M/C Journal 2023-11-26T12:57:12+00:00 Axel Bruns Open Journal Systems <h1>M/C Journal</h1> <p><em>M/C Journal</em> was founded (as "M/C – A Journal of Media and Culture") in 1998 as a place of public intellectualism analysing and critiquing the meeting of media and culture. <em>M/C Journal</em> is a fully blind-, peer-reviewed academic journal, open to submissions from anyone. We take seriously the need to move ideas outward, so that our cultural debates may have some resonance with wider political and cultural interests. Each issue is organised around a one-word theme (<a href="">see our past issues</a>), and is edited by one or more guest editors with a particular interest in that theme. Each issue has a feature article which engages with the theme in some detail, followed by several shorter articles.</p> Crafts in the Time of Coronavirus 2022-10-13T04:40:58+00:00 Anna Kouhia <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>In March 2020, many societal functions came to a standstill due to the worldwide spread of Covid-19. Due to the rules set by public healthcare authorities that aimed at “social distancing” to prevent the spread of the virus, the emphasis on domesticity was heightened during the pandemic. As people were forced to spend more time in the home environment, more time was allowed for household pursuits and local activities, such as crafts and home repair (Morse, Fine, and Friedlander).</p> <p>While there has been a rising interest in craft-making as the medium of expression for the past few decades (e.g., Peach), crafts seem to have undergone a serious breakthrough during the global pandemic crisis. In recent studies, crafting has been noted for its usefulness in providing a dimension of comfort and security in a time of instability and isolation (Rixhon), eventually becoming a much-needed conceptual shelter from the threat of the virus (Martin). Sewing seems to have assumed a significant role early in the pandemic, when craft-makers began to mitigate the spread of the virus by using their own sewing machines and material stashes to make masks for their families and friends; some also donated masks to hospital workers and others in need (Martindale, Armstead, and McKinney). While other forms of crafts were also widely practiced (e.g., Jones; Stalp, <em>Covid-19 Global Quilt</em>; Wenzel), face-mask sewing has been at the core of pandemic craft research, highlighting the role of home-based hobby crafting as a means of social survival that contributed to people's agency and feelings of productivity and usefulness during the outbreak of coronavirus (Hahn and Bhaduri; Hustvedt and Liang; Martindale, Armstead, and McKinney; Richards and Perreault; Schnittka). </p> <p>This article analyses two craft hashtags on Instagram from March 2020 to December 2021, which offer a perspective on shifts in pandemic crafts in a linguistically localised crafting community. The hashtags crop up in the Finnish-speaking craft culture, defining pandemic crafts as “Covid craft”, <em>#koronakäsityö</em>, and “Covid crafts”, <em>#koronakäsityöt</em>. By definition, the Finnish word “<em>käsityö</em>” (which derives from the words “<em>käsi</em>”, hand, and “<em>työ</em>”,<em> work</em>) is a broad concept for all handiwork: it is not tied to any specific craft technique, but rather affirms work made by hand, or with tools that are held in hands. In addition, the concept of “<em>käsityö</em>” has no intended emphasis in regard of the phase of the project, or craft techniques or materials being used: it translates as an entity including both the idea of the product that is going to be made during the process of crafting, the embodied craft know-how of the making of the product, and the product itself (Kojonkoski-Rännäli 31; also Ihatsu). However, as is also disclosed in this study, the “<em>käsityö</em>” seems to have a connotation of craft work traditionally made by the persons assumed female by society or other people, and thus, findings may build on domesticity related to textile crafting (see Kouhia, <em>Unraveling, </em>8, 17).</p> <p>The research questions driving this research are: (1) what kind of crafts were made, and how were these crafts contextualised during the pandemic; and (2) how was domesticity reflected in the pandemic crafting? The analysis explains how hobby crafts appeared as reactive pastimes, and how pandemic crafting set a debate on the implementation of alternative futures, interlinked with postfeminist forms of domesticity. As a result, it is shown that home-based hobby crafting was not only capable of upholding a sense of response and recovery for the makers during the pandemic, but also developing and bringing forth new trends within the maker culture.</p> <h1><strong>Domestic Crafting in the Digital Age</strong></h1> <p>In the Western narrative, crafts have been traditionally considered as generative quotidian activities positioned in the domestic space (Hardy; Thompson). In its history, domestic crafting has been practiced within a range of morals spanning from early conceptions of conspicuous leisure as an “unproductive expenditure of time” (Veblen 45) and 1950s feminine virtues like “thrift, practical creativity, and attention to appearance” (McLean 259) to today’s subversive, expressive Do-It-Yourself (DIY) along with the emergence of Third Wave Feminism that has powers to “resist capitalist materialism tendencies” (Stalp, <em>Girls</em>, 264). Often discussed in relation to femininity and unpaid labour—that include nuanced arguments of female subordination, sexuality, and housewifery (MacDonald 47; Parker 2–3; Turney 9)—contemporary crafting is seen not only to fall in the habitual expectations of domesticity, but also to have the capability to subvert and resist them. </p> <p>Indeed, while crafts such as knitting, sewing, and crocheting claimed their status as recreational leisure activities already in the late twentieth century with the changes related to construction of contemporary femininity (Groeneveld 264; Turney 2), there are still many issues and inequalities related to home-based hobby crafting. Predominantly, contemporary home crafts seem to be somewhat challenged by the lack of alternatives to the gendering of the domestic sphere (see Ceuterick). While home crafts are no longer social or economic domestic necessities and not practised by all or exclusively by women, home crafts still “continue to be perceived as a middle-class activity, a distraction and leisure pursuit for ‘ladies’ with time and means” (Hackney 170). </p> <p>While home-based hobby crafts cover many forms of making, ethical and social concerns that offer alternative and countercultural ways of living and consuming have become increasingly visible in contemporary crafting. Today’s hobby crafts operate within structures of everyday life and underpin plurality, complexity, and richness of amateur experience (Knott 124). Contemporary hobby crafting is also boosted by the revitalisation of old skills and the entrenchment of a home culture that utilises "retro cultures" (Hunt and Phillipov), and the increased interest of young adults in DIY culture (Kouhia, <em>Unraveling</em>; Stannard and Sanders). </p> <p>Almost a decade ago, Hunt and Phillipov put forward a discussion of the regained popularity of old-fashioned “Nanna Style” home practices. They noticed that young, activist makers praised these grandmotherly practices as “simultaneously nostalgic and politically progressive choices”, calling in countercultural politics of gender and consumption, and confusing the seemingly conservative lines “between imagined utopias of domesticity and the economic and environmental realities of contemporary consumer culture” (Hunt and Phillipov). Paired with ethical consumption, this promoted liberated postfeminist domesticity, a refusal of the capitalist structures of consumption, and a move away from binaries between the masculine and the feminine. Again, a return to domestic activities such as cooking, cleaning, and crafting was witnessed during the Covid-19 pandemic, with people inscribing the domestic chores as postfeminist choices rather than oppression (Ceuterick) and participating in the production of meaning as a “redomesticated woman” (Negra 16, cited in Palomeque Recio).</p> <h1><strong>Methodology</strong></h1> <p>Today, social media resources provide a fundamental theoretical lens used by the researchers with powers to function both as an enabler and a driver of innovation (Bhimani, Mention, and Barlatier). Social media channels allow people to derive value from self-generated content, promoting interpersonal connectedness with the sharing of details of the daily lives of the individuals (Nabity-Grover, Cheung, and Thatcher) with social support, referability, and potential correspondence enclosed from around cyberspace (Hajli).</p> <p>The article is based on qualitative social media research on Instagram, with aims to study the perpetual interest in hobby crafts during the pandemic. The study leans on the research paradigm known as ‘netnography’, which is a qualitative research methodology based on collecting, adapting, reflecting, and interacting with online traces with “a cultural focus on understanding the data derived from social media data” (Kozinets 6). Social media data consisting of 361 posts have been derived from Instagram’s <em>#koronakäsityö</em> and <em>#koronakäsityöt </em>hashtag feeds, and interpreted from the viewpoint of the content of the images and the context of their production (see Yang 17).</p> <p>The data collection took place from March 2020 to December 2021. I have followed the stream of posts using Instagram’s follow function from the position of a craft researcher and serious hobbyist (see Stebbins; Kouhia, <em>Unraveling</em>) from spring 2020, when the first Covid craft publications were published. Since then, the posts have been visible in the image stream of my own Instagram account, which has given me a preliminary view of the content of the publications. The data collection was ceased in December 2021 due to the decrease of posted content. All posts are connected to the Finnish craft culture through the hashtags used as descriptions of “<em>käsityö</em>”, and they are approached as forms of self-disclosure of Covid-era hobby crafting (see Nabity-Grover, Cheung, and Thatcher). </p> <p>The posts were collected at several points during the research period and were manually extracted to Excel tables with the post content data (date and week of publication, account name of the publisher, number of images, captions and hashtags). The data were analysed using qualitative approaches to Instagram data (Yang 19), with main emphasis on the posts’ visual material (Rose) analysed with a qualitative content analysis approach (see Hsieh and Shannon). The data were first charted and thematised by 1) the type and technique of craft presented (e.g., knitting, macramé, yarn balls, etc.), and 2) the display of the craft maker (age, gender, presentation in the post in relation or with the craft), and subsequently, evaluated by 3) looking at the production of domesticity in the posts (presentation and description of the domestic space). I have tried to ensure the validity of research with consistency and trust value (see Noble and Smith), making my research decisions clear and transparent, and viewing the experiences that may have resulted in methodological bias. However, given the multiple realities of qualitative research ontology, research validity needs to be framed within complex social and cultural rationales, and paired with the aim of “maintaining cohesion between the study’s aim, design and methods” (Noble and Smith 35). Considering the ethics of using social media data, all posts considered as the data of this study have been published on public Instagram accounts, and their reporting adheres to anonymous indirect quoting and image manipulation.</p> <h1><strong>Pandemic Domestic Crafting on Instagram</strong></h1> <p>Pandemic crafting consisted of many kinds of crafts. During the long review period, Covid crafts centred strikingly around textile-making: the most outstanding crafting techniques were knitting, crocheting, and sewing (table 1). Other kinds of textile crafts, like macramé, weaving, fabric printing and painting, embroidery, and clothing repair, were also displayed, yet with minor emphasis in comparison to yarn craft techniques and sewing. Some images presented textile handicraft tools, materials and machines, such as balls of yarn, beads, needles, and sewing machines. Only a few images contained artisanship with hard materials, with these few photos including multimaterial jewellery, boat carving, repairing a terrace, and building a wooden wall behind an outdoor mailbox. </p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="964" height="654" /></p> <p><em>Table 1. The kinds of crafts posted on Instagram during the pandemic: a summary based on #koronakäsityö and #koronakäsityöt.</em></p> <p>Regarding the phase of the crafting project, most images concentrated on depicting completed, finished craft products. In addition to woollen socks, knitwear, macrame works, and clothes, everyday handicrafts endemic to the period, such as sewn masks and crocheted mask holders, were also portrayed as Corona crafts. </p> <p>Besides the kinds of crafts made, it is also important to look at the shifts in Covid-related craft content. Indeed, mask sewing posts and links to news on the positive role of crafting in times of crisis started to crop up in social media platforms already in the early phase of the pandemic (Kouhia, <em>Online</em>); in parallel, related social media hashtags emerged to identify the content. The first images of Covid crafts were posted on Instagram in late March 2020. These images were captioned with momentary descriptions of the disruption the habituated everyday routines, but also granted more time to crafts. As social-distancing weeks passed, Covid crafting quickly evolved in accordance with the first wave of the virus infection, eventually rising to its peak in April 2020. In parallel to the easing of the Covid outbreak in the summer of 2020, Covid crafting and posts diminished. As the situation became worse again in the autumn with the rise of the second wave of the virus, Covid crafting increased, and recurred until the spring of 2021. Towards the end of 2021, spontaneous Corona craft publications became irregular. </p> <p>Pandemic crafts seemed to be recurrently contextualised with the continual transformation of materiality within the domestic space. Craft-makers described having drawn inspiration from their old craft material stashes and returned to projects that had been left untouched and unfinished for one reason or another for months, years, and sometimes even decades. Makers—most of them likely falling, based on popularity of textile hobby crafts in Finland (see Pöllänen) and the interviews conducted among the publishers of the Covid craft-related posts, in the social categories of white, middle-aged, mostly urban able-bodied anticipated women—described having felt there was more time for crafting, and due to the restricted domestic space, an embodied and infinite push of being ecological and using the resources that they had at hand. In this sense, craft-makers not only showed abilities and resilience to react to the changing situation, but also unfolded crafting as an expression and a form of self-disclosure, with powers to make visible the value of care of the environment as a contribution to societal wellbeing. All in all, experiences of crafting as a self-chosen, self-maintained privilege seemed to afford a sense of flexibility. Further, this facilitated the reframing of the increased domestic activities as postfeminist choices and crafting as care for the home and family, as discussed in the following data excerpt:</p> <blockquote> <p>Thanks to Covid, I’ve had an excuse to take up the sewing machine and play with fabrics. I had completely forgotten how fun it is to design clothes, the process has really taken me out. Especially, if one wants more special children’s clothes, they will cost you like several bags of toilet paper = which is as much as hell, if you don’t make the clothes yourself. Also works as a pretty good motivator though 😂💪 <br />(#koronakäsityöt Instagram post from April 2020)</p> </blockquote> <p>As the posts mainly cover textile crafting, feminine domesticity with the symbolised oppressive feminine social ideals of good mothering and housewifery are embedded in the narrative through at-home managerialism, like taking care of the household and maintaining children’s clothing. Indeed, the care of the family was repeatedly addressed in craft posts, with descriptions of mothers making clothes for their children—sometimes at the request of the kids, and but most often as daily chores of wearing and caring. For some craft-makers, textile crafting seemed to offer a passage to continue the mundane, domesticated policies that were already established at home; in other words, those who had been already keen on textile hobby crafting were suddenly offered more time for their beloved leisure practice. In addition, there were also new makers entering the field of crafting, who started practicing leisure crafts for the first time, or those who returned to their once-lost hobby. However, argumentation that framed Covid crafting tended to embrace craft-making as a conscious decision to live up to the images of femininity it may entail, and not particularly having the resources to transform the entrenched roles and figures it might provoke.