The Concept of Material Practice: a transdiscursive inquiry

1. An Unanchored Concept

The concept of material practice to date does not have a recognisably shared or common usage across disciplinary and discursive applications, appearing to be more a floating signifier than a theoretical tool. Below I present close readings of some of its most prevalent meanings, discussing its usage in the specific discourses of 1) material culture; 2) embodiment; 3) architecture, engineering and design; 4) labour and economics; 5) human geography; 6) the concept of techne in the history of ideas; and 7) scientific method. These seven discursive domains – and no claim is made here that this list is exhaustive, since it will be apparent that it is not – have emerged from a comparative analysis of articles returned by the term ‘material practice’ in a variety of academic databases. Under each discourse heading a single article is chosen for reading as a sample of each of these areas, since an in-depth comparative analysis across more articles than a selection of one from each area is beyond the scope of the present needs, and would require either a monograph length treatment or alternately the use of new algorithms yet to be devised and tested. The methodology presented here is intermediate between the practice of close reading and the newer methods of distant reading promoted by the digital humanists. Close reading is honoured by focusing in depth on seven specific articles, while a variant of distant reading is employed via a pseudo-random sampling of databases. The main criteria for inclusion into the pool of authors below is that the notion of material practice had to be repeatedly used in the article under analysis, as could be determined by word searches in PDF documents, which treat the text as an array of searchable strings. For instance, if the notion of ‘material practice’ only appears in the title and nowhere else (as it does in a found Judith Butler essay, for example), it was discarded from the pool– only articles using the notion of material practice throughout its exegesis were retained.

Despite the wide range of conceptualisations of material practice discovered, the same three findings are found in each sampled document:

  1. The authors assume a certain givenness to material practice. Because material practices are by default real or actual, the authors can assume that the reader will grant the use of this term despite lack of formal definition. ‘Material practice’ is picked up as a general term and employed without explicit theoretical grounding of the concept.
  2. There is no master concept of material practice which the different authors reference. There is no recognised thinker or theoretical framework that has supplied a general concept of material practice, to which authors in different or related disciplines refer back to. The particular material practice under consideration has an ad hoc quality to it, being unanchored from a common discursive figuration, and appears as it were out of the blue or on the spot to be used for the present purposes of each article.
  3. In all instances presented here, material practice is conceptually opposed to some specific nonmaterial practice, some virtuality or conceptuality that helps to anchor the notion of material practice against a less or anti-material discursive other.
    These uniform findings across the seven samplings of the concept below suggest that these three characteristics of material practice are likely to be found in other appearances of the concept. It would be another project outside the present scope to move toward a synthesis of these diverging conceptualisations. The focus here will be on the notion of material practice itself as it emerges across different disciplinary terrains.

2. Material Culture

Material practice is often linked to material culture in such a way that the cultural component is foregrounded and where the properties, causal chains, physics, resistances or even affordances (action possibilities) of the material are not in discursive focus. In her exploration of Turkish taste diasporas in Vienna, Savaş provides an account of material culture which exhibits this conceptual one-sidedness for which we could contrive a typographic neologism, material(CULTURE). In this account, material objects are thoroughly saturated with linguistic, cultural, memory, affective, symbolic, historical and other codes and completely taken up by socially imbued and circulating forms of meaning. The primary material practice is to acquire and own possessions, or to inhabit spaces with material configurations determined by cultural parameters, or to perform this having and inhabiting in familial, public, political, commercial, economic or other social contexts, such as “Homes, shops, bodies and city spaces.” “‘Taste diaspora’ refers to a certain diasporic sphere that is formed through a collective taste in material objects and enunciated in the aesthetics of the everyday.” (185)

In examining “a repertoire of Turkish objects in Vienna” (original emphasis) the cultural codes dominate or saturate the material objects at every point in her discussion. These codes constitute a practice of “everydayness” by which objects are configured into a general Turkish taste, and by which their owners, users and inhabitors communicate their tastes, or establish affective cues of feeling at home after relocating to Vienna. There is an inherent problem involved in defining this general taste because it obviously requires some degree of generalisation.
As the Turkish population in Vienna is diverse, it is impossible to assert a uniform, coherent and all-encompassing taste. Yet there exists a certain taste that is described as the ‘typical Turkish taste in Vienna’ and has significance for the constitution and representation of ‘Turkish’ in Vienna. (186)

Savaş’s methodology combines ethnography, participant observation, general conversations and interviews to arrive at a rigorous account of this ‘typical taste’ to understand “the role of material objects, consumption, taste, style and fashion” in Turkish migration and settlement. This migration in part has been prompted by the material culture of Europe, such as “Mercedes cars” and the “attractive objects and gifts ‘made in Europe’ that migrants carried to their home towns in Turkey during the summer vacations….Marlboro cigarettes, whiskies, German chocolates, shampoos and Nivea creams…clothes, watches, dolls, radios, cameras and TVs” (186).

Note how all of the technoscience, engineering, design and other disciplines involved in the actual making of these objects– especially evident with TVs and Mercedes cars for instance– is elided under the general heading of “European” as though the perceived quality of the objects was simply a cultural designation and unrelated to all of the educational, institutional, technological, craft, know-how, technique, capital and other inputs needed to create objects considered to be of ‘higher quality’ and which prompts much economic migration in the first place.

Upon migration, the lack of certain material objects subsequently prompts forms of longing and reconnection. A need to reestablish affective ties to the homeland shapes everyday practices. This interview excerpt is particularly illuminating of the ways in which objects connect with the meaning-worlds of their owners and users:

Cups or ordinary glasses do not make me feel like drinking tea. It does not taste like tea. Anyway, after two years, I could finally go back to Turkey and of course bought tea glasses. I brought back a set of six tea glasses with their plates, spoons, everything. Believe me, my life became easier. I remember. On the evening of the day I arrived back in Vienna, I made tea and drank it with my glasses. That was the first time that I delightfully drank tea in Vienna. I felt that I was drinking tea. But also, it is strange; I felt as if I were drinking tea at home. (188, original emphasis)

Here objects clearly mediate and produce a complex of meaning effects and affects, ranging from what real tea is supposed to taste like, to how feelings of home are multimodally concatenated by this new taste of tea – which is brought forth by the actual tea glasses that one is supposed to be drinking Turkish tea with– to making displaced or relocated life in Vienna feel overall “easier.” All of the “subjective” qualities of home, memory, place, and taste are evoked in concert with material objects, even though one could perhaps quibble with whether it is “objectively” true that Turkish tea doesn’t taste like tea when sipped from Austrian-made glass. One could determine this, for example, through a simple blind taste test, to go a more empirical route. However, for Savaş, the role of these objects is not just to form linkages to a lost homeland or past, but to create new everyday practices of what it means to be Turkish in Vienna, and to “inscribe their selfhood in concrete objects” (189) as well as to “reconstitute home.” These objects – “clothes, home textiles, kitchen utensils, CDs and DVDs…various decorated objects…copper plates, plastic flowers, Turkish flags, pennants of Turkish soccer teams, emblems of the Ottoman Empire, paintings and pictures of Turkey, and porcelain objects, clocks, vases and candles” (190) make up the everyday practices of consumption, display, communication, and feeling which form “terrains of a collective sense of belonging” (191) “creating distinctive collective spaces” (192) which support “a coherent collectivity [which] is imagined and objectified and [by which] social differentiations are achieved” (194).

