Filtered for making and alienation

14.38, Wednesday 10 Dec 2014


Gifpop! Turn animated GIFs into actual physical prints using the magic of lenticular printing.

Lenticular stuff is brilliant. It reminds me of when I went to my 10 year school reunion and I was meeting all these people that I knew then but hadn’t seen since, and I would see them as how I saw them then - with all of those old preconceptions and outdated understanding - then suddenly see them instead with total unfamiliarity as a completely new and unique person, and then it would flip back and forth. And the reverb when that happens as you see two people at once, overlaid, displaced in time but both there in the present, flipping between the two, it builds like a loud buzz in your ears and fills your head. I haven’t used Gifpop! yet; maybe I should try to make that. Also they partner with artists and make limited edition gifpops. Super cool!


Knyttan make on-demand, customised pullovers and scarfs. If you’re in London, you can go see your pullover being made on their knitting machines in Somerset House (they have a pop-up there).

The designs are gorgeous… they’ve teamed up with a bunch of designers to make generative art designs, you use the website to build on the patterning - herding the houndstooth flock around a scarf, or overlaying interference patterns - then select colours and size to suit you.

They have some pretty special animated GIFs.

I’m currently based out of Techstars London and Knyttan is one of the startups in the programme, so I’ve got to spend a bit of time with them. (Incidentally, my mentoring experience at Techstars has totally convinced me about the value of accelerators for startups.)

What excites me most in this area of “on-demand manufacture” is the potential for collapsing the supply chain. You design, you see your item being made. You don’t transport the item across the world. When - for cost reasons - you manufacture massive runs, it brings its own pressures: massive shipping containers, long lead times; the logic of marketing, credit, capital and mass consumption. “On-demand” (3D printing, computerised knitting machines) releases the chokehold of mass production.

Shorter supply chains means being closer to the means of production and to the people who work in the factories – a kind of de-alienation. It means geographically distributed manufacture, less pressure on having to make and then advertise and sell huge production runs. A different kind of world.

So that’s what I see. Plus beautiful knitwear, which is after all what really matters.


Pi-Top is a laptop built around the ubiquitous Raspberry Pi single board computer. If you want, you can 3D print your own chassis. There’s a lovely transparent window so you can see the electronics inside.

Which - you know what - cars should do too. I’d love a little window in my car (not that I have a car) so I can see it working. There’s something about electronics (which cars seem to be now) as opposed to mechanics (which they used to be) which makes it inhuman. Electronics are teeny weeny. You can’t see it. So I’m alienated from how my car works. Not, as I said, that I have a car. But I do have a microwave, and I’m alienated from how that works… whereas my grill, I can figure that out.

If I hadn’t had a spiritual experience involving transistors when I was 19, I’d be alienated from computers too. (That’s a story for another day.)

So when it comes to banks, or government, or policing, it’s very easy for me to be alienated from those things too - patted on my head and told not to worry myself about it - because I’m alienated from the stuff in my everyday life already, and I’ve become acclimated to that feeling. And that’s sad. And dangerous.

More Windows In Things.


Do artifacts have ethics?

When we ask whether technology is “moral” or not, is the only relevant question what can be done with it?

A hammer may indeed be used to either build a house or bash someones head in. On this view, technology is morally neutral and the only morally relevant question is this: What will I do with this tool?

Maybe there are more questions:

… might I not also ask how having the hammer in hand encourages me to perceive the world around me? Or, what feelings having a hammer in hand arouses?

And there follows a list of 41 questions that you might ask of a thing - a product, an object - as a start, to understand better what kind of role it has in our moral world.

Here are some favourites of mine:

  • Does the use of this technology arouse anxiety?
  • How does this technology empower me? At whose expense?
  • What feelings does the use of this technology generate in me toward others?
  • Can I imagine living without this technology? Why, or why not?


  • Does my use of this technology make it easier to live as if I had no responsibilities toward my neighbor?

I love this list.

Blimey I’m banging on today aren’t I. Time to wrap up.

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