</p> <p>Also, Covid crafting managed to also disclose a view of the intimate, framing the at-home private space and decorating it with the feminised imperatives of thriftiness, laboriousness, and austerity (see Bramall). Indeed, crafts seemed to be confined to the household space, which itself has been inherently political during the pandemic (e.g., Martin), and framed as distinctively individual choices to demonstrate the morale of staying at home and taking active ownership of the domestic space. Sometimes crafts were lined up in a space of their usage, like hanging macramé baskets and shawls placed on a sofa (fig. 1), though occupying the domestic space conveniently and adaptively, but without a deep questioning or consideration of the traditional binary oppositions between private and public spaces or home labour subscribing to anticipated masculinity or femininity. Rather, crafts seemed to be taken up as individual affirmative choices—not as household necessities, but as activities promoting the self-worth and personage of the makers and nurturing a sense of purpose and care in the lockdown homes.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="700" height="700" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1. Square crochet blanket occupying the domestic space. The image is manipulated by the author for the purposes of publication.</em></p> <p>Although crafts were purposefully placed on display in the posts, the main point was not in aesthetics based on strong image manipulation or the use of heavy filters, but rather showing off the permeability of the domestic space with the experiences of craft-makers living with a strong sense of satisfaction gained from crafting. Indeed, crafting itself can be interpreted as a resource contributing to the sense of perseverance and tenacity, giving a purpose for social survival in times of crisis: crafting was not cancelled, while almost everything else was paused.</p> <h1><strong>Discussion</strong></h1> <p>The pandemic had profound implications for the lives of millions of people, not only by compromising healthcare and economies, but also by reframing and revolutionising the meanings and values of moment-to-moment lifestyle choices and activities taking place at home. People were forced to re-engage in the practices of home and household during the pandemic, which changed their daily rhythm and transformed practices of the domestic space, further offering to revolutionise notions of domestic labour and care (Ceuterick). During the pandemic, domestic hobby crafting seemed to emerge as a phenomenon to influence social and cultural change, also providing makers with the experiences of usefulness to mitigate the changing circumstances.</p> <p>In line with the previous studies, this study implied that when contextualised within the frame of postmodern freedom, hobby crafts result in unique expressions that can sustain reflexivity, self-maintenance, and resilience (Kenning; Pöllänen), and reclaim a status as a public and social activity (Turney; Mayne). Within a study of 27 older adults practicing mask-sewing during the pandemic, Schnittka identified crafting to help other people to manage chaotic times, also contributing to makers' feelings of value, worthiness and purpose and their sense of control (225). Hahn and Bhaduri recognise similar habits in their study of mask-making behaviour, detailing that self-fulfilment and wellbeing as the most important reason for making masks, and financial motivation leaving behind other morals (307). Similar results can be also drawn based on this study; most importantly, the value of crafting as a flexible, self-sustained performance in the boundaries between the intimate and the shared.</p> <p>In this study, attention was drawn to hobby crafting intended for sharing online and situated in a linguistically localised cultural niche in a particular time frame. Thus, the study witnessed the rise and fall of “Covid-crafts” on Instagram through the analysis of two coronavirus-related craft hashtags that emerged in the Finnish-speaking crafting community. Although using linguistically and culturally situated data may limit the study, it also offers a view of crafting as a social and cultural phenomenon. In the future, more research needs to be undertaken on crafting regarding various geographic, political, cultural, and socio-economic venues, so that the nuanced and complex negotiations of domesticity could be examined and understood more thoroughly. </p> <p>Nevertheless, like the study by Martindale, Armstead, and McKinney, which reviewed publicly displayed face-mask sewing posts hashtagged with #sewingmasks and #sewingfacemask posted on Instagram in March 2020 (205), this study revealed that craft-makers were keen to share and exchange ideas and information online. In this study, Covid crafting seemed to be undertaken far from a complex choice—it was rather taken as a self-sustained, satisfactory leisure activity that aimed to maintain a sense of purpose rather than critique. Still, even the seemingly uncritical craft practice set to operate an inherently political act that made use of the changed resources in the family and household. Indeed, it can be concluded that in this time of crisis, crafting offered to raise a sense of wellbeing and individual identity of the maker, providing people with a means of reacting and being responsive to the changes of the world. The subversive potential of home-based hobby crafting seems to lie within the powers that may offer different ways for the makers to harness the mundane practice to different purposes to mitigate change, from resistance and revolution to the unravelling of societal and cultural prejudice and familial household care policies, to create better conditions for sustainable, humane, non-binary futures.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Bhimani, Hardik, Anne-Laure Mention, and Pierre-Jean Barlatier. "Social Media and Innovation: A Systematic Literature Review and Future Research Directions." <em>Technological Forecasting and Social Change</em> 144 (2019): 251–69.</p> <p>Bradbury, Alexandra, Katey Warran, Hei Wan Mak, and Daisy Fancourt. "The Role of the Arts during the COVID-19 Pandemic." Arts Council of the United Kingdom, 2021. 25 Aug. 2022 &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bramall, Rebecca. <em>The Cultural Politics of Austerity: Past and Present in Austere Times</em>. 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Research in the Instagram Context: Approaches and Methods. <em>The Journal of Social Sciences Research</em> 7.1 (2021): 15–21.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Anna Kouhia The Use of Thread and Fabric in Feminist Zines 2023-10-27T01:51:39+00:00 Bianca Martin <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>Zines have a direct cultural link to the third wave feminist movement, with feminist zines rising to prominence in the early 1990s alongside the punk subculture known as “riot grrrl” (Piepmeier 8). Feminist zines provided an avenue for young women to write about their lived experiences of sexism or discrimination and to connect with other women who had shared experiences, much like the consciousness-raising groups of previous feminist activist movements (Duncombe 197). Contemporary feminist zines have continued to evolve in this manner, blending the personal with the political as zinemakers approach new topics and find new language and imagery to reflect their experiences.</p> <p>Physical and digital contemporary feminist zines recall this legacy of feminist activism through signifying historically traditional feminist craft practices such as quilting and scrapbooking in their material construction. Reynolds suggests that it is the unique modes of creative self-expression offered by the zine medium, rather than the actual content, that offer opportunities for political expression for zinemakers (12-13). Zines allow the maker to have complete, unmediated control over the content, production methods, and distribution reach outside of mainstream media and capitalist mass production (Reynolds 12). Zinemakers become empowered through self-representation and reclaiming one’s own narrative (Piepmeier 5). Here, the type of political and activist work undertaken is local and individual, where cultural change is promoted through autonomous media consumption and production (Piepmeier 5).</p> <p>Zines are most commonly defined as “noncommercial, nonprofessional, small-circulation magazines which their creators produce, publish, and distribute by themselves” (Duncombe 9). Prominent zine scholarship has historically analysed zines through the lens of subcultural or alternative publishing (Duncombe; Atton), as sites of resistance to mainstream representation (Schilt; Harris), and for their textual or narrative properties (Poletti; Piepmeier; Sinor). While the modes of production and content of zines promote unique lines of enquiry, the materiality of the zine also provides opportunity for informing and enhancing reading practices beyond the formal structures of traditionally printed materials. Duncombe suggests that the form of the zine “becomes part of the message from zine creators to their audience” (105). This is evident in contemporary feminist zines where the use of handcrafted elements adds layers of signification to the object, particularly concerning communal belonging through shared textual and visual narratives</p> <p>It is through this lens that I will examine two examples of contemporary feminist zines, <em>Fine Cloth</em> and <em>She’s the Girl U Want</em>. I argue that the use of unique handcrafted elements such as thread and fabric in zine construction signifies a shared legacy with feminist craft practices as a means of self-expression and communication. I will first examine how thread acts as a binding mechanism in <em>Fine Cloth</em>, where the reader is required to physically untie the zine to gain access to its interior. This action is an invitation to read the enclosed contents and suggests a kind of intimacy between reader and creator. I will then investigate how the felt fabric embroidered cover of <em>She’s the Girl U Want</em> promotes an enhanced reading of the interior pages, transforming the zine into an autobiographical object. I will also examine how these handcrafted elements can translate to digital and online zines using the example of e-zine <em>She Began to Question.</em> Feminist craft practices have evolved alongside technological advancements and digital zines continue to utilise both real and perceived handcrafted elements to signify this shared legacy. The effect of materiality is not lost by reading and interacting with digital zines. Rather than viewing the digital zine as a reproduction of the physical, digital zines instead open space for new iterations and interpretations through existing in a new cultural context and offers an opportunity to continue to sustain these practices.</p> <h1><strong>Intentional Construction: Quilts, Scrapbooks, and Zines</strong></h1> <p>In order to understand how the material properties of the contemporary zine signify a shared legacy with traditional feminine craft practices, it is useful to explore the existing research linking the two sites of enquiry. Zines scholars Alison Piepmeier and Anna Poletti have both connected contemporary zinemaking to a legacy of feminism activism by drawing comparison to traditionally feminine craft practices such as scrapbooking and quilting, respectively. Poletti and Piepmeier establish similarities from the intentional construction of the object for individual women to communicate and connect with a broader community of women, utilising tools, themes, and language relevant to their own cultural moment.</p> <p>Quiltmaking, scrapbooking and zinemaking are “conscious labouring choices” that privilege personal production as a means of communication and social connection (Poletti 55). The finished object tells the story of its labour, shown through seams, joins, stitches, and folds. Poletti explains, “the physical trace of the quilter is read by following generations, involving imaginative work which takes the object as a point of departure for constructing a sense of connection with one’s ancestry” (56). Quilts and scrapbooks are objects that are designed to be shared socially, but also passed on as an heirloom through generations, while zine distribution mimics this tradition through its unique gifting and trading culture (Poletti 56).</p> <p>Christensen concludes that “the physical properties of stuff shape the ways social connections happen”, reinforcing the significance of the materiality of the object in connecting a shared legacy (264). These traditions have provided women with a means of participating in cultural production, using their outputs as empowering statements of unfettered creative expression. When reading zines through the lens of historical craft tradition, it becomes apparent that the use of thread and fabric in contemporary zinemaking can be read as a conscious choice of the maker to draw a link to feminist lineage.</p> <h1><strong>The Use of Thread in <em>Fine Cloth</em></strong></h1> <p><em>Fine Cloth</em> is a single cardstock page, folded in half and approximately A6 in size. It is colour-printed, with the front cover featuring a taupe damask pattern and an ink stamp that reads “for THOSE with discerning taste to follow and CHERISH” (emphasis original). The back page is plain dark brown and features computer-printed text alongside the words “fine cloth” with a floral illustration. A clear plastic button has been hand sewn onto the front page with a length of white embroidery thread that loops around the exterior of the zine to wrap back around the button. This acts as an enclosure, meaning the inner contents of the folded page cannot be accessed while the thread is wrapped around the zine. There is a small paper tag on the end of the thread stamped in ink with the word “entry” on one side and “fine cloth” on the other side. These structural elements evoke a sense of the zine acting as a private invitation to the reader.</p> <p>The use of thread here is an intentional design element that blocks access to the inner pages and is therefore a significant element to consider when reading the zine. The act of unravelling the thread enclosure provides an interaction that is often not present in other text-objects. Piepmeier explains this act of “forcing the reader to untie the zine before reading it” means the reader becomes more invested in the act of reading (71). The ability to open, as well as deliberately close, the zine “evokes a sense of secrecy, of being invited to read hidden material” (Piepmeier 72).</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="1408" height="1066" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1: Cover of </em>Fine Cloth<em> zine.