Far from some ‘ethnic’ associations or ‘authentic’ meanings, the repertoire of Turkish objects in Vienna has been created and made meaningful within the Turkish experience of Vienna. These displaced and relocated objects have been reappropriated as Turkish belongings because their biographies intertwine with the biographies of migration and settlement. (203)

Note here how objects, in their thorough saturation by human forms of meaning making, are said to themselves have “biographies.” They become almost in a sense like pets, made more human-like through their domestication and constant association with human lifeworlds. Here I will simply note the anthropomorphism implied, and the one-sidedness in the depiction of materiality as completely inscribed within the totality of the human and the virtual. Material objects here are entirely devoid of any reference to their actuality– e.g. their physics, affordances, or properties– which we in fact come into subjective contact with and appreciation of, primarily through the acts of designing and producing them.

3. Embodiment

Roe develops the concept of “things becoming food” in the “embodied, material practice” (104) of consuming organic foods. While not explicitly a work of bricolage research, bricolage is the implicit approach for bringing together not just different but even incompatible discourses, in this instance actor-network theory (ANT) and phenomenology. By taking certain discourses ‘at hand’ in the manner of bricolage, Roe can use ANT to explicate the general agro-food network between ‘farm and fork’ and then switch to a phenomenological account for the handling and consuming food. Roe does not thematise the philosophical incompatibilities of ANT and phenomenology– the former after all is post- and the latter pre- structuralism for example, which is a major discursive divide– and this shift in her analysis fits ‘naturally’ enough the shift in empirical scales, from economically distributed networks to personally and intimately embodied practices. Implicit in this underpinning of the contrasted discourses is a notion of scale hierarchy (ANT for large scale distributed networks, phenomenology for the intimate). The author appears to be unaware of debates in technoscience studies expressed, for instance, by the title of a Don Ihde essay, “You Can’t Have it Both Ways: Situated or Symmetrical.”

Using concepts from other theorists – Thrift, Weiss and Gibson furnish concepts of relational materialism, intercorporeality and affordances respectively– Roe seeks “analytical access to the material connections” between human and nonhumans. Her fieldwork is based on attending a work of performance art based on the production of sushi– or the transformation from live to edible fish– and on a video-based ethnographic study of a consumer of organic foods, with a particular focus on the potato.

The concept of ‘things becoming food’ provides a tool to trace the materiality of foodstuff through the practice of eating, since this is the definitive meaning-making event when a thing, a foodstuff, becomes food, becomes eaten. (105)

As a concept, ‘things becoming food’ lacks a formal definition and is instead illustrated by Roe’s discursive bricolage and case studies so that it become more like a thematic in her analysis rather than a concept with a definition that one can isolate. As a “meaning-making event,” for example, things-becoming-food could run the gamut of experiences from thinking about buying a coffee, to discriminating between scone and muffin options at a cafe, to asking for a scone to be heated so that butter will melt on it, to sharing half of it with someone else to cut down the calories of it, to actually ingesting it. All of these are meaning-making events in the thing becoming food, which perhaps indicates the entire process. However, our example is autoethnographic, and Roe brings in the tractors, distributors, trucks, packagers, stores and farms via an attunement to ANT, which strains at the boundaries of what one should consider the meaning-making event proper to things becoming food.

Of course the production and distribution of food is as much a material practice as the eating of it. Roe is interested in both the “acting at a distance” (106) that consideration of agro-food economy entails, but also the intimate action of eating through the concept of intercorporeality by which the nonhuman is literally incorporated into the human. Roe takes issue with traditional “commodity chain research” and “systems of provision” discourses because these “[fail] to understand the meaning of the thing for the consumer.” This implies a privileging of the ‘for-itself’ (the meaning for us) over the ‘in-itself’ (what something is) which is actually anathemic to the ANT perspective where our meanings and propositions about things are actants with equivalent status in a network of other actants.

The ‘follow the commodity’ approach shows little concern for agricultural nature and its constituent metabolic relations, nor for the consumer practices that drive the growth in alternative agro-food networks, for example, that of organic food, animal-welfare friendly food and fair-trade food. (107)

This is clear evidence of what Creswell (2014) calls the “transformative” research paradigm, or research aimed at catalysing changes in existing social relations along politically or ethically delineated lines. It is not clear, however, how what Roe calls “metabolic” differs from regular biological processes– presumably it is a kind of biological process with enhanced cultural meaning. She is drawing here from Goodman’s intercorporeal account of “new socio-natural relations, inter-species metabolisms and exotic corporealities unleashed by agricultural biotechnologies” (cited in Roe, 107)

Embracing the metabolic connections between nature and society has charged alternative agro-food studies literature with a need to make particularly bold critiques of traditional political economy and food studies (107)

These bodies, animals, plant and human, demand heterogenous ways of thinking requiring non-humanist ways of interpretation, which offer obvious challenges. You cannot imagine talking to a carrot, but you can imagine a carrot in a larger network of fields, farms, industrial processing and supermarket-shelving (109).

In contrast to this expansive network-image, however, Roe’s real focus is at the more personal scale, of watching a fish become sushi, or watching an organic consumer peel a potato. Thrift’s concept of intercorporeality is the concept that defines “an admission that everybody is always more than one body…a concept that permits an interpretation of these material entanglements” (110), and Gibson’s concept of affordances “facilitates a phenomenological style of enquiry between the bodies that make up the agro-food network. This is investigated through the relations between organic food consumers and potatoes.”

