledge producing technologies. Yet the work of these women is often erased pointing to the importance of visibility in the expressions of economic and social relations, and in research practices themselves thereby fomenting my conception of a feminist media archaeology.