</em></p> <p>Unwinding the thread from around the button and opening the zine reveals a double page spread of an intense and overwhelming digitally constructed collage. While the exterior of the zine appears quite formal and elicits an old-world sensibility through its print style, colouring, and font choice, the interior pages contrast this with the use of bold black, red, and yellow and extensive image layering. The reader’s eye is drawn to a misshapen plastic baby doll face surrounded by steampunk style ephemera such as an analogue clock, illustrated human hands, letter tiles, and accordion keys. The text of the inner spread is almost indecipherable due to the colouring and the busy background collaging. These design choices can be read as evoking a feeling of a scrapbook, a traditional item on the surface but its inner contents reveal a personal interpretation of the creator’s experiences.</p> <p>Poletti supports this notion, explaining that wrapping or encasing a zine is a transformative action in which the reader must first negotiate the zine as an object before it becomes a text (247-248). The additional sculptural elements beyond that of a traditionally printed book draw attention to the fact that each copy of the zine has been constructed by hand, thus humanising the creator of the object. The use of thread also acts as a reference to specific forms of women’s labour and skill (Poletti 56). The quilt is a visibly constructed item through its seams and joins, and the addition of this thread draws attention to the zine as a visibly constructed item (Poletti 54). Unlike the largely invisible binding or stapling of other printed matter, the thread here makes the hand of the maker visible on the object. Through interacting with the thread that has been sewn and wound, the reader is “registering the time expanded on each individual copy and positioning the contents as something gifted, prepared, contemplated, and special” (Poletti 247). This interaction promotes an embodied connection between creator and reader, thus promoting a feeling of intimacy.</p> <h1><strong>The Use of Fabric in <em>She’s the Girl U Want</em></strong></h1> <p><em>She’s the Girl U Want</em> is an A5-size booklet, folded and stapled along the spine. The front and back cover is made from bright yellow felt fabric with a crudely hand embroidered “#2” and a heart in black thread in the bottom right-hand corner. The inner pages of the zine are standard colour photocopied printer paper, mostly featuring drawings and doodles of femme-presenting characters alongside handwritten text. On the first inner page, the photocopy includes the ring-binding of a notebook, presumably where the drawing has been photocopied from. The middle spread has photocopied fabric pieces decorating the edges of the pages, bordering the hand-illustrated elements. The inclusion of the ring-binding and the fabric further draws attention to the zine as a handcrafted item, signifying to the reader that despite being photocopies, these internal pages are the result of a conscious labouring practice.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="388" height="548" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 2: Cover of </em>She’s the Girl U Want<em> zine.</em></p> <p>The yellow felt shows signs of being cut by hand, with the sides cut on a slight angle and not sitting flush with the printer paper. The zine is also clearly folded and stapled by hand as the staples are off-centre, causing the pages to sit askew. Piepmeier refers to features such as these as “a scrappy messiness”, which is “an aesthetic that serves to humanize the creator and the zine” and enhances the sense of personal connection when engaging with the object (67). It reminds the reader “consciously or unconsciously, that there is a maker, a creator, behind this text” (Sinor 243). The reader understands that each page here has passed through the hand of the maker and was constructed with intention and care, situating the object as a labour of love.</p> <p>The fabric and thread of the exterior can therefore transform a reading of this zine from a booklet of doodles or scribbles to an autobiographical object. While books can contain the content of life writing, their formal structures remind “readers that they aren’t actually privy to someone’s confidential information” (Piepmeier 73). The handcrafted elements of the zine signify “fewer layers of separation between the reader and the creator”, and encourage the reader to approach the zine as a personal object, rather than a mass-produced object (Piepmeier 73).</p> <p>The fabric zine cover is thus a performative gesture of self-making and a statement of communal belonging. Smith draws on this notion of performativity to explain the prominence of shared narratives in feminist autobiographical texts, writing: “the history of an autobiographical subject is the history of recitations of the self. But if the self does not exist prior to its recitations, then autobiographical storytelling is a recitation of a recitation” (21). I suggest reframing this statement to the context of appropriating material qualities to construct an identity through history and legacy. Sinor suggests this is particularly apparent in feminist zines, where the performance of making the zine enacts a performance of identity, one that can be read to reflect a historical lineage of feminist craft practices (245).</p> <h1><strong>Online Community and the Digital Reproducibility of Zines</strong></h1> <p>Technological advancements have historically played a significant role in feminist craft practices and have lowered the barriers to cultural production (Ramdarshan Bold 217). The invention of sewing machines drastically altered quilt-making practices both in terms of quilt construction but also the surrounding social interactions (Christensen 267). Likewise, digital scrapbooking spaces have opened up opportunities for self-expression and sharing “without requiring outlays of money and space during production” (Christensen 268). While many anticipated the decline of zines with the rise of the Internet, zines have continued to flourish in both physical and online spaces (Duncombe 217).</p> <p>The technological impacts on physical zines can be considered in two ways. Firstly in terms of digital communities, that is the connecting and networking between members of the zine community that can occur in online spaces. The digital medium makes it easier for the reader to connect with the creator and for creators to connect more broadly with a like-minded network thanks to email and social media (Ramdarshan Bold 220). This means a more immediate and tangible sense of community is available to those making and reading zines, compared to the informal and distant networks of physical zines that primarily operate through the postal system (Ferris).</p> <p>Then, secondly, zines can be translated into a digital form known as e-zines, made through desktop publishing applications or simply as digitised copies of physical zines. Digital zines are arguably more accessible as they are more affordable to produce and distribute than their physical counterparts and therefore more affordable for readers to purchase (Ferris). E-zines hold the potential to reach wider networks and new audiences as they are not limited by print runs, thus providing an opportunity to sustain the practice and continue to build a lineage alongside advancements in technology (Christensen 263).</p> <p>While the unique material qualities of physical zines such as <em>Fine Cloth</em> and <em>She’s the Girl U Want</em> enhance reading practices and undoubtedly add complex layers of understanding to the zine as material object, it is important to understand that the zine form itself is inherently reproducible. It is rare that a physical zine is entirely original and homemade, with most zines undergoing processes of scanning and photocopying. I have argued here that the handmade qualities of zines can provide additional context in which to read that object, but I also argue that a digital reproduction of a zine opens space for new iterations and interpretations through existing in a new context (Burns 5).</p> <p>Burns argues that “the embodiment of the physical object is carried into the digital file”, and this is evident in the example of <em>She’s the Girl U Want</em> (7-8). The inclusion of scanned fabric pieces still reads as fabric even after the process of reproduction, continuing to call attention to the zine as a handmade object. This can also be seen in the e-zine <em>She Began to Question</em>, produced as a 17-page PDF. It is black and white and features handwriting, hand drawn illustrations and doodles, computer-typed text, and collaging. The cover of the zine appears to be a scan of the front page of a physical booklet, where the left side of the image (where the spine of a physical zine would be) appears to curve, suggesting that, rather than being a flat image that has been digitally manipulated, it was previously handcrafted. While the reader does not open the page in the same way they would a physical zine, the ascribed meaning here positions the reader to understand the intention and approach the object as handcrafted.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="384" height="580" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 3: Inner page of </em>She Began to Question <em>zine.</em></p> <p>The collaging technique of the inner pages of <em>She Began to Question </em>mimics the scanned fabric found in <em>She’s the Girl U Want.</em> While the reader cannot determine exactly if this is fabric or scrapbooking paper, the cut and paste style calls to mind scrap pieces of fabric and the floral design suggests a pattern that is viewed as traditionally feminine, or even a reminder of the damask cover of <em>Fine Cloth</em>. The use of floral patterns here signifies to the reader that the zinemaker understands and acknowledges the ways feminist zines recall crafting traditions, and thus directly situates itself within that lineage. It is through the aesthetic and ideological performances of previous feminist craft practices that emerging practices continue to draw on this lineage, regardless of their materiality (Piepmeier 42).</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion</strong></h1> <p>Christensen suggests that the existence of the material object itself “suggests a desire to leave a durable legacy” (240). Zines, much like scrapbooks or quilts, may not be created with the explicit intention of becoming a historical record, but implicitly do so through the act of recalling traditional feminine craft practices. Contemporary zine creators align themselves with a feminist legacy through ideological or aesthetic similarities, shown here through the use of material items such as thread and fabric in physical zines and the signification of these material objects in digital zines (Piepmeier 39). Zines continue to participate as a record of communication in both physical and digital forms, adapting the use of physical ephemera and digital technology to reflect the cultural moment.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Atton, Chris. <em>Alternative Media.</em> London: Sage, 2002.</p> <p>Burns, Jasmine E. “The Aura of Materiality: Digital Surrogacy and the Preservation of Photographic Archives.” <em>Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America</em> 36.1 (2017): 1-8.</p> <p>Christensen, Danille Elise. “Materializing the Everyday: ‘Safe’ Scrapbooks, Aesthetic Mess, and the Rhetorics of Workmanship.” <em>Journal of Folklore Research</em> 54.3 (2017): 233-284.</p> <p>Duncombe, Stephen. <em>Notes from Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture</em>. Portland: Microcosm, 2017.</p> <p>Ferris, Melanie A. “Resisting Mainstream Media: Girls and the Act of Making Zines.” <em>Canadian Woman Studies</em> 20.4 (2001): 51-55.</p> <p>Harris, Anita. “GURL Scenes and Grrrl Zines: The Regulation and Resistance of Girls in Late Modernity.” <em>Feminist Review</em> 75 (2003): 38–56.</p> <p>Piepmeier, Alison. <em>Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism</em>. New York: New York UP, 2009.</p> <p>Poletti, Anna. <em>Intimate Ephemera: Reading Young Lives in Australian Zine Culture</em>. Carlton: Melbourne UP, 2008.</p> <p>Ramdarshan Bold, Melanie. “Why Diverse Zines Matter: A Case Study of the People of Color Zines Project.” <em>Publishing Research Quarterly</em> 33.3 (2017): 215–28.</p> <p>Reynolds, Chelsea. “My Zines, So Far, Aren't as Political as Other Works I've Produced: Communicative Capitalism among Queer Feminist Zinesters”. <em>Communication, Culture and Critique</em> 13.1 (2020): 1-19.</p> <p>Schilt, Kristen. “‘I’ll Resist with Every Inch and Every Breath’: Girls and Zine Making as a Form of Resistance.” <em>Youth &amp; Society.</em> 35.1 (2003): 71-97.</p> <p>Sinor, Jennifer. “Another Form of Crying: Girl Zines as Life Writing.” <em>Prose Studies: History, Theory, Criticism</em> 26.1-2 (2003): 240-264.</p> <p>Smith, Sidonie. “Performativity, Autobiographical Practice, Resistance.” <em>a/b: Auto/Biography Studies</em> 10.1 (1995): 17-33.</p> <p>Sorensen, Alexa. <em>She Began to Question</em>. 2019.</p> <p>Wijango, Angela. <em>She’s the Girl U Want #2</em>.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Bianca Martin Bias Cuts and Data Dumps 2022-10-24T18:47:03+00:00 Daniela Rosner <h1><strong>Introduction</strong></h1> <p>“Patterns are everywhere”, design researcher Anuradha Reddy told her virtual audience at the 2023 speaker series hosted by Brilliant Labs, a Canadian non-profit focussed on experiential digital learning and coding (Brilliant Labs / Labos Créatifs). Like other technology fora, this public-facing series offered designers an opportunity to highlight the accessibility of code. But unlike many such fora, Reddy’s code was worn on the body.</p> <p>Sitting at the now-standard webinar lectern, Reddy shared a flurry of images and contexts as she introduced a garment she called <em>b00b,</em> a bra that she created in 2021 to probe the encoding of more than aesthetic possibility. Her presentation included knotted motifs of Andean Quipus; symbolic arcs of Chinese Pan Chang knots; geometric transformations of African American cornrow hairstyles (Eglash and Bennett, Brilliant Labs / Labos Créatifs). She followed the patterned imagery with questions of uncertainty that are often central for design researchers like her. Facing what might be a possible swipe, tap, or otherwise engagement, a technologist cannot fully determine what a user does. But they can “nudge”, a term popularised by behavioral economists Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein in 2008 and later propagated within technoscientific discourses on risk (see Duffy and Thorson; Rossi et al.; Thaler and Sunstein).</p> <p>Adjacent bodies of scholarship frame the related concept of trust as a form of compliance (Adam et al.; Gass and Seiter). The more trustworthy an interface, the more likely a user is to comply. Rooted in social-psychological precepts, this line of scholarship frames trust less as a condition than a perception. When a user trusts an indicator light, for example, an app is more likely to see increased acceptance and engagement. Reddy approaches trust from and with <em>b00b</em>, an emphatically intimate (soft, pliable, textile) artifact. “How do we use these … perspectives to deal with uncertainty and things we do not know yet in the future?”, Reddy asks her Brilliant Labs audience (Brilliant Labs / Labos Créatifs).</p> <p>To make this argument, I examine Reddy’s <em>b00b</em> in conversation with a legacy feminist textile performance that brings questions of embodiment (and embodied trust) to an ostensibly disembodied technocratic scene. <em>b00b</em> is a decorative bra that emulates two-factor authentication, or what Reddy calls “b00b factor authentication.” The bra uses its two cups to verify a user’s access to a Website describing the project. With this interaction, the bra is self-referential—asking users to unlock a link that brings them back to someone’s chest. In practice, <em>b00b</em> asks users to scan a bra cup that relies on scanning the companion bra cup for a second passcode. Rather than messaging users, an initial passcode that triggers a second passcode sent by text message, the engagement requires bodily proximity. The bra cups take the place of electronic media (such as the text message) so that a close encounter with the bra enlivens digital trust. Under these circumstances, a trusted user becomes a risk-taker—gaining access while transgressing personal boundaries.