The thing is an asocial, anatural vital material. Over time-space it becomes affected and thus altered by what is done to it by humans and nonhumans and the processes it becomes caught up in. In this sense, the performance illustrates this process in action: how what happened, how the tastes, texture and smell of fresh fish, the sharpness of the knives, the practical skill of the chef, the damp cloths to wipe up the blood, the visual appeal of the decorative food designs and the wooden chopsticks, all play their part in enacting the process whereby the fish becomes edible sushi, or perhaps inedible sushi (110)

While a reader may note that this is not the most ‘heterogenous’ use of language that could perhaps be conjured, we do find stronger traces of this heterogeneity in one of Roe’s citations.

We can eat and digest everything from rancid mammary gland secretions to fungi to rocks (or cheese, mushrooms, and salt if you prefer euphemisms) (112)

Writing practices, in other words, can recapture some of the strangeness of consuming foreign bodies which the everyday practices of eating can obscure through layers of sedimented meanings. While Roe does not use this writerly heterogeneity as a strategy in her own argument, it does appear in these fragments that her text itself incorporates from other texts.

With regards to the organic potato, Roe analyses its use by its destined eater as a series of affordances, from “eating” the potato to “digging” it out of the earth, to “scrubbing” it clean and “peeling” its skin (113). In Gibson’s account, the environment emits ambient information which is picked up by lifeforms to guide their actions and interactions within the environment. With respect to food, Gibson delineates primordial categories of nutritive, non-nutritive and toxic (Gibson 20) as a kind of baseline set of affordances which life uses to make decisions as to whether something should be eaten or not.

An affordance cuts across the dichotomy of subject-object and helps us to understand its inadequacies. It is equally a fact of the environment and a fact of behaviour. It is both physical and psychical yet neither. An affordance points both ways, to the environment and to the observer (Gibson, cited in Roe 113)

Gibson’s account does not efface the subject-object distinction as occurs in flat ontology, but describes the middle position of bodies interacting with their environment. The affordance “points both ways” toward a ‘user’ and a ‘thing used,’ not toward a general field of equivalence and actants. Gibson’s account is more in sympathy with phenomenological premises, and the use of his concepts here is connected to the individual scale of eating a potato relative to the sociological scale that is the ANT terrain. Yet interestingly, or rather perhaps contradictorily, Roe brings back ANT terminology into this intimate phenomenological space:

A video diary methodology facilitates analysis of the foodstuff as an actant through ecological information; which in turn reveals affordances between the person and the material environment.
n this first extract James is talking about organic and non-organic potatoes. (114)

The wider network of meanings around what it means to be an ‘organic potato’ comes into play, and these associations around the meaning of ‘organic’ are the occasion for bringing back the vast agro-food network into the intimacy of cooking potatoes. These methodological tensions– of flat ontology versus the middle zone of embodiment in the negotiation between subject and object– are not resolved, but instead simply collaged against each other in the overall process of a thing becoming food.

4. Architecture, Design and Engineering

The concept of ‘material’ in architecture, design and engineering disciplines is often explicitly based on the classic Greek opposition of form versus matter.

[H]istorically, discourses and theories of architecture have tended to concern themselves with formal questions and to establish the architect as form giver….[T]he very method we use to develop architectural proposals– orthographic drawing– describes only the form, and relegates material to the empty spaces between the lines. This privileging of form is deeply embedded into our working practices, and material is rarely examined beyond its aesthetic or technological capacities to act as a servant to form (Thomas 2)

This original founding distinction from philosophy is then often integrated into other schemes that add additional pragmatic dimensions, such as“form, structure, and material” (Oxman and Oxman 15) “Design, Structure, Material, Production/Assembly” (Tamke et al 7) or “Material, Element, Structure, Topology” (10). In today’s computer-based design media, based on 3D and physics simulation, all of these dimensions of making become articulated as parameters of a computational model, so that material is as algorithmic and parameterised as any other dimension of the overall fabrication.

Material behaviour was the focus of the research project that led to the Dermoid 1:1 demonstrator built in Copenhagen. Dermoid was a 1:1 prototype plywood structure that explored how the induced flex of plywood meets structural loads. The integration of simulation tools into the digital design and fabrication process allows producing bespoke members. (5)

3D design tools have been traditionally associated with geometric form, but today can integrate “material behaviour” such as bend, flex, load bearing, compressive and tensile forces, as well as the harnessing of interior forces that can lead to more efficient structures that use less material and are thus more sustainable. This also leads to new interdisciplinary configurations, in which the tools used by architects overlap with traditional engineering domains, constituting “new kinds of design practices required to link architecture design practice and the field of material performance simulation, which is traditionally part of engineering practices.” (6).

The Dermoid researchers place Material within an overall framework of “geometrical constraints and boundaries” (7):

  • Definition of space and function through fixed heights and boundary lines
  • Readability, density and appearance
  • Nodal and angle requirements of the reciprocal system (i.e. preferably equal angles in nodes)
  • Minimum length of beams to allow for node connections
  • Definition of cell sizes
  • Even distribution of cells
  • Even curvature across topology
  • Control of angle and distance in support
  • Maximum and minimum curvature of the wood
Production and Assembly:
  • Maximum length of beams to stay within plate sizes
  • Staging and accessibility during construction
Table 1: After Tamke et al 7

Note here how the materiality of plywood, in the simulation software, can be accounted for by the parameters of angle, distance in support, and curvature. Presumably all of the other possible parameters of plywood – it’s thickness, compressive and tensile characteristics– are embedded elsewhere in the software, as this is a very minimal list of material qualities indeed for the material of an architectural structure. As all of these parameters are essentially geometric, the material properties are subsumed at another level of the software, which would suggest a similar ‘subservience’ of materiality to form as noted in the opening citation to this section. Interestingly, the Dermoid structure in its initial modelling is not even based on actual physics: “Although the physics engine is not directly based on real world physics results could be validated in our physical models and provide a basis for feedback loops.” (8) The authors do not give an explanation for not including “real world physics” in their parameterisation– presumably the priority is on the feedback loops between the main geometric categories and their realisation as actual constructed output. Also, there are multiple software tools involved and some of this physics calculation is actually handled by another application:

The load-bearing behaviour of the structure was analysed with a three-dimensional nonlinear finite element model using the FEA software Sofistik….Spreadsheets provided the FEA coordinates of each of the axis curves and linked boundary and material information. These coordinates were used to regenerate the structure in Sofistik.

