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Transforming the poor man’s building block: value creation, translation and circulation for upcycled indigenous building materials

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


    
     



Lokko, Mae-Ling and Eglash, Ron. FOLIO: Journal of African Architecture, Vol. 1, May 2017 pp 237-249.
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



  

 
    





 

 


















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







 
 




 


             
        
    
   
 
    
 
    
    
     
     
    
     
     
 










 


  





 

 





 
 

       
   
 
            
        












 

   

   



    
  

  



 

 
 


 





 








          
 



  








 
 


 

 




             
      
 


  





            



 

  
 




  


 

  



     

 


 

 






 

 




 









 














  

 




   

             
             
             
              
           
 
        
       
       
        
   
     
    
    
    
    
   
    
    
     
    
    
   
    
    
 
    
    
 
   
    
    
     
   
    
    
   
 
     
       
    
    
    
     
    
   
    
    
      
        
     
   
 
       
        
        
        
    
    
    
    
    
 
     
     
        
         
        
    
    
   
 
      
    
    
  
    
    
   
   
   
    

Article
Full-text available
Artifcial intelligence (AI) is poised to eliminate millions of jobs, from fnance to truck driving. But artisanal products (e.g., handmade textiles) are valued precisely because of their human origins, and thus have some inherent “immunity” from AI job loss. At the same time, artisanal labor, combined with technology, could potentially help to democratize the economy, allowing independent, small-scale businesses to fourish. Could AI, robotics and related automation technologies enhance the economic viability and environmental sustainability of these beloved crafting professions, perhaps even expanding their niche to replace some job loss in other sectors? In this paper, we compare the problems created by the current mass production economy and potential solutions from an artisanal economy. In doing so, the paper details the possibilities of utilizing AI to support hybrid forms of human–machine production at the microscale; localized and sustainable value chains at the mesoscale; and networks of these localized and sustainable producers at the macroscale. In short, a wide range of automation technologies are potentially available for facilitating and empowering an artisanal economy. Ultimately, it is our hope that this paper will facilitate a discussion on a future vision for more “generative” economic forms in which labor value, ecological value and social value can circulate without extraction or alienation.
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Extractive economies pull value from a system without restoring it. Unsustainable extraction of ecological value includes over-fishing, clear-cut logging, etc. Extraction of labor value is similarly objectionable: assembly line jobs for example increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, suicide and other problems. Extraction of social value-vacuuming up online personal information, commodification of the public sphere, and so on-constitutes a third form. But all three domains-ecological value, labor value, and social value-can thrive in unalienated forms if we can create a future of work that replaces extraction with generative cycles. AI is a key technology in developing these alternative economic forms. This paper describes some initial experiments with African, African American, and Native American artisans who were willing to experiment with the introduction of computational enhancements to their work. Following our report on these initial results, we map out a vision for how AI could scale up labor that sustains "heritage algorithms", ecologically situated value chains and other hybrid forms that prevent value alienation while flourishing from its robust circulation. 1 Questions such as "what jobs will remain after AI is sufficiently advanced" are implying a rather passive stance. True, the potential disruptions created by AI can cause trepidation. But they are also an opportunity for re-fashioning the future of work in ways that optimize environmental sustainability, sustain enjoyable labor, and enhance the public sphere. In the experiments described in this paper we investigate artisanal labor as the basis for such forms. Traditional cultural forms of production such as Native American wood crafting often embody all three domains: harvesting practices that are ecologically sustainable; labor practices that are deeply satisfying; and social networks in which both equity and creative expression can flourish (Ostrom and Ahn 2009; Corntassel 2012; Eglash 2016a,b; Liu et al 2018). If AI and related automation technologies can help to "translate" these forms into modes of production that fit contemporary needs and contexts, the social and environmental ills that were created by centuries of mass production-the extractive economy-could be addressed, and a generative economy-one in which value remains in an unalienated form; circulated rather than extracted-could be achieved. In this paper we will briefly review the problems created by mass production, and the principles of generative economies in their traditional form. We then present some initial experiments with what we might term "artisanal cyborgs"-a synthesis between traditional work practices and contemporary automation technologies. We conclude with a vision for how this research trajectory could enable the development of computational forms that merge artificial intelligence with a generative economy.
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