2016, Nov 24: TALK by Jaime Lee Kirtz on "Interrogating the Standard"

Lai-Tze Fan edited this page Apr 4, 2017 · 2 revisions

November 25: Talk by Jaime Lee Kirtz (University of Colorado at Boulder)

"Interrogating the Standard"

Input/Output Symposium (Concordia University, Canada)

Speaker's Twitter: @jaimekirtz

  • talk focuses on the politics of the production process of scanners

Kirtz discussing Foxconn Technology Group's business model for maximum efficiency.

Issue of Materiality of Silicon

  • silicon treatment process that produces silicon wafer with purity of 99% creates specific byproducts
    • CO2, hydrochloric gas; manufacturing process is harmful to environment and workers
    • workers, especially in China, can become sick and scarred
  • four major companies for silicon production, two of which are in China
    • GLC-Poly, Wacker, Hemlock, OCI
    • companies also connected to Foxconn
    • about 78 (half in China) silicon wafer producers in the world

Foxconn Tech Factory in China

  • Foxconn has exclusive deals all over the world, with initiative to make locations from raw materials to finished item in one factory
    • via agreements with other companies to cut the middle steps
    • "in order to make production as efficient as possible"
  • model of starting, finishing, exporting products
    • interesting in terms of materiality: earlier vs. later scanner products; many "Assembled in the US"
    • changed by this monopolizing force
    • enhances competitiveness of company's products
  • working with aluminum, dye-casting, fastener products
    • if these companies are smaller than Foxconn, they will buy it --> monopoly
  • also a close relationship with Chinese government

Workers at Foxconn (issues with human rights and not abiding by WTO standards)

  • 1975 South Korean manufacturing: 8% of US wages
    • 2005 - 30% of US wages
  • but China: only increased 3% of US wages
  • raw material processing plant has 100k+ workers, makes all their silicon
    • working with Chinese gov to appear to adhere to World Trade Organization (WTO) standards, but this is done so they can find ways around the rules
    • has had adverse affect on Chinese workers
  • mass migration of workers into cities bc of agricultural crisis, to work in factories
  • under-radar case studies to see work conditions
    • 15 sets of studies in 3 factories; none followed WTO standards: low wages, inhumane conditions
  • working their way around it: call their jobs "Student Internships"
    • many of their workers (85%) are migrant workers, 60% between ages of 16-30
    • migrant workers depend on company for housing and food: "DORM LABOUR"
      • to address rule that you can't stay in the city unless you have residence
    • 12-14 hour workdays
    • can't complain without risk of being treated badly by boss
  • huge population of women (especially young women) workers, up to 70% of workers in electronics industry
    • called "Daegong Mei" (sp?) in post-socialist China
    • gender hierarchy: while workforce in China is 65% male; class and gender division in labour

Research Question for Kirtz

  • research question: how to present this info and how to make an impact?
  • Google Maps with layers: check for silicon plants, assembly factories, different plants
    • part of project called The Scanner Archive
    • thinking of different ways to use technology to be disruptive
    • calls this way of research "fun"...but maybe interactive would be a more useful mode of thinking?
    • thinking in terms of STANDARDS: gender, trade agreements, production, etc.
  • also thinks of sizes and components of tech, especially in domestic spaces (domestic labour, domestic use)
    • politics of design in affordance as it relates to gender
  • so she started to split open cords and analyze the material
  • PVC in the 1980s and 1990s; use of PVC (and issuing patents for it) since the late 1800s

##shapes important "narratives of production and labour"

  • how are patents used to assert dominance and claims as a main power centre to build and industry

  • thinking of maps and cords --> thinking of interconnectivity and spaces

    • attention turned to the infrastructure that supports this in the electrical systems
  • ladies' home journals (Good Housekeeping, etc.) with articles written by women about pros and cons of electricity in the home, types of outlets

    • shift in domestic tasks and issues of gendered labour: cleaning, ironing, washing, cooking--early applications of electricity*********
  • Edison didn't anticipate greater need for lightbulb, so many designs for outlets and patents issued

  • 1915: decided to standardize it via International Electrical Ass'n/Org

    • with only seven core patents
    • see institutional assemblages forming and exclusion of certain types of voices and industries
    • establishing certain types of practices and standards
  • before 1915 in ladies' journals: electricity as a novelty (show your friends how rich you are with your wonderful ironing)

  • after: you need to have it, bc your life needs to be more efficient, need to save money for husband, servants

    • shift after things come standardized
  • change in rhetoric and domestic labours; leads to changes in thinking of standards in US and other countries

    • imperialism and governmental establishment of norms
    • very material way of establishing difference (and dominance)************

Final Notes

  • Kirtz would really like to think about: what are the ways in which materially we are being controlled, making gendered spaces, etc.
    • turning thoughts into something constructive: Archaeology Lab
    • making physical space, online exhibit, repository for standards documents, student classes and projects, examining overlaps in patents, scanning for fingerprints
  • pedagogy: asks undergrad students to engage with this spatially, in experience, etc.
  • looked at Nintendo 64 packaging
  • overlaps in patents in comparison with objects themselves
  • scanning for fingerprints: looking for residue left over in terms of materiality (LF: Kirschenbaum's forensic materiality)
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