The geometric model from one virtual environment is decomposed as a set of spreadsheet-based coordinates to be regenerated in another software application which does test the actual physics of the material, which is an interesting division of conceptual labour parsed out across the ancient Greek form/matter distinction, here manifested as two distinct software packages, one for designing the form, and the other for testing its physics. However, despite the evident sophistication of software with names like “Sofistik,” the 3D models are still intentionally simplified:

In order to avoid complex coupling elements, the mortise joints between webs and flanges were not modelled.

The pinned tenon-connections between the profiles were simplified and defined as clamped joints. The earth-stakes used to anchor the structure to the ground…were modelled as pin supports, due to their low sectional stiffness, which gave conservative results when calculating the maximal deformation. In reality, slight movements will be resisted by the supports.

Due to the minor effect of the flange’s bending on the structure’s stiffness, their shaping has not been simulated on the global model. (8)

Strict one-to-one correspondence in the model to the intended structure is not aimed for, but rather pragmatic considerations filter or select which parameters are to be modelled. Another schema is introduced to describe “four levels of engagement” for “feedback loops” across the tiers of parameters:

Material Shift of material i.e. with increased stiffness
Element Change of cross section and joint details
Structure Height of pods, size and orientation of notes
Topology Size of elements, overall shape, height, span and curvature
Table 2: After Tamke et al 10

It is the interconnectivity of the levels and the emerging effects that prohibits a simple link between the analysis and the model. Where the work with a specific element, material or technology usually generates an intuition about a system’s behaviour that allows identifying decisive parameters; it is the exploration of the unknown space of the newly created that is challenging in design…In highly interconnected systems, a logical link between input and output parameters cannot be observed. (10)

Note how the first two rows of the table above are not strictly geometric, but begin to feature new details such as stiffness in the material or the properties implicit in joint types. Moreover, this virtual 3D environment for the design of what will be physical architectural prototypes is parameterised as a highly self-interacting system in which the effects of parameter changes are not easy to linearly predict beforehand, but feature complex emergent behaviour as an output to the software operator’s creative input. However, over time, users do learn to create generalisations about system behaviour:

Physical tests and simulations of different scaled models, full scale prototypes and finally the two demonstrators established an intuition about the general behaviour of the system and the relation between the digital and physical model. (10)

The complete material practice in this context is making all of the moves between the virtuality of simulation and the actuality of construction. Only from traversing between modeling, small scale prototyping and full scale (1:1) making do the encompassing intuitions develop between parameterised design and ‘real world’ situatedness. Moreover, the move to actual construction is a kind of reality testing:

Finding the right representation for material behaviour is an intellectually challenging endeavour. An appropriate representation can be a set of straightforward geometric rules. As computation of a structure is only happening in the physical world, simulation and modelling remains abstract. It is up to the designer to define the adequate means of representation on every level. Physical tests provide an effective means to conclude from material and element level to the behaviour of a general structure. Simulation is not a generic tool but an environment that needs calibration to real-world behavior through measurements specific to the area of application.(11-12)

There is an incompleteness to the 3D simulation, even if complemented by other software with robust physics engines. In a sense the model is an incomplete theory, awaiting its application by being built in the physical world. The world in turn is a context of evaluation that can be fed back into the simulation in an iterative loop. This practical cycling between the 3D models and actual constructs is the complete material practice; i.e. material practice is not just the assembly of plywood via power tools and hardware fasteners, but the practical intersection of this material dimension with its virtualisation as software parameters.

5. Labour and Economics

In the present study, communication is dealt with on two levels. First, we argue that how people communicate about issues contributes to the social construction of reality. Specifically, how women frame their discussions of pay inequity reveals which perspectives they accept and embody. Second, we suggest that pay inequity itself is an articulation of the currently accepted practices in the American socio-economic system. The premise set forth in this paper is that pay inequity is an articulation, a discursive practice in addition to being a material practice. (Clair and Thompson 2)

In their study of pay inequity as communication and articulation of capitalism and patriarchy, Clair and Thompson contrast material to discursive practice. The notion of material practice is not conceptualised beyond a taken-for-granted concept in the form of pay, and in this instance, the difference in pay between men and women which results in inequitable material distributions of wealth. Theories of pay inequity are compared across market, critical and feminist theory lenses to reframe pay inequity as more than an independent variable that is simply caused by some particular factor (e.g. men and women occupying different speech communities and thus lacking a shared language), and is considered as part of the general communicational practices of capitalism and patriarchy.

For Clair and Thompson, the discursive and material are arrayed as poles along a spectrum.

[P]ay has generally been conceived as a material practice. It is not our intention to replace the material aspects of pay and pay inequity with a discursive ethereal practice. (8)

We argue that inequity exists as communication, as a discursive practice. Pay inequity also exists as a material practice (see Mumby, 1988 for a discussion of how time clocks function as both material and discursive practices). Although discursive and material practices may be viewed as opposites that negate each other’s position, we do not promote that exclusionary form of logic. Instead we argue based on Clair’s…work which suggests that opposites can be self-contained, or at least coincide, in a dynamic and fluctuating process.

Our long term project is to explore pay inequity as a discursive and material practice whose ties to both patriarchy and capitalism need to be untangled.

Here the discursive/material distinction is drawn roughly along the abstract/concrete contrast, with the discursive threatening to become “ethereal” compared to the much more obvious and taken-for-granted sense of the material, which in its concreteness, or higher pay rate, is allowed to be obvious and thus not in need of explication beyond income data. While approaching pay inequity as communication does seem to place most of the emphasis of their account on the discursive aspect– since the material aspect takes care of itself, as a quantity of income– their goal is to ‘depositivise’ pay inequity and dislodge it from simple cause and effect explanations.

[M]ost of the research guided by [market, critical and feminist] perspectives conceptualize pay inequity as an outcome. By viewing pay inequity as an outcome these theories tend to conceive of the relationship between communication and pay inequity in a linear fashion and reductionist manner (i.e. the influences on pay are reduced to the role of a dependent variable). In other words, communication, in some way or other, contributes to the outcome of pay inequity. This view of the relationship between pay inequity and communication leads to linear understandings of social and production relations. (2)

By viewing pay inequity as communication, we have been able to take it out of the context of an independent variable, without negating its material functions. (15)

Communication within patriarchy and capitalism– and its related concepts, articulation and the discursive– is seen as affecting the material world in ways not explicated by the linear logic of independent versus dependent variables. However, in many ways material itself is portrayed in a somewhat reductive or even discursive manner, being equivalent to income statistics.