</p> <p>In the sections that follow, I thread conversations on digital and algorithmic trustworthiness with critiques of trust and compliance that pervade Reddy’s 2021 handmade experiment. To date, technology analysts tend to treat trust as a perception: feelings of confidence in a person or thing (Gilkson and Woolley). As Natasha Schüll notes, a user might trust a slot machine but might miss its implications for further (and potentially excessive) gambling. Additionally, media scholars such as Evgeny Morozov have since mapped this addiction principle within social media development, pointing to a familiar science of incentive structures, gamification dashboards, and behaviour-change techniques, each designed to raise user engagement and keep people in apps longer. Thinking with Reddy’s work, I argue that trust can reveal an embodied desire, something momentarily felt and differentially shared (see also Gregg; Sharma; Irani). Reddy frames the weft of woven material as code, the purl and knit stitches of knitting as binary, and the knots of rope as algorithms. She urges her audience to see fabric as a means of challenging common assumptions about technology. With needles and thread, she proffers algorithmic trust as a relational ethics.</p> <h1><strong>In Technology We Trust</strong></h1> <p>From a design perspective, trust grows from the strategic balancing of risk and uncertainty (Cheshire). Users who find a digital feature reliable or trustworthy are more likely to grow their engagement and convince others to join in (Hancock et al.). In a recent analysis of the overlapping dynamics of algorithmic trust and bias, communication and information scholars Jeff Hancock, Mor Namaan, and Karen Levy (95) argue that machine learning tools such as the Chrome extension Just Not Sorry often replicate bias within training data. The extension disproportionately alerts femme users when they use qualifying words like “sorry”, and “I think”. In ​​other contexts, Hancock and colleagues suggest, an AI-aided tool may help mitigate interpersonal biases since if it “imparts signals of trustworthiness between peer-based social exchange partners, these countervailing cues may neutralise stereotypes that would otherwise impede the transaction” (ibid). Here, the signal of trustworthiness holds the promise of accountability. But because the signals focus on cognition (manipulating an individual’s perceptions), what they refer to and how they may alleviate harms caused by entrenched cultural bias remains less clear.</p> <p>Grounded in social-psychological tenets, technology analysts codify trust as the relationship between two primary concepts: risk and uncertainty. As information scholar Coye Chesire (50) explains, “trust is not simply the absence of risk and uncertainty. More accurately, trust is a complex human response to situations that are rife with risk and uncertainty”. Through a range of controlled methods including observations, self-reports, survey questions, and the experimental conditions of a lab study, researchers measure the trustworthiness of user interface features as assessments of risk and uncertainty that explain differing motivations for use and disengagement. For example, design researcher Nick Merrill’s and Cheshire’s study of heart rate monitors finds that listening to an acquaintance's normal heart rate can lead to negative trust-related assessments in challenging contexts such as waiting to meet the acquaintance about a legal dispute. Parallel work by Hancock and colleagues uses self-reports and large-scale experiments on platforms like Facebook to map the significance of AI-enabled curation features like news feeds (Hancock et al.). As a psychological state, trustworthiness tends to indicate a behavioral metric that can be numerically encoded and individually addressed. By measuring trust-infused dimensions of user activity, analysts seek to systematically identify new ways of scaffolding trust-building behaviour by manipulating perception (Hancock, Namaan, and Levy), ultimately convincing a user to comply. </p> <p>A core goal is to maximise participation. The US government applied these principles to mass data collection and dissemination efforts during national census such as the COVID response (Halpern). But a secondary effect grows from the political-economic dimensions of user experience. Through compliance, users become easier to place, measure, count, and amend—a process Michelle Murphy names the economisation of life. When people’s certainty in interpersonal relationships grows, “the source of uncertainty then shifts to the assurance system, thereby making trustworthiness and reliability of the institution or organisation the salient relationship” (Cheshire 54). For instance, we may trust people in our text messages because we meet them face to face and put their numbers in our phones. But once we trust them, this assurance moves to our social media service or cellular phone provider. The service that manages our contacts also preserves the integrity of our contacts, such as when a messaging platform like WhatsApp automatically updates a cell phone number without our knowledge or explicit consent. Conversely, feelings of assurance in a digital interface feature may dwindle with decreased feelings of assurance by a platform. Until November 2022, users may have trusted someone with a blue checkmark on Twitter more than someone without one, even if they did not trust them at an interpersonal level. But with a chaotic acquisition that, according to a <em>Washington Post</em> report (Weatherbed), led to shifting check mark meanings and colours, this assurance grew more complicated. Murphy (24) might call these quantitative practices enriched with affect the “phantasmagrams” of rationalised assurance. Like a check mark that may or may not index a particular measure of confidence, excitement or worry, these shifting dynamics reveal the “trust and belief that animates numbers” (52). </p> <p>A less considered outcome of this framing is how individuated expressions of distrust (situations that foster psychological and physiological concern, skepticism, or fear for a single person) overshadow its complement: non-unconditional expressions of care. How might a user interface foster networks of connection for self and community? As Anna Lauren Hoffmann suggests, efforts to thwart algorithmic discrimination undergird this conundrum—“mirroring some of antidiscrimination discourse’s most problematic tendencies” (901). The particular value placed on trust often proceeds quick-fix techniques such as multi-factor authentication and cryptography that reduce trust to a neutral transaction (see Ashoori, et al.). In this discussion, design researchers have only begun to conceive trust (and distrust) as a deeply embodied process.</p> <h1><strong>Looks, Cuts, and Scans</strong></h1> <p>Reddy’s <em>b00b</em> invites audiences to explore embodied positioning. Sitting on a static mannequin<em>,</em> the garment invites audience members to engage the handiwork laid atop its breasts. In video documentation (Reddy), Reddy holds up a phone to a mannequin wearing the bra. She touches the phone to the mannequin’s right nipple, and the phone screen opens a Web browser with a password-protected field. As Reddy moves the phone to the mannequin’s left nipple, the phone shares the password ‘banjara,’ a reference to the community from which the embroidery techniques derive. The password opens a Website full of descriptive text and imagery detailing this material reference.</p> <p>In this interaction, <em>b00b</em> joins a movement of artistic work that uses textile artifacts to frame boundaries of self and other as porous and shifting. Consider Nam June Paik’s 1969 <em>TV Bra for Living Sculpture.</em> Across the 1970s, Charlotte Moorman performed the work by playing cello while wearing a transparent brassiere with two miniature television screens mounted on her chest (Paik; Rothfuss). As Moorman played her cello, wires connecting the cello to the two television sets sent sonic signals to the video that manipulate its imagery. Moorman’s instrumentation controlled the visuals displayed on the screens, inviting audience members to come closer to the electronic garment and her body—or, as Joan Rothfuss explains, “never mind that the bra actually encouraged prurience by compelling spectators to stare at [Moorman’s] breasts” (243). <em>TV Bra</em> invited its audience to breach conventional limits of closeness and contact much like users of <em>b00b</em>.</p> <p>Yoko Ono’s celebrated <em>Cut Piece</em> has sparked a similar prurience. During the work Ono dressed in some of her finest clothes and invites audience members to walk on stage and shear away pieces of fabric. Notably documented in the Albert and David Maysles film of Ono’s 1965 Carnegie Hall performance, the audience leaves Ono’s body nearly fully exposed at the performance’s end, save for her arms holding remaining pieces of fabric. With scissors in hand, the performance threatens imminent danger—inspiring snickers, pause, and discomforting ease among audience members eager to participate. <em>Cut Piece</em> encourages the audience to disregard consent and expose a certain breach of trust, practice mirrored with <em>b00b</em>.</p> <p>In this process of cutting cloth, often on the bias (or on a slanted angle; see Benabdallah, et al.; Rosner), feminist performance works have long prompted audiences to trouble the intimate relationship between themselves and the performer. As Vivian Huang has deftly argued, Ono’s shredded fabrics are more than neutral inconveniences; they also hint at whatever racialised and gendered feelings of trust might or might not exist between Ono and her audience. “If Orientalist conflations of the East with femininity have in turn sexualized Asian women as simultaneously hypersexual and submissive”, Haung contends, “then how can we as viewers and readers performatively read Asian femininity in a different, and not anti-relational, orientation to hospitality?” (187). <em>b00b </em>asks a similar question with systems of verification. Examining this possibility, Peggy Kyoungwon Lee recently puts <em>Cut Piece</em> in conversation with the contemporary media art of Lisa Park, and notes that “Ono’s signature composure both enacts and challenges archetypes of the feminized Asian body: cognitive efficiency, durability, calculative emotionality, docility, passivity” (54). For Lee, <em>Cut Piece</em> continues to open pathways for interpretation by diverting audience members from the compliance arguments above. Where algorithmic trust further complicates the making of trust with an added layer of uncertainty (is this made by an algorithm or is this not?), <em>Cut Piece </em>and <em>TV Bra</em> see in and through uncertainty to recentre a relational ethics.</p> <p>This concern for the relationality endures in Reddy’s <em>b00b</em>. To fashion the near-field communication (NFC) cards, Reddy draws from Banjara embroidery, a heritage craft technique featured in her home city of Hyderbad (Telangana). Like Banjara, <em>b00b</em> incorporates varied accessories (mirrors, tassels, shells) with colourful pattern. She embellishes the bra with lively zig-zagging embroidery, fashioning each nipple with a mirror that expertly doubles as an NFT tag hidden behind the embroidery. Garments like Ono’s, Paik and Moorman’s, and now Reddy’s, share an understanding that technology can and should reflect a certain felt complexity.</p> <p>At the Brilliant Labs event, Reddy presents <em>b00b</em> to conference-goers invested in shared hardware design specification standards. Across the 48-minute presentation, <em>b00b </em>interrupts the audience's presumed intentions. As Elizabeth Goodman has argued, hackers and tech enthusiasts interested in schematics, wireframes, and other digital drawings often prioritise formats that anyone can examine, adapt, use, and circulate by overlooking their situated social and political stakes. In the theatrical setting of a tech forum,<em> b00b’s</em> fabric draws attention to the body—manoeuvring the (often white Western) gaze around femme Asian subjectivities and questioning proximities between one body and another. Through its embodied relationality, real or imagined, <em>b00b</em> shares a concern for reimagining trust within mechanisms of control.</p> <p><em>b00b</em> is Reddy’s attempt at generative justice, a concept of inclusive making she calls part of “bringing the Open Hardware community closer to heritage craft communities” (Reddy). In documentation, she discusses the geopolitical conditions of NFC-based authentication that relies on intimate connection as a means of state-led coercion and control. Situating her work in contemporary trust politics, she describes the Aadhar biometric identification system designed to compel Indian residents to record biometric data through iris scans, fingerprints, and photographs in exchange for a unique identity number (Dixon). She writes that systems like Aadhar “make minority communities more vulnerable to being identified, classified, and policed by powerful social actors” (Dixon). Wearing <em>b00b</em> challenges efforts to root NFC transactions in similar carceral and colonial logics. With an intimate scan, a user or audience makes room for counter-expressions of dis/trust.</p> <p>Sitting across from Reddy during a recent Zoom conference, I felt the tug of this work. With the piece modelled on a mannequin in the background, it reminded me of the homegrown techno-armour worn throughout Friedrichshain, a lively neighborhood in the former eastern part of Berlin. For the onlooker, the bra incites not only intrigue but also a careful engagement; or what Reddy names the “need to actively participate in conveying trust and intimacy with the bra’s wearer”. I couldn't help but wonder what an attendee at the Open Hardware Summit might make of the work. Would they bristle at the intimacy, or would they—like Ono’s audiences—cut in?</p> <p>On the surface, <em>b00b</em> presents a playful counterpoint to the dominant narrative of technology as slick, neutral, and disembodied. By foregrounding the tactile, handmade qualities of electronic media, Reddy’s work suggests we reconsider the boundaries between physical and digital worlds to complicate readings of computational risk. She is taking a highly technical process typically used for practical applications like finance, online identity, or other well-defined authentication problems, and enlivening it. The garment invites her audience to appreciate two-factor encryption as something intimate—both in an abstract sense and in a resolutely embodied sense.</p> <p>By defamiliarising digital trust, Reddy calls attention to its absurdity. How can a term like “trust” (associated with intimacy and mutual concern) also denote the extractive politics of algorithmic control (the verification of a user, the assessment of risk, the escalating manipulation of use)? Look closer at <em>b00b</em>, and the focus on authentication offers something specific for our ideas of algorithmic trust. Reddy turns a computational process into an extension of the body, registering a distinctly affective intrusion within the digital codification of assurance and accountability. Working with interaction design in the tradition of feminist performance, <em>b00b</em> directs our digital gaze back toward the embodied.</p> <h1><strong>Toward a Relational Ethics of Trust</strong></h1> <p>Fabric artifacts like <em>b00b</em> have long challenged digital scholars to consider questions of uncertainty and accountability. From what counts as computational, to whose labour gets recognised as innovative, woven material sparks a particular performance of risk. As Lisa Nakamura (933) shrewdly observes, gendered and racialised “traits” associated with textiles tend to fuel technological production, casting women of colour as the ideal digital workers. Looking to transnational flows connected with making, Silvia Lindnter argues that these stereotypes bring strategic meanings to feminised Asian bodies that naturalise their role within digital economies. Whose bodies get associated with fabric (through making, repair, consumption, aesthetics) reflects deep-seated stratifications within the masculine history of computing—with seemingly few possibilities for circumvention.