Today, more than ever, we must take pride in human abilities and not only defend against further deskilling, but also direct inevitable technological change in a more human-centric direction. Although the clothing and textile industries were at the forefront of the industrial revolution starting with the first steam-powered cotton mill in Nottinghamshire in 1786, today these industries have become notorious for underpaid work, unsafe work environments and their devastating impact on the environment. Set against this backdrop, Apprenticeship 2.0 manifests in the form of a digital tool and a series of hand-crafted virtual 3D textile objects. The virtual objects were designed to visually convey the unique possibilities of practicing handcraft in virtual reality. The tool is designed to accurately capture both the perfections and imperfections resulting from the human hands and applies the emergent interdependencies between textile making and computer simulation to the novel process of augmented handcrafting. Occupying the space at the intersection of human-machine symbiosis and embodied learning, the project places Homo faber – man as the maker – at the heart of human becoming. In this experience, time and material know-how were two primary considerations for creating opportunities to instill in the apprentice intrinsic values attained through craftsmanship – the enduring commitment and desire to do a job well for its own sake and awareness of resource limitations. By enabling the apprentice to leverage the benefits of computation and at the same time the creative possibilities of making in VR, this experience aims to accomplish two things: 1. To reimagine the concept of craft by investigating craft and technology junctures as possible seeds for craft innovation; and 2. To demonstrate the possibilities of human-machine symbiosis through a proof-of-concept prototype showcasing how human hand skills and technology can coexist in ways that preserve human culture and material know-how.
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