6. Human Geography

Miller examines the political geography of defence spending in relation to the so-called “Massachusetts Miracle” (that state’s economic turnaround) in the 1980s, contrasting the anti-militaristic rhetoric of liberal politicians and activists with the economic benefits – e.g. jobs and GDP data– that increased defence spending produced in the state. Miller describes both the “scale incongruities”(171)– i.e. rhetoric at city, state and national levels– and the non-correspondence between material reality and civic discourse. Throughout, the notion of “material practice” refers to the other side of the economic coin from what was discussed above with regards to pay inequity, in this case not the receipt of a paycheque by an individual, but the allocation of national treasure to states’ economies by way of contracts with specific companies in certain industries. In other words, material practice here is also reduced to money, as actual dollar amounts spent on defence within the state by the federal government, but this base financial figure is expanded to include the ripple effects of defence expenditures– the creation of jobs, the funding of research (particularly at Harvard and MIT, which are traditionally the alma matters of the U.S. National Science Advisors), economic tech corridors, secondary multipliers throughout the service economy produced by defence-related employees, etc.

The key contrast Miller draws is between this material practice and its political representations, analysing the ways in which there is no fundamental correspondence between the two. However, this epistemological and semiotic point – that material reality does not essentially translate into our political representations of it– runs up against an interesting pragmatic problem, namely that this issue of correspondence between material reality and its representation relates to whether there are contradictions produced in political actions by their non-correspondence that will eventually need to be dealt with. In fact what emerges from Miller’s analysis is that some degree of correspondence is strategically necessary if activists hope to “actually” win instead of “virtually” win, an epistemic-semiotic point that Miller does not follow up on as his focus is more historically inclined. The virtual wins Miller points to are the various non-binding resolutions which expressed anti-militaristic sentiment, and the actual failing of these movements was in their mis-match to the material realities of general economic benefits to the state. When the activist movements attempted binding resolutions, their efforts failed as voters in a referendum opted to support their economic interest rather than the anti-militaristic sentiment.

Far too often political and economic processes are analyzed on the basis of what can be gleaned from apparently ‘objective’ data. While such analyses have their place, it is critical to recognize that there is no necessary relation between the material manifestations of political-economic processes and how that material reality is perceived, understood and, in turn, acted upon. (172)

Representations of socio-spatial processes are the conceptions through which people perceive, evaluate and negotiate material spatial practice.

Massachusetts has a unique social history of economic hardship on the one hand, and pacifist/liberal political ideology on the other, which produced a particular form of non-correspondence in state-level rhetoric. Defence industries tended to be discussed in the civic discourse as “technology industries” at a level of generality which allowed for some distanciation from their military-oriented operations. This specific mismatch between rhetoric and reality is not a feature of other locations – such as Colorado Springs, Las Vegas and Houston– where there the economic benefit of defence spending in the local economy is more openly declared in the public media.

Massachusetts’ congressional delegation has long been one of the most liberal in the USA on defense issues; at the same time it has quietly supported funding for defense-related programs with significant implications for the state. The key to Massachusetts politicians’ ability to ‘have it both ways’ has been the way in which they have shaped public discourse to obscure the contradiction between a liberal foreign policy and economic dependency on defense spending. (177)

Massachusetts politicians during the economic turnaround in the 1980s would thus tend to credit their own policies, for example, rather than the increase in defence spending in the States during the arms buildup of the Reagan years. Anti-war groups such as Ban the Bomb and Freeze, meanwhile, produced a series of popular nonbinding resolutions in the state which eventually made their way to nonbinding national resolutions in Congress, given the strong influence of Tip O’Neill (Speaker of the House) and Senator Ted Kennedy, who at the same time lobbied to bring more defence spending to their home state through so-called ‘pork politics.’ These contradictions between the material practice of defence spending, and the pro-peace/anti-war representations in political rhetoric became problematic when attempts were made to create new binding policies on the basis of these representations. Here peace activists were not as successful as they had been in their previous efforts with non-binding resolutions.

[A]s the peace movement moved out of the realm of symbolism and began to propose measures that would have material effects, the disjuncture between the common public representation of the significance of defense spending and the material reality became a liability. Peace organizers were unprepared to address the economic implications of their proposals when those implications were finally raised. (180)

These peace movements would later adapt by proposing various ‘conversion’ schemes whereby military facilities and personnel would be re-purposed for the civilian economy, but that is also to note that some degree of correspondence between representation and material reality is required for effective political action. While it is socially and even semiotically true that there is no necessary relationship between a material practice such as defence spending and the representation of it– e.g. through Governor Dukakis crediting his economic policies rather than Reagan’s increased in defence spending for new jobs created in his state– this formal non-correspondence produces contradictions which, when other developments occur– such as trying to create actual new policies– can show up those contradictions and force new strategies based on correspondence between representation and material reality. Miller concludes that “ultimately, new representational spaces must directly address the material practices they aim to replace, and they must do so at the scale of those practice.(184)

There are other aspects of material practice worth discussing in the context of human geography, which are implicit to the discipline and thus are not foregrounded by this particular text. All of geography takes as a kind of empirical substratum the concept, and artifact, of the base map. The base map can be understood as the underlying objective representation of space upon which geographers of all kinds – e.g. physical, environmental, human– must reference in some way, and which formally is a reference for other references, i.e. a representation of actual space that is referred to by additional overlays of other possible mappings or “reference layers”, such as ecosystemic, demographic, political, and so on. A base map is

[data analysis] A map depicting background reference information such as landforms, roads, landmarks, and political boundaries, onto which other thematic information is placed. A basemap is used for locational reference and often includes a geodetic control network as part of its structure.

[data analysis] A map to which GIS data layers are registered and rescaled. (“GIS dictionary”)

The base map is a reconstitution of data points produced by various technical surveying and cartographic methods, and it is out of scope to detail here how base maps are produced. There is not only one base map available in geographic representation but many such as World Imagery, Streets, Topographic, Ocean Basemap, Light Gray Canvas, Hybrid Reference Layer, and Navigation. The usual distinction in geography is between base map and thematic map, where the latter hones in on the particular research interest, and the former essentially ‘secures the ground’ so to speak.

Thus Miller’s discussion of “scales,” while based on somewhat common sense ideas of city, state and national levels, is more variegated than this since he notes, for instance, that the “Massachusetts Miracle” was also ironically called the “Route 128 Miracle” (126) in reference to the beltway where many defence firms were located. “Scale,” Miller notes, “is not given, but constructed” (173) which refers not just to the sociopolitics of representation, but also to the discipline of geography itself, which chooses and produces its base map and thematic layers.