</p> <p>If trust works as a felt condition, digital developments might more fully honour that condition. Bringing textile possibilities to NFTs suggests examining how authentication systems work on and through the body, even without touch. It is in this reciprocal encounter between content and user, audience and performer, textile and algorithm that something like a bra can hint at a profound ethics of connection. Reddy’s work reveals the consensual contact that can meaningfully shape who and how we digitally trust.</p> <p>While this essay has focussed on trust, I want to end with a brief consideration of the way a textile—in this case a conceptual and maybe even ontoepistemic (da Silva) artifact—brings the status of users closer to that of audience members. It begins to weave an analytic thread between the orientations, capacities, and desires of performance and design. Across this connection, <em>b00b</em>’s design works as minoritarian performance, as Jasmine Mahmoud (after José Esteban Muñoz) describes: a practice that “centers performance—as an object of study, a method, and theoretical container—as a means of centering minortized knowledge”.</p> <p>As minoritarian knowledge, the embroidered NFT expands Rozsika Parker’s profound insight into the subversive power of needlecraft. As Julia Bryan-Wilson (6) observes, “accounting for textiles—objects that are in close physical contact with us at virtually every minute of the day—demands alternative methodologies, ones that extend from shared bodily knowledge”. For digital scholars, <em>b00b</em> opens a similar possibility under racial technocapitalism. It asks us to notice how an indicator light on an AI-trained surveillance camera, for instance, does not map to an engaged or disaffected condition for an over-monitored user. It registers the need for probing relationships that underlie those tools—relationships between workers and employers, between non-users and corporate platforms, between differentially marked bodies. It challenges the reduction of trust dynamics into individualised or universalised motivations. To trust and be trusted with thread opens the possibility of algorithmic re-embodiment.</p> <h2><strong>Acknowledgements</strong></h2> <p>I’m grateful to insightful comments and suggestions from Anuradha Reddy, Amanda Doxtater, Scott Magelssen, Jasmine Jamillah Mahmoud, Adair Rounthwaite, Anne Searcy, James Pierce, and the anonymous reviewers of the current <em>M/C Journal </em>issue.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Adam, Martin, Michael Wessel, and Alexander Benlian. "AI-Based Chatbots in Customer Service and Their Effects on User Compliance." <em>Electronic Markets</em> 31.2 (2021): 427-445.</p> <p>Ashoori, Maryam, and Justin D. Weisz. "In AI We Trust? Factors That Influence Trustworthiness of AI-Infused Decision-Making Processes." <em>arXiv </em>1912.02675 (2019).</p> <p>Benabdallah, Gabrielle, et al. "Slanted Speculations: Material Encounters with Algorithmic Bias." <em>Designing Interactive Systems Conference</em> (2022): 85-99.</p> <p>Brilliant Labs / Labos Créatifs. “AlgoCraft: Remixing Craft, Culture, and Computation with Dr. Anuradha Reddy.” 2023. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Bryan-Wilson, Julia. <em>Fray: Art and Textile Politics</em>. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2021.</p> <p>Cheshire, Coye. 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"Inscrutably, Actually: Hospitality, Parasitism, and the Silent Work of Yoko Ono and Laurel Nakadate." <em>Women &amp; Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory</em> 28.3 (2018): 187-203.</p> <p>Irani, Lilly. "‘Design Thinking’: Defending Silicon Valley at the Apex of Global Labor Hierarchies." <em>Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience</em> 4.1 (2018): 1-19.</p> <p>Lee, Peggy Kyoungwon. "The Alpha Orient: Lisa Park and Yoko Ono." <em>TDR</em> 66.2 (2022): 45-59. </p> <p>Mahmoud, Jasmine. “Minoritarian Performance.” Research Cluster, University of Washington, 2022. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Merrill, Nick, and Coye Cheshire. 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"TV Bra for Living Sculpture." 1969. 6 Mar. 2014 &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Parker, Rozsika. <em>The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine.</em> Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1984.</p> <p>Reddy, Anurandha. “b00b-Factor Authentication.” 2022. 7 Nov. 2023 &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>———. “b00b-Factor Authentication in Banjara Embroidery.” 2023. 7 Nov. 2023 &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt; (password: 'banjara').</p> <p>Rossi, John, and Michael Yudell. "The Use of Persuasion in Public Health Communication: an Ethical Critique." <em>Public Health Ethics</em> 5.2 (2012): 192-205.</p> <p>Rothfuss, Joan. <em>Topless Cellist: The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman</em>. Cambridge: MIT P, 2014.</p> <p>Schüll, Natasha Dow. <em>Addiction by Design</em>. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2012.</p> <p>Sharma, Sarah. <em>In the Meantime: Temporality and Cultural Politics</em>. Durham: Duke UP, 2014.</p> <p>Weatherbed, Jess. “Elon Musk Says Twitter Will Begin Manually Authenticating Blue, Grey, and Gold Accounts as Soon as Next Week.” <em>The Verge 25 </em>Nov. 2022. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Daniela Rosner Spinning Circle at the Mill 2022-10-13T23:42:57+00:00 Janis Hanley <p>An artful Facebook post after a research event, a spinning circle held at a state heritage listed former mill, is used to explore the intersection of craftivism and the politics around the future of this site. This article takes a new materialism approach to explore the dynamic interactions (intra-actions) and shifting power relations around place (territorialisations). Both the spinning circle and the post were a gentle activism, or as Greer (12) describes it, craftivism, whose essence lies in ‘creating something that gets people to ask questions’.</p> <p>In 2018, I conducted the research event, the <em>Spinning Circle at the Mill, </em>inviting the Spinners, Weavers, and Fibre Artisans of Ipswich group to hold a spinning circle at the former Queensland Woollen Manufacturing Company, now an empty factory space on the state’s heritage list. The event was part of a larger piece of research considering the generative nature of heritage. As the fibre artists worked, we yarned about their connections with the mill-site, its largely female workforce, and imagined what the future might hold for this heritage place.</p> <p>Before the day’s events started, I was busy arranging a table for the morning tea and setting out some artefacts and books that participants had brought. I noticed a few of the fibre artists wandering around the factory with a spinning wheel. I wasn’t quite sure what they were doing, and called them back a couple of times, worried everyone would wander off into the cavernous mill space. They returned, eventually, and we got on with the session.</p> <p>After the event, one artist, Mieke den Otter, shared a post Facebook (see fig. 1). When I saw the post, I laughed out loud – and it has haunted me. Her curation of the text and carefully placed wheel in the post’s photograph negotiated time, space and political boundaries with warmth and humour. Here in the realm of Facebook was a piece of data that “glowed”, exerting “a kind of fascination”, that animates further thought (MacLure 228). Social media posts are performative – they affect. Images created and shared extend what heritage sites can do – provoking, expressing new perspectives, and challenging narratives playfully though art. Posts shift conversations.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="750" height="1334" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1: Facebook post from the Spinning Circle at the Mill.</em></p> <p>What does this Facebook post create? What does this assemblage, this intentional cutting-together of [spinning wheel-graffiti – woollen mill heritage – Facebook – photograph – post text] do?</p> <h1>Methods, Materialities, and Entanglements</h1> <p>This article uses a new materialism methodological framing to consider the dynamics of the events. It draws on Barad’s concepts of agential cuts – the intra-actions of elements cut ‘together-apart’, forming together and separating from others. Barad (<em>Meeting</em> 168) describes the dynamics of intra-actions as diffractions. Diffractions conjure up rippled waves crossing over, each disrupting the other, creating new patterns, the two waves changed and inseparable through the transition and never the same after. Barad’s term ‘intra-action’ considers the changes and inseparability occurring through interactions.</p> <p>Deleuze and Guattari‘s consideration of the dynamism of assemblages is also useful for thinking through craftivism. Their work offers two key pairings here: the interplay of materiality with expression, and the way physical and political territories are inhabited, highlighting the dynamic relations of power (territorialisations) that constantly challenge the boundaries. These views into the data help us discern what craft and craftivism can do, physically and through its presence on social media. We’ll start with the crafters’ physical presence at the mill.</p> <p>Ten members of the Spinners, Weavers, and Fibre Artists of Ipswich participated in the Spinning Circle, plus a Council Heritage officer. Two colleagues assisted me with sound recording and photographs. The event occurred 46 years after the mill closed its doors in 1971, having manufactured textiles for ninety-four years. The event was conducted under ethics approval (GU 2017/763), and I have permission from Mieke to write about her Facebook post.</p> <p>The spinning event at the mill was inspired by the go-along method (Kusenbach), which recognises the potential of accessing lived experiences <em>in situ</em>. The circle could be called a go-along focus group. What I was tapping into was the spinners encountering the empty mill: not their ‘natural environment’ but a space they emotionally connected with through their craft. Some had worked at one of the city’s woollen mills, and all were aware of the mills as part of the heritage of Ipswich. I further drew on the work of Edensor in recognising affects produced by walking through industrial ruins, decentring everyday divisions between past and present. I wanted the spinners to be affected by this unfamiliar space, in helping them consider what the space could be. We started by walking the mill site, becoming absorbed in both its emptiness and the haunting presences as a Council heritage officer and I guided them through the spaces. The two participants who had worked at other Ipswich mills shared some of their stories as we walked. Then the spinners sat in a circle to spin, knit, craft, and yarn, and it became a focus group where we imagined possible mill futures.</p> <h1>Weavings and Intra-Actions of an Image</h1> <p>The interplay of materiality and expression is a co-functioning of things, relations, languages, words, and meanings (Anderson and McFarlane). The point is awareness of what is being produced and understanding the conditions and intra-actions enabling and embedded in its production. Delving into the materialities draws other “entanglements” (Barad) – influences operating at a distance, often in a different space or temporality. Through entanglements, a complex web of phenomena emerges as elements come together and are set apart. Entanglements may be sensed rather than seen, felt rather than thought. Assemblages and their entities are not static, but act at various intensities and rhythms, affecting each other. Considering these dynamics as intra-actions emphasises that actions affect all that are connected though an event, blurring boundaries: there is no separation. In the Facebook post’s image, the physical spinning wheel has become part of the graffiti and graffiti part of the wheel, intra-acting, changing both, expressing something new. The intra-action extends to those setting up the image, photographing, observing, then the larger audience on Facebook. Affects flow and ripple through intra-actions across time, all the way to writing this article and beyond.</p> <p>The photo composition was purposeful; the position carefully sought out. The spinning wheel in its material expression is a modern tower wheel – compact for travel – and is used by many spinners. It expresses that the craft is alive and well, and its technologies are evolving. The wheel design, while modern, harks back to the seventeenth-century European adaption of this technology and to the cottage manufacture of textiles prior to the industrial revolution. No spinning wheels were present at the Ipswich mills. The industrial spinning mules and frames of the mill were about speed and volume. Hands worked the machines mainly to fix broken threads, not as a creative force as with a wheel, but rather to enable the machines to overcome their mechanical limitations. Bringing the wheels to the factory expresses a playful juxtaposition between manufacturing and crafting.</p> <p>After ceasing operations as a woollen mill in 1971, the building was used as plywood factory (Boral-Hancock Plywood) from 1984 until 2011 – it has been left empty since. Shortly after, the street artists ‘invaded’ creating this extensive graffiti gallery, which includes some standout-art artworks (see fig. 2). The background graffiti in the Facebook post shows a comfy lounge room, with sofa and TV. The graffiti expresses a scene totally anomalous to a hyper-heated, humid, noisy woollen mill or plywood factory. It possibly reflected the artist’s longing for some home comforts. The image also merged the artist’s presence with the graffiti. An earlier Facebook post about the day mentioned the artists seeking shelter and squatting at the mill. Around the factory the occasional cat image appears, just as a cat might. I’m not sure if they are a house cat, or a factory cat to deal with rodents, but they express comfort, and are likely by the same artist (see fig. 3). </p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="1408" height="792" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 2: An example of the range of graffiti at the mill. Image by Joan Kelly 2018.</em></p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="1408" height="920" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 3: An example of a cat drawn at the mill. Image by J. Hanley 2017.</em></p> <p>The text of the spinning wheel post is also deeply resonant:</p> <blockquote> <p>‘every home needs a wheel’<br />installation at the Old mill site</p> </blockquote> <p>The post’s text conjures pictures of homes with a spinning wheel at the ready. For a time, in pre-industrial Europe, spinning wheels were a necessary household item for clothing one’s own family and to make a living. Especially in agricultural districts, many families <em>needed</em> a wheel, and spinners worked long hours for economic survival (Pinchbeck). Clearly, today, other than for textile crafters, a spinning wheel is not a general item <em>needed</em> for the home – it’s a poignant joke that is created. Terming the wheel placement “an installation” elevates the assemblage of wheel and graffiti both as serious artwork and a production. Beyond that, the post works as a subtle form of activism. At the time of the visit to the mill, the site was undergoing conservation work and was not available for public use. To be in the space was exceptional: the was asserting the artist’s presence and staking a claim to the territory on behalf of the artists of Ipswich.</p> <h1>Re/De-Territorialisations</h1> <p>Territorialisations are the dynamics of the shifting boundaries of belonging and exclusion, power and subversion. Every assemblage carves out territory from the milieux, in this case the physical mill space, its former use as a textile mill, the circle participants and its physicality: to understand the assemblage is to understand the territoriality it envelops (Deleuze and Guattari). The former mill site is a politically contentious place. The mill was acquired by Ipswich City Council in 2015 (Queensland Government). The large riverside lot is close to the CBD, and adjacent to a sports field. The site was designated as a youth recreation centre in Council’s <em>Open Space Strategic Master Plan</em> (Ipswich City Council). Previously, the former mayor had promised the space as an arts hub (<em>Queensland Times</em>). However, by the time of our spinning circle, the mayor was up on corruption charges (Snowdon and Walsh), the whole council was under administration (Johnson), and the site was in a state of stasis. Based on conversations and gatherings, to this day the arts community claims the mill space as theirs despite Council reallocations. They want an arts hub, and they want it at the mill.