The Spring 2022 graduate research studio in Situated Technologies will investigate the relationship between culture and technology within the context of the rural village of Hida, Japan. By engaging with this historically significant context, the studio proposes a reconsideration of what is meant by “situated” technologies. Anthropologist Mariella Combi defines technology as consisting of not only the machines, devices, software etc. – but the relationships between these instruments, people, and fields of knowledge, enabling a definition of culture as a set of communicative acts. This will help frame our research and the intention of our work, as well as our recognition that informal technological knowledge has distinct epistemological characteristics.
The studio will be organized around a few contextual scales; 1) the unsustainable post-war reforestation strategy of the 1950’s, 2) Hida no takumi, and the unique history of carpentry and craft from this particular area of Japan, 3) Japan’s shrinking villages and the efforts of local municipalities to invite more domestic and foreign interest, and 4) the rich matsuri (festival) culture in Japan that involves the community in the design and construction of ornate floats that reflect local diversity and culture.
We’ll partner with Hidakuma and FabCafe Hida to procure a first-person, albeit remote, experience of both the local history and the current industrial innovations known to the region, particularly the unique wood compression technologies that have been developed to address the overabundance of post-war timber. While the studio will introduce a computationally driven design-build methodology, our proposals will not be mere objects, but processes by which we can use digital technology to foster local engagement – a flexible framework that may help guide a new but culturally situated, community-driven project.