These maps are visualisations of data points, and though Miller’s article is entirely textual (there are no figures, for instance), data saturates the empirical methodology of geographic discourse, even those attuned to poststructural or constructivist ideas and concerns. Miller’s argument interweaves various data sources to give an empirical representation of material practice that he contrasts to the political representations.

[H]igh-defense-related high-tech employment grew by 16,300, low-defense-related high-tech employment grew by 34,600m and non-defense-related high-tech employment actually decreased by 3200 (174)

Defense location quotients indicate how concentrated defense contracting is in particular places….[In 1983] Defense Department purchases from Massachusetts firms were 170.5 percent of Massachusetts’ ‘national share’ (175)

It is the task of the human geographer to convey an empirical representation of a material practice in order to have a reference by which to gauge the political discourse as non-correspondent. In other words, material practice has an equivalence to data, or to the real as represented by data– material reality is reconstituted by the geographer primarily from data. This is a different social position from the voters in a referendum who are evaluating proposals for new binding policies, and who are working with a different set of everyday notions of material reality that may play a role in their decisions, such as run-down neighbourhoods, unemployment lines, empty lots, lack of jobs for their children, food stamps, potholes in the roads, schools in disrepair, and all kinds of practical everyday material realities that form a different basis for understanding what material practice is and does in the world. Thus material practice poses the problem of what “correspondence” means in this connection between the lifeworld of voters and the data points of the researcher, where correspondence may not be formally necessary, but has explicit pragmatic value.

7. Techne

Staten develops a concept of material practice based on Aristotle’s account of ‘techne’ (usually translated as “art” or “craft” from the Greek) and Lukács conception of labour, as a counter to what he sees as Heidegger’s mystification of techne as physis, or “spontaneous bursting forth” in Heideggerian-Greek. Staten finds Heidegger’s account “imperious, and strangely vague” (43) but more importantly, argues that Heidegger simply reverses the Romantic figure of the genius in favour of completely effacing the artist in who is merely in service to the work’s coming into being. Staten revivifies the role of techne in Greek thought, and through the addition of Lukács’ voice– whose theory of labour is likewise based on Aristotle’s conception of techne– adds the dimension of “the historical and cultural depth of the knowledge that is encoded in any specific techne, a depth equal to, or exceeding, that of the mysteriousness of any individual work of art” (original emphasis).

The quality of mystery has been mistakenly pinned since Romanticism on the soul of the genius artist; but Heidegger’s notion of poiesis makes no progress when it ascribes the creative mystery to physis instead.

In Heidegger’s well-known account, the Greek meaning of techne is obscured by our modern conceptions of willful active making and production, and this contemporary usage obscures the linkage of poiesis to the poetic in general, a “bringing forth” “which allows something to emerge of itself”(44). Heidegger’s method is to think philosophically about the etymology of words in order to uncover an original Greek meaning of physis as the unconcealment of Being, with this unconcealment being the meaning behind the Greek word for truth, ‘aletheia’ in which Heidegger reads the alpha-privative added to the word for ‘concealment.’

On the basis of this account of the nature of art and truth, Heidegger distinguishes techne from technique, technology, “technics”– that variously named dimension of productive process that is capable of being rationalized and mechanized, and which has become the instrument by which the will to power of humanity has submitted nature to its domination, while humanity itself has been subjected to the logic of technology.

In Heidegger’s account, what is at stake in a correct understanding of techne is the choice between, on the one hand, a remorseless subject who manipulates nature for purely instrumental purposes– a path that, Heidegger once suggested, leads to both the Holocaust and the modern mechanized food industry– and, on the other hand, ecstatic openness to Being. (45)

Staten counters that this is the case if we accept the “hypertrophy” of techne into technics and technology, and suggests a better way forward is to return to the Greek for a more accurate, and less etymologically mystified, analysis of techne, principally as found in Aristotle. The “primitive form of techne” needs to be clarified in order to move beyond “the antithesis between great art and modern technology”(46). Staten adopts Ziarek’s concept of ‘aphesis’ or the ‘aphetic’ as the “action in the middle voice”(44) which is neither the imposition onto matter of the will of the genius artist, nor the pure submission of the artist to the work, but which

take[s] into account the way in which, in every moment of every action of every techne, the intrinsic powers of physical nature are both submitted to, and brought into line with, human purposes of an intensely practical sort, while yet the will and consciousness of the subject are subordinated to transindividual– but not transcendent– forces, forces that are as much social and historical as they are natural.(46)

Staten begins with Aristotle’s Generation of Animals (730b-740b) to begin with the concepts of kinesis (motion), eidos (form) and organon (instrument, tool), by which the male imparts, with his organon (since this term does not distinguish between biological and material tools) the morphe (shape) and the eidos to the ‘raw material’ that is provided by the female.

[n]ature uses the semen as a tool and as a possessing kinesis in a fully actualized state, just as tools are used in the products of any art, for in the tools lies in a certain sense the kinesis of the techne (Aristotle, cited in Staten 47, original emphasis)

What is not necessarily transparent to us in this picture is Aristotle’s notion that the motion imparted to the tools originates not in the craftsman, but rather in the techne that the craftsman practices; the techne itself is the arkhe (“principle, origin”) of the object produced…. The craftsman moves his hands to move his tools because his techne is a logos (“rational procedure”) that dictates the appropriate motions…;the motion of the tools is an energeia (“actuality”) of a physical motion that exists in a potential state in the techne itself.

Thus, it would not be the case that Polyclitus is a sculptor (referenced in Aristotle’s Physics), rather Polyclitus as a person is accidental to the techne which is what produces the sculpture (48). Polyclitus, as a biological person, is the site of “will and desire”– the “subject that Heidegger criticizes”– but the “techne-action described by Aristotle…has little to do with the spontaneous bursting into bloom of a natural object, and much to do with the working of materials by a workman who knows effective ways to move his tools” (48). Techne in Aristotle is neither pure will nor pure submission to the Being of the work, and is somewhat autonomous from any particular person, since any craft of course can be picked up by others, and a workman is such only by way of possessing techne. Techne is a kind of third term, between material and maker, and is the site for thinking about made things.