</p> <p>Through the forces of re-territorialisation and de-territorialisation, assemblages change as elements, forms, and structures materialise and recede (Duff). The mill territory has suffered many disruptions. Re-territorialisation is the action by the owner, or holder of power in a space, to manage or reaffirm control. DeLanda uses the term ‘stabilisation’ but, depending on context, other terms can assist to understand re-territorialisation: take possession, colonisation, exert power over. The mill is currently Council territory by ownership, and Council’s activities of re-territorialisation – maintaining the territory, are planning, maintenance, and heritage conservation work. The added complexity in ownership at the time of the research event was that Council had itself been re-territorialised by the State Government administrators, however it still acts as the ‘Council’ entity.</p> <p>De-territorialisation is the disruptive action by those dominated, marginalised, or excluded in their efforts to exert a different kind of power. DeLanda terms this ‘destabilisation’, and other words might be to agitate, unsettle, upset, reclaim. These acts are not necessarily done by a unified group, and the array of elements acting can change the nature of destabilisation. At the mill, different community groups were interested in this territory, including street artists, crafters, and performing artists.</p> <p>The mill graffiti covering the walls are also de-territorialisations, attempting to take control of a space. The spectre of the street artists was a persistent backdrop to all activities on the day. Graves-Brown and Schofield discuss how the graffiti in a heritage site linked to the Sex Pistols punk band conjures a feeling of the band members’ presence as unruly ghosts, lounging on sofas, scribbling on walls. At the mill site, the street art at times overpowers. The emptiness of the factory floor accentuates both their art and the artists’ missing presence. There was even an alcove where spray cans were left on a ledge (see fig. 4). It gave a sense of having disturbed their workspace and that they had hastily run off. But who are the intruders here? Whose territory is this space? Considering the dynamics of territorialisations opens the politics of place, and contentions of ownership. It’s as if there is always some residue of past territorialisations, ready to be tapped, as the Facebook post has done.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="1408" height="792" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 4: Spray cans in an alcove at the mill. Image by Joan Kelly 2018.</em></p> <p>In the mill’s time of abandonment (2011–2015), the street artists had managed to not only disrupt and de-territorialise the factory, but had re-territorialised the space completely, in a sense owning it; their presence more pervasive than the former workers, and, for now, more enduring.</p> <p>The creation of the image was an intra-action turning the lounge graffiti into a different piece of art, and through the Facebook post, it became an act of craftivism and poetry. The spinning wheel installation at the mill was a clear act of de-territorialisation, through expressing, ‘I was here’: I was here as a crafter, and member of the arts community, and I created an art installation. All this was expressed with a ‘soft voice’ through materiality, images, and words, in a clever, artful, ‘craftivistic’ way.</p> <p>During the spinning circle (see fig. 6), conversations arose about others who shared the mill territory. That we were meeting on Aboriginal country of people of the Yagara/Yugara Language Group (the Jagera, Yuggera, and Ugarapul People), land re-territorialised by European colonisers was acknowledged. Given the long history of First Nations peoples in the area, little is known of the textiles that were created. However, we discussed the kinds of Indigenous textiles that might have been made locally, as well as the skills that the Pacific Islander migrants of recent times have brought to Ipswich. The spinners imagined creating a dyers’ garden outside the mill. They evoked the excitement of dyeing days, “whenever you are walking you are gathering”, “always looking down”, and using the incredible range of colours available from indigenous plants. Entanglements across time emerged: plants and dye making connect the here and now with makers in the past, and different places. Discussions also focussed on the workers, particularly the large female workforce, and ways to honour their stories through a combination of museum and textile arts of various forms, including manufacturing and hand crafts.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="1408" height="1056" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 5: The Spinning Circle focus group.</em></p> <p>There are often competing urges to de-territorialise heritage. Many will claim a place as their heritage – to emphasise their story, or perhaps transport it into the present. In the case of the mill site, Council mostly dominates, although as a state heritage site, there are territory boundaries between Council and the Queensland government. The graffiti here will be tolerated as far as those who own the territory will allow it. Eventually wall territory will be reclaimed from the street artists in making room for the new. At the time of writing, it had started to happen already. Many of the internal walls from the plywood factory time have been removed, including the image of sofa, lamp, and TV. It is no more. The spray cans have been binned. It makes the Facebook post even more haunting. There is still an overwhelmingly large graffiti presence, but it is already starting to feel contained, edited down. The arts community, though, are committed to making the space their own. Those who worked there have little voice, possibly none in the mill's becoming, however there is a sense of deep community respect for the workers and these places of work.</p> <h1>Conclusion</h1> <p>The spinning wheel Facebook post embraced craft, heritage and art. Considering a social media post as an assemblage, emphasising intra-actions highlights the temporality of relations between bodies and things. Their forms, and what they express, accentuate the fragility through a moment captured in time. The re-territorialisations and de-territorialisations of the mill offer perspectives on what is being produced, recognising the forces at play. The mill site itself can be read in terms of the changes in territorialisations, and its dynamism over time:</p> <blockquote> <p>woollen mill company – plywood company – street artist domain – Council site being conserved – spinning circle (for the day) – Facebook post in moments of sharing – community mill sentiments.</p> <p>These are also entanglements of the site – influences at a distance and through different temporalities.</p> </blockquote> <p>The street artists initially were de-territorialising, disrupting the narrative of the mill, and for a year or two made it their own. Their enduring artwork helped engage the local arts community in claiming the mill spaces as their territory also; for a time capturing the political will of the Council’s former mayor. As the mayor’s fortune faded, so too did the hold over the territory by the arts community, the mill now re-territorialised by budgets and other priorities. Yet members of the arts community are determined to push their claims for the space.</p> <p>Coming together with the Ipswich spinners <em>in situ</em> as a research activity produced an embodied understanding through walking and yarning and feel for the space and its connections. The spinners owned the mill space for a few hours, bringing with them the sense of awe about the empty place and the richness it engendered. Their engagement with the space <em>in situ</em> and online served, for a time, to de-territorialise the space, plying threads from past and present with imaginings for the mill’s future. The Facebook form of craftivism, captured by the image and text of the post, seemed a natural progression from the day, a further disruption of the narrative.</p> <p>In determining potential futures for this space that are invigorating and respectful, Council will need the engagement of the myriad communities – the Yagara people, the former mill workers and former plywood workers connected to the site through often significant periods of employment, and communities of interest in Ipswich, like the Spinners and Weavers, who can bring new energy to the space. The future of the mill requires drawing together a living community that can bring the space to life. This Facebook craftivism is one provocation of a complex reimagining of the mill’s heritage futures – it’s a wave, small but able to diffract and create new patterns of conversation.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Anderson, Ben, and Colin McFarlane. "Assemblage and Geography." <em>Area </em>43.2 (2011): 124-27.</p> <p>Barad, Karen. <em>Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning</em>. Durham: Duke UP, 2007.</p> <p>———. "Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart." <em>Diffracted Worlds – Diffractive Readings</em> 18 Oct. 2018: 4-23.</p> <p>DeLanda, Manuel. <em>A New Philosophy of Society: Assemblage Theory and Social Complexity</em>. Hampshire: Continuum, 2006.</p> <p>Deleuze, Gilles, and Felix Guattari. <em>A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia</em>. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1987.</p> <p>Duff, Cameron. "Assemblages, Territories, Contexts." <em>International Journal of Drug Policy </em>33 (2016): 15-20.</p> <p>Edensor, Tim. "Walking through Ruins." <em>Ways of Walking: Ethnography and Practice on Foot</em>. Eds. T. Ingold and J.L. Vergunst. UK: Ashgate Aldershot, 2008. 123-42.</p> <p>Frederick, Ursula K. "Revolution Is the New Black: Graffiti/Art and Mark-Making Practices." <em>Archaeologies </em>5.2 (2009): 210-37.</p> <p>Graves-Brown, Paul, and John Schofield. "The Filth and the Fury: 6 Denmark Street (London) and the Sex Pistols." <em>Antiquity </em>85.330 (2011): 1385-401.</p> <p>Greer, Betsy. <em>Craftivism : The Art of Craft and Activism</em>. 2014. </p> <p>Johnson, Hayden. "Ipswich Crisis: Councillors Stunned by News of Dismissal." <em>The Queensland Times </em>4 May 2018.</p> <p>Ipswich City Council. <em>Open Space Strategic Master Plan</em>. Ipswich: Ipswich City Council, 2018.</p> <p>Kusenbach, Margarethe. "Street Phenomenology: The Go-Along as Ethnographic Research Tool." <em>Ethnography </em>4.3 (2003): 455-85.</p> <p>MacLure, Maggie. "The Wonder of Data." <em>Cultural Studies? Critical Methodologies </em>13.4 (2013): 228-32.</p> <p>McIvor, Lachlan. "Woollen Mills Unused Six Years after Council Purchase." <em>Queensland Times</em> 19 Feb. 2021.</p> <p>Pinchbeck, Ivy. <em>Women Workers and the Industrial Revolution</em>. New York: F.S. Crofts, 1930.</p> <p>Queensland Government. "Queensland Heritage Register." Brisbane: Queensland Government, 2016.</p> <p><em>Queensland Times</em>. "Mayor to Activate Arts Hub." <em>Queensland Times </em>18 Mar. 2016.</p> <p>Snowdon, T., and L. Walsh. "Paul Pisasale Charged with Corruption, Possession of Sex Drug." <em>Courier Mail </em>11 Oct. 2017.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Janis Hanley Knitting Ladies Online 2023-09-23T07:42:02+00:00 Marja Leena Rönkkö Henna Lapinlampi Virpi Yliverronen <h1>Introduction</h1> <p>People across all cultures and stages of life have an innate need to create, as demonstrated by the practice of craft-making. Crafting combines skilled handwork and intellectual creativity to produce functional or artistic items. It has been handed down through generations and encompasses a wide range of activities, including knitting, crocheting, quilting, woodwork, and carving. Historically, crafting has been integral to societal development, serving both functional and aesthetic purposes, but it also represents a tangible connection to people’s cultural heritage and often reflects the customs and values of a community.</p> <p>Since the turn of the millennium there has been a notable resurgence in textile crafts that can be attributed to a growing desire for personal expression and a return to hands-on, sustainable practices in a digitally dominated era. Research has shown that a lot of practiced knitting is now not only a meaningful leisure activity for various demographic groups (Myllys; Rosner and Ryokai) but also associated with feelings of empowerment (Myzelev). Furthermore, several studies have underscored its profound impact on health, well-being, and overall quality of life (Adey; Fields; Mayne). While traditionally seen as a predominantly feminine craft, researchers such as Beyer, Desmarais, and Morneau have studied the masculine perspective of knitting.</p> <p>Contemporary reasons for knitting can be categorised into three broad areas: personal motivations, group effects (knitting <em>with</em> others), and altruism (knitting <em>for </em>others; Rusiñol-Rodríguez et al.). Unlike many crafting projects that are bound to specific locations and tools, knitting offers the flexibility of a portable work in progress, allowing hobbyists to knit virtually anywhere at any time (Rosner and Ryokai). Traditionally, knitting communities, often organised around projects and events, were found in public spaces like cafes and libraries (Price). In addition, in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards knitting festivals and meet-ups (Orton-Johnson) that offer knitters opportunities to gather at events centred on yarn, fibres, and all things related to them (Gajjala; Orton-Johnson).</p> <h1>Knitting in Online Communities</h1> <p>It is quite common for virtual networks and environments facilitated by technological advancement to become an integral part of modern knitting practice (Myllys). A number of online communities focussed on knitting have emerged on content-sharing platforms such blogs, podcasts, YouTube vlogs, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok (Orton-Johnson). Modern technology allows knitting to expand beyond the realm of material creation into an experience that can involve photography and blogging (Orton-Johnson) or sharing information with the recipient of the knitted item as the project progresses (Rosner and Ryokai).</p> <p>The first English-language knitting podcasts were published in late 2005 as audio recordings that listeners could download (Bell). Video-format knitting podcasts have been available on YouTube since 2010, with the first episode in Finland appearing in autumn 2015. Today, YouTube offers a wide range of communication possibilities to content creators who frequently encourage their audience to engage with them (Frobenius). On YouTube, podcasts often delve into the daily intricacies of an individual’s life, hobby, or lifestyle, enabling the creation of personalised content that resonates with others with similar interests (Rodríguez and Levido). Engaging with knitting podcasts, whether by watching episodes or creating them, can be viewed as the contemporary equivalent of traditional knitting gatherings (e.g., Shen and Cage). These podcasts not only allow viewers to interact through comments and video responses but also enable content creators to attract and cultivate a community of like-minded enthusiasts (Gauntlett).</p> <p>Through various publishing platforms and Websites, knitters can share information about their own projects, make collaborative plans with others, enhance their skills, and be creative contributors to their communities (Rosner and Ryokai). That kind of online community plays a significant role in exchanging knitters’ perceptions of self-esteem and fostering meaningful social connections that offer support and empowerment. The diverse social communication that emerges out of and occurs alongside the hobby might even facilitate the formation of life-long friendships (Mayne). This was significant, for example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when crafting found new digital forms, and crafts were also learned through digital communication platforms in both hobby activities and in school education (Kouhia). On the other hand, transferring knitting practices from their historical, geographical, and cultural histories can lead to a loss of rich, contextual knowledge, as these practices are deeply intertwined with the traditions, stories, and skills passed down through generations and might not be fully conveyed in online spaces (e.g., Robertson and Vinebaum).