Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Working with one’s hands: Science as a craft

A pet hate of mine is the use of the term “technology” for absolutely everything, especially if it’s computer-based. I know, I am old-school and I tend to stick to the traditional definition of the word. I know, this definition predates computers. And I know, technology is a fair and convenient abbreviation of, and expansion on, Information Technology.

Still, I am annoyed. Since the word Technology is part of my profile, the LinkedIn algorithm thinks it’s doing a great job by updating me on all the new business platforms that are created every month, or by sending me all job ads for data science roles.

It completely misses the mark.

I claim the link between Technology and craftwork. It might be semiconductor sensor manufacture, robotics, nanotechnology, imaging systems… anything. In many ways, all these are very similar to the technologies of old: pottery, weaving, glass making, metalwork etc. It’s about working with one’s hands. It’s about being able, at the end of the day, to hold or to touch what we brought into the world. Yes, nanoparticles and rockets are extremes and difficult to hold. But my point is, it is the creation of a physical thing, not a virtual one.

To many of my friends working in various fields of computing technology, this distinction is irrelevant. To them, writing software is creation. I acknowledge that. After all, I use many apps on an everyday basis. I am happy they exist and I acknowledge the creative process to bring them to me. But:

1) as a maker, this isn’t enough for me. This is a personal statement. I enjoy very much the brain-hand connection at work in every step of this making process.

2) this connected data-driven world of ours is based on a very physical infrastructure (not just the computers as objects, but the cables and energy production to power all that). There is no escaping the physical world…

Working in STEM can be as much a craft endeavour as an intellectual one. The two do not compete against each other, they complete one another.

(ps: so please LinkedIn, update your algorithms)

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