[I]t is not the soul per se, as an ideal substance, that moves the hand and the tools; the true moving principle, the arkhe, is techne; and techne is the rational plan of organization of a sequence of physical actions that are known to produce a specific worldly effect (50)

Staten finds in Heidegger “a revulsion from…mere worldliness” which motivates his antipathy to “the tool and the instrumental relation to worldly beings and forces” that “are the very condition of the existence of culture.” The concept of labour is initially introduced through praxis “as the antithesis of poietic bringing-forth” in Greek thought, since praxis refers to the “immediate expression in an act” (citing Agamben 51) which “manifests only the will of a doer.”

In The Ontology of Social Being, Lukács substitutes the term ‘labour’ for ‘techne’ in his account of techne in Aristotle, treating craft or art as a process of labour informed by Marxist theory, “a move [that] is not unproblematic” (52). Despite this swap of key terminology, Lukács offers an alternative to either the Romantic or Heideggerian conceptions of making that do not entail either an exaltation of willful creative genius or the effacement before the worked material.

What is ontologically distinctive about the labour process is that it is the only complex of being in which a “teleological positing” is actualized in material reality…Aristotle and Hegel wrongly attributed ontological status to teleology when the projected it into nature; but in the labor process human goals are intellectually posited in a way that makes possible the manipulation of material reality, such that the teleological positing of a goal is transformed by labor into an ontological positing, a really existing something, materially realized in nature, that embodies human purpose.

This positing is ontological (rather than merely intellectual or epistemological) because in the primitive labor process there is an ineluctable confrontation with the reality of the real. The labor process “must correctly come to grips with its object”…or fail.

In this hands-on way, human purposes are slowly woven into the structure of natural being in such a way as to satisfy human needs, at the price of painstaking submission to the patterns of natural causality. (53)

Lukács concept of teleological positing is derived “from Aristotle’s division of the techne process in Metaphysics 10, vii into two phases, that of noesis…“intellectual positing,” and that of poiesis, or “production, bringing about.” However, while basing his conception on Aristotle, Lukács is also refashioning the conception of techne into more contemporary relations:

In Greek society of Aristotle’s period, labor was strictly set apart as the responsibility of slaves, and noetic activity reserved for their rulers; Lukács goes against the grain of both Aristotle’s time and ours in defining labour as Aristotle defines techne.

Noesis itself has two moments, “the positing of the goal, and the investigation of the means”(54). This second moment “is the process of diagnosis through which the causal chains constituting the pathways toward the goal are intellectually posited.” These pathways become part of the socially stored lore of techne, comprising its “social character” as “accumulated and instituted knowledge.”

[A]cross generations knowledge accumulates about the fracture lines in reality along which the workman can most effectively exert force, bringing material chains of causality into the service of human purposes, such that a labor practice can gradually “congeal” out of a series of such discoveries.” (55).

Lukács adds to the Aristotelian account a more foregrounded sense of techne as a socially constituted and historicised process, “by means of which techne-knowledge is acquired in the first place.” However, Staten criticises Lukács from turning away from this conception of the historical process by following Hegel in understanding the “socially enduring element of the labour process” (56) not as the body of knowledge, but as the tool.

The tool is of course the enduring element of the labour process in the bare sense that its physical existence persists beyond the individual acts that are accomplished with it…but as such it is nothing. A tool is an enduring element of the labor process only as a tributary to the enduring of the primary element, the techne of which the tool is an implement. If we do not know how and for what a tool was used, we do not know what tool it is, or even, perhaps, whether it is a tool at all.

Staten further criticises Lukács conception of techne as a “property” of the labourer (57) which Staten considers to be reductive of the worker’s dynamis, or the capacity to work (e.g. an architect who is not presently designing a building is still potentially an architect– that potentiality is the dynamis of techne as the architect’s property).

Richard Rorty used to enjoy heaping scorn on Socrates’ notion that our epistemic maps can “carve reality at the joints”; but even he could not have doubted that a butcher (the source of Socrates analogy) must know the best places to carve an animal carcass or risk losing his job. There are fracture lines in reality, not absolutely, perhaps, but certainly relative to human purposes as these are configured in culturally specific ways; the motion of the carver’s muscles “flows” to the degree that his physical effort is knowledgeably guided into the most readily yielding spots in the meat (60).

These “homely examples,” as Staten calls them– whether carving meat, driving a nail into wood, or sharpening arrowheads– are testaments to the enduring power of techne as culturally stored knowledge, so that individuals do not have to continuously reinvent or rediscover “the actualization of the potential power (dynamis) that has been accumulated in the techne as a social possession.”

[A] skill like driving a nail into a board actualizes the power not only of such skills, but of the entire cultural ensemble that makes the existence of such skills possible– the entire historical process through which the know-how has evolved for producing boards, nails, hammers, as well as the architectural and design knowledge that guides the building process as a whole, and the cultural “discipline” by which human beings are turned into effective and productive workers.

Staten argues that all techne have this structure in common, and that we do not need to resort to a mysterious cause either in the soul of an artist, or in the being of a work. Techne is the original material practice by which an individual moves beyond their biological individuality to take up the stored knowledge of their culture with respect to “reality’s fault lines” in order to make new things, or indeed even to add to that knowledge themselves.

8. Scientific Method

Following recent work in the philosophy of science, Apedoe and Ford argue that the empirical attitude is under taught in science curricula, which tends to focus on other aspects of scientific knowledge, such as the memorisation of facts or the use of lab work to test foregone conclusions. “The empirical method, fundamental to science since Galileo, is a habit of mind that motivates an active search for feedback on our ideas from the material world”(165). Countering traditional understandings of empirical method as the more restricted activity of testing theories against data, they define material practice as the design of data collecting events, which inform phenomena that are theorised about, which involves “considerably sophisticated coordination among theories, phenomena, data, and data collection events.” A distinction is made between first order and second order empirical methods, or 1) the design of data collecting events, and 2) the coordination of this collected data to theories about phenomena.

In science, the empirical attitude is manifested as a second order search for feedback– that is, scientists are sensitive to feedback from the material world on their way to designing the best data collection event, which once achieved is itself a way to seek feedback from the material world for their claims.

For learners, they argue that pedagogy can begin to teach the empirical attitude by focusing on “a special case of purposeful design– that is, design of data collection events” (166) where the design activity’s “aim [is] not to collect data to inform a phenomena, but rather merely to achieve a practical effect” (173, original emphasis). Where feedback in design tries to “zero in on a practical function” (172), feedback in science “is sought to zero in on a phenomenon and collect data the reflects it and nothing else.”