</p> <p>Knitting podcasts have been studied in terms of the benefits and drawbacks they provide their viewers. Gregg explored the impact of knitting podcasts on their viewers’ knitting and video-watching motivation and found a clear connection between knitting motivation and video consumption: the social interaction on YouTube and the inspiration offered by podcasters drove viewers to knit more. Furthermore, several studies have identified video watching as not only motivating but also potentially addictive, making it a time-consuming activity (Balakrishnan and Griffiths; Chiang and Hsiao; Gauntlett). This study aims to elucidate the characteristics associated with the typical Finnish knitting podcast and its production. For this, a single research question was posed: What are the key characteristics of Finnish knitting podcasts?</p> <p>The data was collected from a survey distributed in Facebook and Ravelry groups themed around knitting podcasts. All 19 respondents were female knitting podcasters, whom we refer to with pseudonyms (H1–H19) throughout this article. The data were analysed using theory-driven content analysis (Hsieh and Shannon). We delve into the research findings from the perspective of individual empowerment, knitting skills development, and online community.</p> <h1>Knitting Podcasting as Individual Strength</h1> <p>According to our data, producing knitting podcasts can be an empowering hobby that enables individual development in both skills and identity. Knitting podcasters felt that during the hobby they gained self-confidence and that their knowledge of their strengths had grown. They better understood their potential and developed not only tangible skills but also their mental capacity through the hobby. Knitting podcaster H13 mentioned that her self-esteem was strengthened by the positive feedback her recordings received. On the other hand, H18 highlighted that by recording her knitting podcasts, she felt that she had made like-minded friends: “recording is quite therapeutic for me, as I don’t really have live friends to chat with about knitting or anything else”.</p> <p>Upon starting their knitting podcasts, knitters often felt that their expectations were soon met. Podcasters could express their identity by producing content that reflected their own lives and by showcasing their knitting to others. They also found that they could bring joy to others with the content they produced and had the opportunity to share their passion for knitting with like-minded individuals. By watching other knitting podcasts, hobbyists found topics that they could address in their own podcasts. Individual self-expression conveyed personal values, which is possible in such a setting. H3 highlighted how wonderful it was to find individuals whose style matched her own and how much fun it was to follow podcasters with completely different styles:</p> <blockquote> <p>I have gotten so many ideas from others! Many patterns might go unnoticed, but when you see them on a “live” model, you might find knits that suit you. It’s also wonderful to find individuals whose style matches mine. It’s also fun to follow those whose style doesn’t match – I often get inspiration from them too.</p> </blockquote> <p>Both similarities and differences can thus motivate individuals, simultaneously influencing the development of each person’s distinctive taste and style.</p> <h1>Showcasing One’s Skills and Learning from Others</h1> <p>Based on the survey, making knitting podcasts allows enthusiasts to learn new things, show off their skills, and celebrate their personal growth with others. The podcasters felt they had gained confidence during the whole process of producing knitting podcasts. The knitting podcast community was described as a welcoming and uplifting place, where everyone is always keen to help others. Perhaps the most tangible benefit of the knitting podcast hobby was mentioned by a podcaster who, after starting to create podcasts, became so passionate about video editing that she now regularly uses that skill in her professional life. Creating a knitting podcast was motivated by the desire to produce diverse content, share one’s own creations, and inspire others to try recently developed materials or knitting techniques. For example, H6 described her motivation as follows:</p> <blockquote> <p>the opportunity to speak and share information about a hobby that’s important to me. ... I get to share my passion for crafts. Additionally, [there are] viewers’ comments on the videos and a few live meetings. Especially when someone says my videos inspired them or helped them try something new, it motivates me to continue making videos.</p> </blockquote> <p>Feedback and positive comments from viewers about their own ideas encouraged podcasters to continue with the hobby and engage in discussions. Enthusiasts mentioned being delighted when someone commented on being inspired by the topic of a knitting podcast or perhaps used the videos to try something new and to learn. H3 was particularly pleased by this: “it’s wonderful to hear when people say they got inspired by something I did”.</p> <p>In the present study, we observed that among knitting podcasters, dedication manifests itself in the all-encompassing nature of the hobby: someone who produces knitting podcasts is also likely to watch podcasts made by others. Indeed, enthusiasts said that watching other knitting podcasts is an integral part of the hobby. Many respondents reported often (<em>n</em> = 13) or sometimes (<em>n</em> = 6) watching other knitting podcasts. Knitting podcasters knit extensively so they have content for their podcasts, and while knitting they often watch other knitting podcasts, partly to enjoy virtual knitting companionship and partly for inspiration. H9 described the importance of watching knitting podcasts for themselves as follows: “knitting is a solitary activity, but when you watch podcasts, you always have knitting company”.</p> <p>Some enthusiasts mentioned simply enjoying watching other knitting podcasts because they found that activity pleasant and interesting. By watching others’ knitting podcasts, enthusiasts stayed informed about current topics, such as ongoing collaborative activities, new releases, and fashion trends. They felt they had learned new things about knitting and related topics, such as patterns, yarns, tools, and techniques. From other knitting podcasts, the podcasters also reported gaining peer support for their crafting, especially when they felt the need for it.</p> <p>All those who created knitting podcasts were inspired to start their own hobby after watching podcasts made by others, which is typically an integral part of the knitting podcast hobby. Viewers often seek knitting companionship alongside their own projects and inspiration from new content. Every knitting podcast has its own publishing timeline, influenced by the different stages of knitting projects, other information to share (for example, related to upcoming events), and the constraints of podcasters’ personal lives.</p> <p>Some (five respondents) highlighted that the pressure to publish and unmet goals within the hobby diminished their motivation for podcasting. These pressures arose from a lack of time or the hobby becoming routine. H12 describes the situation as follows:</p> <blockquote> <p>podcasting takes a tremendous amount of time, and after doing it for several years, the process begins to repeat itself and turns into a routine in the wrong way. I also don't feel that making unedited videos is my thing, so these factors together first diminished my enthusiasm and then I think I quietly stopped altogether (though I haven't announced it anywhere). It felt like podcasting took more from me than it gave.</p> </blockquote> <h1>Community as a Key Point</h1> <p>Our study’s findings show that knitting podcasting serves as a way to connect, make friends, and share individual skills and knowledge. Those who make and watch knitting podcasts form an online community where everyone can find a sense of belonging. In this study, knitters initially hoped to experience a sense of belonging to a community before starting their hobby, as they wanted to share their passion with others. Nearly all enthusiasts emphasised the importance of social relationships in their decision to start a knitting podcast; they wanted to connect and interact with fellow knitting podcasters and knitters who watch knitting podcasts. Indeed, starting the hobby brought a wealth of positive and motivating experiences, which encouraged the participants to continue. Through podcasting, female podcasters were able to strengthen their social networks and positively influence one another while participating in traditional crafting skills and adding their interpretations to them.</p> <p>Many knitting podcasters felt they had achieved meaningful milestones during their podcasting journey, foremost among which were matters related to social life, such as making friends and being heard. While knitting podcasts are often created alone, at its best it can be a hobby that involves a great deal of social interaction with others. Enthusiasts felt that the knitting podcast hobby allowed them to be seen and even become the centre of attention on their own terms. These women reported having achieved a status in the community through their hobby that enabled them to positively influence those around them. Almost all respondents saw the sense of community and/or finding knitting friends and acquaintances as the most significant reason for publishing knitting podcasts:</p> <blockquote> <p>Community and the friendships I’ve formed through making my podcast and watching others. (H12)</p> <p>Knitting meet-ups and related events; encountering other knitting enthusiasts both in comments and in real life. (H14)</p> </blockquote> <p>Sharing their own creations emerged as a major motivator among enthusiasts: some felt that their other close friends were not as interested in listening to hobby-related details as they were eager to share them. Podcasters saw knitting podcasts as an opportunity to share even the smallest details of their own work with an enthusiastic audience: “engaging and interacting with people. I’ve gotten to know new people who are interested in the same things. Receiving feedback and personal growth” (H8).</p> <p>Knitting podcasters were very dedicated to their hobby and strove to engage in life activities in a way that brought joy and contentment. Doing so was experienced as inspiring, productive, and captivating. Knitting podcasters feel that they gained benefits from their hobby and derived joy and pride from their achievements. One enthusiast (H14) stated that the hobby was important to her because it gave her an opportunity to talk with others and share information. H19 echoed this sentiment, saying that the hobby provides “an opportunity to bring something good to people and to oneself”.</p> <h1>Conclusion</h1> <p>The present study has revealed that knitting podcasts can be a highly motivating hobby for female podcasters, driven by factors like empowerment and self-confidence, skill enhancement, and recognition (e.g., Myzelev). The respondents in this study had experienced similar feelings and meanings in their hobby, that Seo and Jung and Kennedy, for example, reported in their studies. Most developed their knitting and recording and editing skills through their podcast hobby. When starting out, podcasters might begin with simple accessories, and they end up showcasing large, complex, and technically challenging garments. It is part of the excitement of the hobby: learning new things oneself and realising that others also want to learn through the posts one creates.</p> <p>There is a culture associated with the hobby that revolves around collective activities, such as group knitting sessions and organised joint initiatives; it emerged from mutual excitement about something and the desire to work together as a community (e.g., Feger; Mayne; Törhönen et al.). It is precisely the collective nature of the hobby that meant the most to the respondents of this study. According to the study, communities built around knitting podcasts are formed based on collaborative interests and passions, facilitating a sense of belonging and mutual support among members. Podcast creators and viewers were seen as knitting friends, becoming an essential part of these women’s lives, sometimes even beyond the Internet (e.g. Mayne). It particularly highlights how women use the Internet to navigate and foster these communities, leveraging digital platforms not only to share knowledge and skills but also to create spaces for empowerment, collaboration, and social interaction. Furthermore, online communities provided women with unique opportunities to connect, learn, and grow together, transcending geographical boundaries. However, for some, this sense of community and the pressure to post led to excessive stress in everyday life. This resulted in having anxiety about meeting everyone’s expectations and often made the motivation to create more content disappear.</p> <p>This research has raised but not answered questions regarding the role of masculinity in knitting hobbies and related podcasts, as it focusses exclusively on podcasts produced by women, suggesting a potential area for future research. Additionally, exploring the experiences of crafters in physical local crafting groups would offer valuable insights.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Adey, Kate. “Understanding Why Women Knit: Finding Creativity and ‘Flow.’” <em>Textile:</em> <em>Cloth and Culture </em>16.1 (2018): 84–97. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Balakrishnan, Janarthanan, and Mark Griffiths. “Social Media Addiction: What Is the Role of Content in YouTube?” <em>Journal of Behavioral Addictions</em> 6.3 (2017): 364–77. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;. </p> <p>Bell, Rhonda. “Knitting Podcasts: The Online Audio Knitting Revolution.” <em>Knitty Magazine</em> 2006. 22 Aug. 2022 <a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Beyer, Judith. “Knitting Masculinities: How Men Are Challenging Masculinity and Needlework in a Post-Pandemic Age.” <em>Fashion, Style &amp; Popular Culture</em>, 22 March 2022. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Chiang, Hsiu-Sen, and Kuo-Lun Hsiao. “YouTube Stickiness: The Needs, Personal and Environmental Perspective.” <em>Internet Research</em> 25.1 (2015): 85–106. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Desmarais, Angela-Marie. “Men Who Knit: A Social Media Critical Discourse Study (SM-CDS) on the Legitimization of Men within Reddit’s r/knitting Community.” Master’s Thesis. Auckland: Auckland University of Technology, 2020. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Feger, Corey J. “Vlogging Truth to Power: A Qualitative Study of Resilience as Practiced by Transgender YouTube Content Creators.” Master’s Thesis. Louisville: University of Louisville, 2019. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Fields, Corey. “Not Your Grandma’s Knitting: The Role of Identity Processes in the Transformation of Cultural Practices.” <em>Social Psychology Quarterly</em> 77.2 (2014): 150–65. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Frobenius, Maximiliane. “Audience Design in Monologues: How Vloggers Involve Their Viewers.” <em>Journal of Pragmatics</em> 72 (2014): 59–72. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Gajjala, Radhika. “When Your Seams Get Undone, Do You Learn to Sew or to Kill Monsters?” <em>The Communication Review </em>18.1 (2015): 23–36. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Gauntlett, David. <em>Making Is Everything: The Social Power of Creativity, from Craft and Knitting to Digital Everything</em>. 2nd ed. Medford, MA: Polity, 2018.