Reading Artifacts Workshop (May 2015)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 9:30 am - 3:30 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Reading Artifacts Poster

Reading Artifacts Graduate Student Workshop May 27, 2015

Reading Artifacts Graduate Student Workshop May 27, 2015


Free to all UW grad students. Learn to "read" objects from UWaterloo's rich computer history and help design an exhibit! Enjoy a free, delicious lunch catered by the Grad House. Spaces are limited, so reserve your spot today or ask any questions by contacting before May 20.

Why study material culture? In an era when "everything" seems to be online, why should we spend time looking at objects, picking them up and holding them in our hands? Because objects are a way of understanding the world and every person in it. All we have to do is learn how to ask the right questions. The workshop is about reading artifacts and learning how to go from looking, holding and exploring even fairly ordinary objects to developing new knowledge, ideas and insights about the world and how it works. From simple sets of questions about physical features, construction, function, design, and values, and without specific subject expertise, we can quickly start to extract vital information and generate our own leading questions.

For the workshop, we'll be examining computing-related artifacts from the last century or so. But any ordinary object can tell us so much. Consider an old leather shoe. It can tell us about shoemaking, trade, travel, the cost of living, the effects of wear, distinctions between work and leisure, geographic-driven clothing needs, even biological differences between human and animal feet. Reading artifacts is truly an interdisciplinary activity. An engineer might look at a sewing machine and see a robust and well-designed device. An economist might see it as a key component of labour in a globalized world. A historian might see it within the context of the changing status of women in the 20th century. An artist might see a tool. By bringing together a diverse group of graduate students for the reading artifacts workshop, we hope to encourage in all of you a new-found appreciation for the material world, and also for the skills and insights of your peers.

A short lecture and tutorial on reading artifacts will be followed by a chance to explore a series of objects from the University of Waterloo Computer Museum. We'll give you lunch and lots of time to read your artifacts before you briefly present your findings to your fellow participants. And when you're done, you can help us design a museum exhibit about the importance of material culture and reading artifacts.

We'd also like to thank our sponsors: Graduate Student Endowment Fund Waterloo Chair in Science and Society Centre for Society, Technology and Values Cheriton School of Computer Science Institute for Computer Research

Event Photos

Click on photos to see full picture