Whereas in design tasks, the empirical attitude facilitates learning and successful harnessing of material arrangements for practical functionality, in science the empirical attitude is key for testing, refining, and indeed learning, theoretical assertions (and phenomena) about nature (184, original emphasis)

Using Bogen and Woodward’s notion of phenomena and the “specialized material arrangements” described by Hacking and Matthews, the authors argue that the design of data collection events teaches forms of reasoning that “scientists engage in while seeking empirical support for their ideas. Specifically, this reasoning is on the design of data collection events that yield evidence to identify and characterize phenomena”(166). The authors also construct an origin for modern science out of the debates between Galileo and Descartes, where the former argued for “careful collection of data” (185) and the latter for rigorous “logical inference”(170). The design of Galileo’s ramps for his acceleration experiments is compared to today’s technologies such as the bubble chamber used in particle accelerators to trace the movement of particles, or the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave (LIGO) Observatory which seeks to detect gravity waves and pinpoint their origin through triangulation analysis of readings taken at different sites in Washington state and Louisiana.

Apedoe and Ford apply these ideas in a case study, whereby high school

[s]tudents were given 54 wooden blocks with which to build as high a structure as possible to withstand a 20-s simulated earthquake. Students were allowed to build and test as many structures as they wanted, and were given approximately 30 min to complete the task.(174)

This assignment follows Nigel Cross’s conception of a design task where there is “(1) a specified goal, (2) constraints within which that goal must be achieved, and (3) criteria for recognition of a successful solution.” Three student profiles emerge from this assignment:

The Successful Learner Openness and willingness to change ideas, receptive to feedback from the material situation, attuned to the performance of the design
The Architect Dogmatic and unchanging ideas about what a building “should be,” complex designs featuring some suitable elements, exasperated when designs failed, not learning from feedback
The Bulldozer Willingness to change ideas about the structure, but not receptive to feedback from the material situation, restarted often from scratch, tried many designs, unattuned to seeking causes for structural failures
Table 3: summary of student profiles in data collection event

Students should not leave school without knowing that their ideas are not only changeable, but that they could be improved upon, and purposeful interaction with the world can help make these improvements happen (185)

While not discussed explicitly, implicit in this contrast of Galileo and Descartes is the distinction between correspondence and coherence theories of truth, where design of data collection events creates correspondences between data points and phenomena, and logical inference is a path toward coherent arguments. These two possibilities are not necessarily mutually exclusive and can even be complementary, as in the division of labour between today’s theoretical and experimental physicists. In explicating this difference, Apedoe and Ford contrast material practice against conceptual practice:

This is not to say that theorizing, or as we characterize it, conceptual practice is not an important part of science, as the work of Newton and Einstein attests. We merely wish to highlight material practice as a part of science at least as important, if less glamorous
Quite often, it is precisely material practice that is the work through which scientists sort out controversies. (170, original emphasis)

The documentary Particle Fever, which documents the discovery of the Higgs Boson, builds this distinction between experimental and theoretical physicists into its narrative arc, pitting Nima Arkani-Hamed and his mentor Savas Dimopoulos as rivals, and at one point showing poignantly how the instruments’ readings of the Higgs Boson mass dashed the lifelong hopes of the older Dimopoulos to have his theory historically enshrined as the correct model of reality, as the experiment forced both theorists to return back to their mathematical drawing boards for significant revisions to their models.

9. Actuality and Virtuality

What all of these characterisations of material practice have in common is actuality, whether the actual plywood of an experimental structure or the actual things one can buy with one’s paycheque. Also, as practices, virtuality is always associated and circulated along with the material– the geometric subsumption of wood, or the logic of patriarchy and capitalism playing a discursive role in pay inequity, or the contradictory or obfuscatory rhetoric of politicians and activists. There is asymmetry in the actual-virtual relation which is articulated similarly across these discourses and is present throughout all of them as a theme. We can summarise material practice as the interplay of actuality and virtuality in the following table:

Discourse Virtuality Actuality
Material Culture Homeland, belonging, taste, aspiration Made things and spaces
Embodiment “Organic” labeling, Edibility, Eating Rituals Digested matter, Affordances, Agro-food networks
Architecture-Design-Engineering 3D Simulation Plywood prototypes and 1:1 scale models
Labour-Economics Articulation, Communication, Patriarchy, Capitalism Income quantities
Human Geography Representations, Political rhetoric of activists and politicians Defense expenditures, Job statistics, GDP
Techne Noesis, Form Poesis, Matter
Scientific Method Intuitions about how things behave, Theories Feedback from material designs
Table 4: actuality and virtuality of material practice across sampled discourses

This table should not be taken as an assertion and reinforcement of declared essential dichotomies– for example, techne is the middle term that unifies poesis and noesis, just as eating bridges a food’s status as organic and its eventual digestion into the same yellow goo at the bottom of the stomach as any other food. Material practices as articulated in the chosen texts appear to require a complementary structure of actuality and virtuality, and the table above clarifies how this is organised in the sampled essays. Pursuing the concept of material practice through the seven disciplinary variations of material culture, embodiment, architecture-design-engineering, labour-economics, human geography, techne and scientific method highlights significant differences and contradictions in the concept. One might perhaps be tempted to say that ultimately ‘material practice’ is a discursive practice, but that interpretation would overlook the clear interconnections that can be traced across the different conceptual formulations. The discovery of this latent conceptual structure of actual/material and discursive/virtual can be understood as a hermeneutic ‘handle’ for navigating complex interdisciplinary inquiries, of the kind once described by Auerbach (13-14):

a point of departure [Ansatzpunkt], a handle, as it were, by which the subject can be seized. The point of departure must be the election of a firmly circumscribed, easily comprehensible set of phenomena whose interpretation is a radiation out from them and which orders and interprets a greater region than they themselves occupy.


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Michael Filimowicz (PhD) is Senior Lecturer in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology (SIAT) at Simon Fraser University and co-editor of The Soundtrack journal. He develops new forms of general purpose multimodal and audiovisual display technology, exploring novel product lines across different application contexts including gaming, immersive exhibitions, control rooms, telepresence and simulation-based training. He has published across disciplines in journals such as Organised Sound, Arts and Humanities in Higher Education, Leonardo, Sound Effects, Parsons Journal for Information Mapping and Semiotica. His art has been exhibited internationally at venues such as SIGGRAPH, Re-New, Design Shanghai, ARTECH, Les Instants Vidéo, IDEAS, Kinsey Institute, and Art Currents, and published in monographs such as Spotlight: 20 Years of the Biel/Bienne Festival of Photography, Reframing Photography and Infinite Instances.