Heritage Algorithms

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Ron Eglash et al.:

"The alternative to mass production is often phrased as “design globally, manufacture locally” (Kostakis et al 2015) or “global bits, local atoms” (Gershenfeld et al 2017). Such frameworks are helpful in conveying the idea that it is more environmentally sustainable to manufacture locally than to ship items around the world. But it fails to capture the sense that there are locally specific algorithms. If a French designer is sending his digital file to be 3D printed in Senegal, where it is locally sold, with some profit share back to France, the system sounds suspiciously neocolonial; perhaps more environmental but still positioning Europe as the knowledge base and developing nations as market and materials source. Artisans, especially those operating in a cultural tradition, should be positioned as knowledge experts, not merely a cog in the wheel of sustainability.

Just as local gardeners can help to sustain biodiversity with heritage crops, we have found that local artisans can help to sustain cultural diversity with “heritage algorithms” (Bennett 2016). These are the underlying formal patterns of cultural artifacts. Examples include iteration in Navajo weaving, fractals in African American cornrows, nonlinear curves in urban graffiti, reflection symmetry in Latinx leather tooling, hexagonal tiling in Appalachian quilting, and so on." (https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/handle/2027.42/150492)


Culturally Situated Design Tools

= " an open source archive of heritage algorithms".

"We developed the CSDT simulations through a respectful collaborative design process that begins in interviews with elders, artisans and other cultural representatives. The enthusiasm for having youth continue traditions in new media was striking. Some elders, who feared that their knowledge in Navajo weaving or Anishinaabe woodcraft was vanishing, were strong advocates for this synthesis between tradition and innovation. Several adults embraced the idea of deeper involvement."