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Additive Technology and Material Cognition: A View from Anthropology

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The paper reflects on the theory of material cognition the advent of 3-D printing arguably calls for, pointing to the topology implicit in additive fabrication that invites a vision of the world in which the environment is no longer outside, but inside material structures that envelop in a self-referential manner and that work by aggregating and assembling, much like the layers of an onion. The questions that additive technology invites are not just technical and material in nature but chiefly concern the question of how the mind will inhabit this material technology that calls for and creates structures of internally held, manifold relations. The challenge additive technology poses to us is examined in this paper by turning to the maritime cultures of Oceania, where the wrapping of objects and of physical bodies in composite, iterative shapes, internally held and additive in fabrication is a chief way to secure the distinctiveness of the social body in the face of pervasive connectivity in a world in which perpetual movement and a conception of relation at a distance is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. The paper uses ethnographic data from Oceania to question the difference additive fabrication will make to the conceptualization of connectivity by directing us away from a network oriented approach informed by communication systems to a localised and immanent system which replicates internally relational elements in a simultaneously enfolding and expansive manner.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Anthropology, University College London14 Taviton Street, London wc1H


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