Thoughts on Making a Useless Object

Just uploaded:  an essay describing a project I did at the Champaign Urbana Community Fab Lab in late 2012 (see link below).  This project is the creation of a useless object, a small (approximately 10 cm x 10cm by 4 cm) “3D Rotating Toy”, printed in ABS plastic using a 3D printer. This toy is based on a classic “Trammel of Archimedes” (link), which has been made in various forms for thousands of years. The completed piece in question is on display in the CUCFL, and illustrated in Figure 1. trammel

Figure 1. A Trammel of Archimedes in white ABS

This essay was prepared as a response to critiques of an abstract submitted to the Digital Humanities 2013 conference. One of the reviewers remarked

[It is] not so clear how this contribution fits in with the Digital Humanities. The made objects mentioned […] are not central to the “practices of humanism”, contemporary or ever.

This is a fair comment, and part of my reply is this essay, closely examining one such project with this question in mind.

I note that the object itself isn’t pretty, and is, in fact, “useless”.  Yet I was able to find quite a bit of meaning in its making, including links to theoretical mathematics, ancient Greece, Shakespeare, Gilbert and Sullivan, and more.

Read the essay here [Making_A_Trammel_of_Archimedes]

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