</p> <p>Gregg, Peter. “Social Responses to and Motivation Involving Knitting Vlog Viewing.” <em>Convergence</em> 27.2 (2021): 508–23. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Hsieh, Hsiu-Fang, and Sarah E. Shannon. “Three Approaches to Qualitative Content Analysis.” <em>Qualitative Health Research </em>15.9 (2005), 1277–88. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kennedy, Ümit. “Exploring YouTube as a Transformative Tool in the ‘The Power of MAKEUP!’ Movement.” <em>M/C Journal</em> 19.4 (2016). &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Kouhia, Anna. “Koronakäsityöt Instagramin kuvavirrassa” “[Covid-Crafting in an Instagram feed]”. <em>Media &amp; Viestintä</em> 45.4 (2022): 46–71. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Mayne, Alison. “Feeling Lonely, Feeling Connected: Amateur Knit and Crochet Makers Online.” <em>Craft Research</em> 7.1 (2016): 11–29. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Morneau, Ann. “Knitting Takes Balls: Masculinity and the Practice of Knitting.” Master’s Thesis. Carleton University, 2015. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Myllys, Riikka. “Nowhere and Everywhere: Everyday Religion in the Intergenerational Transmission of Craft Making.” <em>Temenos:</em> <em>Nordic Journal of Contemporary Religion</em> 56.1 (2020): 53–74. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Myzelev, Alla. “Whip Your Hobby into Shape: Knitting, Feminism and Construction of Gender.” <em>Textile</em> 7.2 (2009): 148–63. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Orton-Johnson, Kate. “Knit, Purl and Upload: New Technologies, Digital Mediations and the Experience of Leisure.” <em>Leisure Studies</em> 33.3 (2014): 305–21. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Price, Laura. “Knitting and the City.” <em>Geography Compass</em> 9 (2015): 81–95. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Robertson, Kirsty, and Lisa Vinebaum. “Crafting Community.” <em>Textile</em> 14.1 (2016): 2–13. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Rodríguez, Aleesha, and Amanda Levido. “‘My Little Influencer’: A Toy Ringlight as Proxy to Media Practices and Technopanics.” <em>M/C Journal</em> 26.2 (2023). &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Rosner, Daniela K., and Kimiko Ryokai. “Reflections on Craft: Probing the Creative Process of Everyday Knitters.” <em>C&amp;C ‘09: Proceedings of the Seventh ACM Conference on Creativity and Cognition</em>. New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2009. 195–204. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Rusiñol-Rodríguez, Judit, Maria Rodríguez-Ballon, Anna Ramon-Aribau, Marcel-la Torra Torra, and Pedro Murano Miralles. “Knitting with and for Others: Repercussions on Motivation.” <em>Clothing and Textiles Research Journal</em> 40.3 (2022): 203–19. &lt;<a href=""><u></u></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Seo, Woosuk, and Hyunggu Jung. “Understanding the Community of Blind or Visually Impaired Vloggers on YouTube.” <em>Universal Access in the Information Society</em> 20 (2021): 31–44. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Shen, Cuihua, and Charles Cage. “Exodus to the Real World? Assessing the Impact of Offline Meetups on Community Participation and Social Capital.” <em>New Media &amp; Society</em> 17.3 (2015): 394–414. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Törhönen, Maria, Max Sjöblom, and Juho Hamari. “Likes and Views: Investigating Internet Video Content Creators Perceptions of Popularity.” <em>Proceedings of the 2nd International GamiFIN conference. CEUR-WS</em>, (2018) 108-114. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> 2024-02-01T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Marja Leena Rönkkö, Henna Lapinlahti, Virpi Yliverronen The Threads That Weave Me 2023-09-28T03:15:56+00:00 Brooke Collins-Gearing <p><img src="" alt="" width="733" height="834" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1: A Start.</em></p> <p> </p> <p>I could write or I could weave.<br />I could write or I could weave…<br />Write, weave.</p> <p>Weave.<br />Then a colleague and friend says to me: why do you weave?<br />I weave to put myself back together again.<br />I weave the pieces of me that are shattered and broken.<br />I weave because the rhythm, flow, feel, pattern and solidity comforts me.<br />I weave because my body tells me to.<br />I weave to breathe more slowly, more deeply.<br />I weave because the threads that create the strands of my life need a language.…</p> <p> </p> <p>This article reflects on my relationship with weaving and what it offers to the remaining threads of my life. Weaving is embodied, procedural and experiential: it is personal, cultural, and spiritual for me. It is a language that allows me sacred time and space, whether by myself (although I’m really never alone) or with other people. It is an extension of my breath, from my body, in co-creation with earth and sky that manifests as a solid object in my hands.</p> <p>It was when my colleague suggested I write about why I weave that I realised such reflection could help me tap into knowledge. Nithikul Nimkulrat says that knowledge is</p> <blockquote> <p>generated from within the researcher-practitioner’s artistic experience. The procedural and experiential knowledge thus becomes explicit as a written text and/or as visual representations. … With the slow pace of a craft-making process, the practitioner-researcher is able to generate ‘reflection-in-action’ and document the process. (1)</p> </blockquote> <p>For me, knowledge becomes an embodied state of being while I’m weaving: while my hands move, my body grounds, my heart calms, my mind detaches from thoughts, letting one flow to the next, as I watch one stitch lead / follow the next. Until the row becomes the spiral becomes the base becomes the basket. Each stitch documenting my reflections in the process of weaving the whole.</p> <p>The regenerative aspect of this process has been powerful and impactful for me because of my relationship with time and space, my relationship with my Country, my relationship with people, my relationship with sovereignty. I don’t have the words to describe how weaving allows me to embody a relationship with that tiny little spark of creativity in me, so I weave it instead. I see that spiral fractal in everything around me. Weaving, for me, has become a way to listen to them speak.</p> <p>The spiral centre of each round woven basket is my favourite part. I love spirals. Fibonacci sequence. Golden Ratio. Fractals. I’ve heard stories about how some people can look at a specific symbol or drawing and immediately transform their reality from reading the immense wisdom it held. I can only imagine what that must mean and feel like, but when I look at a spiral, anywhere, in anything, I can see through space and time differently. I imagine that must be what our DNA looks like. I feel an immense sense of connectedness when I see that smallest spiral circle core. Reflection in action.</p> <p>I believe we carry our Ancestors in our DNA, or maybe they carry us. I believe this ancient beautiful land we are on was carved out by the Ancestors. Human, non-human, and more-than-human: I see one now. As I write this. On my Country. In my nest. I live in a nest amidst the hills. And so, when I weave, I weave myself into that nest. Freja Carmichael writes: “whether old or new forms, First Nations fibre practices are grounded in histories and knowledges that run deep and interconnect across the lands and waters. Our many nations inherit specific fibre traditions relative to Ancestral, spiritual, environmental and historical contexts all of which are interconnected with culture” (44). While I weave nests, baskets, bags, mats, to my west sits an ancient volcano. An ancient creation ancestor. She called to me in my dreams although I did not know why.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="638" height="846" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 2: An Aerial Shot.</em></p> <p>When I weave with my bare feet resting on earth, I feel the pulse of electromagnetic energy, while the warmth of the sun renourishes my face and skin. I feel my heart rate slow, my breathing deepens and my body relaxes. Andrea Hinch-Bourns writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>wherever we are, we can sit down upon the earth, let the dirt run through our fingers, take off our shoes and squish the dirt through our toes, and if we listen carefully, we will hear our ancestors talk to us in the language of our people. This knowledge is contained in all of us, through what is referred to as, ‘blood memory’ … and ‘molecular or cellular memory’ … . This intuition is carried within all of us regardless of whether we are connected to our culture, speak our language, or live somewhere other than our communities. It is something innate, powerful, which draws us together as a collective people. (20)</p> </blockquote> <p>I gather a few individual raffia strands and press them closely together, wrap them with another thread, and reshape them from single strands into a firm spiral base, like the spiral energy at the base of my spine. Grief and love curl themselves through my body and into my hands. I exhale the emotions out and inhale the scent and sounds of my Country, imbuing the threads in my hands with the gratitude that tracks up my back, along meridian points, like the movement of those Seven Sisters embedded in the landscape of my body. I sit straighter, breathe and remember. </p> <p>Weaving can shift my consciousness into a different state of being, allowing me to imagine even more. Such a place, a state of mind, seems to be filled with the potential to transform. In recent years I have, at times, physically, mentally, and emotionally been unable to speak. I don’t like talking, but the act of weaving feels like a conversation, one in which I am involved, wholeheartedly. A conversation that holds potential to transform. Whatever that might look like. The image below of 12 baskets speaks of a three-month conversation I experienced with a group of people, who individually and as a whole grounded me with reciprocity. </p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="415" height="550" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 3: 12 Gifts.</em></p> <p>Aboriginal peoples in Australia have been weaving since the beginning. Please don’t make me attach a linear number of years to that, it’s just not going to align with the spiral base of my basket. In their research exploration of the insider-outsider experience in research spaces, Radley, Ryan, and Dowse “describe weaving as method and cultural process as our individual strands weave together with collective ways of knowing, being and doing openly and freely” (414). They extend the work of Chew, and articulate how the metaphor of weaving as a cultural practice conveys “a model for planning and decision-making that acknowledges ancestral wisdom”; it is, for them, “an intangible knowledge process, narrative, belonging and knowledge transference” (414). They emphasise that the Western notion of “metaphor” does not necessarily convey this conceptual, and I would add embodied, framework.</p> <p>In trying to articulate what weaving is and does, means for me, I have to access my whole being – cognitive, experiential and embodied. At the spiral centre of it, I have to be creative, and creativity is a direct connection to the divine. Country is a physical and metaphysical manifestation of divine source. Tapping into my creativity taps me into my Country and my Ancestors. When I’m tapped in, I listen better, and when I listen better, I recognise other connections and communities around me. The different strands of each community, human, non-human, more-than-human, at first seem unconnected and separate, but these more-than-metaphor threads co-create a basket or nest with me. The final physical object I can touch, feel, and hold in my hands is my cognitive unconsciousness manifested in a more-than-metaphor object. Shay Welch states that</p> <blockquote> <p>cognitive embodied metaphor theory posits that how we conceive the world is a function of our embodied interaction with the world and, as such, most of our depictions, linguistic representations, imaginative operations, and abstract thought are metaphorical with respect to our spatial-locomotive-sensory activities and experiences. That is, most Western theorists reject the idea that metaphors are embodied, that they have meaning and are meaningful. (28)</p> </blockquote> <p>When I hold the threads of raffia, when I shape them, bend them, bind them, and strengthen them, I am in co-creation with the world around me and in me. My internal and external landscapes manifest the nest that holds and nurtures me and I, in return, love hard on it.</p> <p>Gregory Cajete, a Tewa man, states that the metaphoric mind is the oldest mind:</p> <blockquote> <p>connected to the creative center of nature, the metaphoric mind has none of the limiting conditioning of the cultural order. It perceives itself as part of the natural order, a part of the Earth mind. Its processing is natural and instinctive. It is inclusive and expansive in its processing of experience and knowledge … . Because its processes are tied to creativity, perception, image, physical senses and intuition, the metaphoric mind reveals itself through abstract symbols, visual/spatial reasoning, sound, kinesthetic expression, and various forms of ecological and integrative thinking. (51)</p> </blockquote> <p>Weaving has taught me to calm my mind and body, reconnect with my heart, and centre peace in my soul. While most of my weaving has been done without other humans around, any sense of loneliness and isolation is eased by my Country: by the galahs, the magpies, the cockatoos, the crows, the wrens, the clouds, the winds, the sounds, the stars, the air, and the earth. I no longer ever feel lonely, even when I am alone. In co-creating the nest in my hands with the nest I am nestled in, I weave myself back together. Māori researcher Linda Tuhiwai Smith writes:</p> <blockquote> <p>the project of creating is not just about the artistic endeavours of individuals but about the spirit of creating which Indigenous communities have exercised over thousands of years. Imagination enables people to rise above their own circumstances, to dream new visions and to hold on to old ones. It fosters inventions and discoveries, facilitates simple improvements to peoples lives and uplifts our spirits. Creating is not the exclusive domain of the rich nor of the technologically superior, but of the imaginative. (158)</p> </blockquote> <p>Weaving, is at times, my portal to imaginative realms.</p> <p>Once, after a women’s ceremony in north-east Arnhem-Land, the women told us – us women from the heavily colonised and disconnected New South Wales east coast – to not forget what they had taught us and to always return to them in our imaginations. According to Welch, some scholars refer to this as the inscape or the inner space – the source of insight and intuition (27). And according to Ermine (1995), one important aspect of knowledge creation occurs through introspection, the way in which knowledge creation becomes a spiritual experience. He goes on to explain that as knowledge and understanding of the world comes from within, it is through rituals and ceremonies, and the experience of self-actualisation, that knowledge creation occurs and “is synonymous with the soul, the spirit, the self, or the being” (103).</p> <p>Weaving, the practice and the knowing it brings, returns me to a state of embodied being. Anjilkurri Radley acknowledges that, given that all things are connected, “what I perceive as not knowing is only a lack of connectedness” (quoted in Radley, Ryan, and Dowse 423). As I gather together the strands of my life, weaving becomes both the process and language for me to connect my knowings and unknowings. The reviewer for this article pointed out to me how this relates to that spiral, with embodied knowing and practicing circling back on itself. With each moment of return something more has been revealed. “There is a whole ritual in weaving … and for me, it’s a meditation … from where we actually start, the centre part of a piece, you’re creating loops to weave into, then you move into the circle” (Aunty Ellen Trevorrow cited in Bell 44).</p> <p>Weaving helps me listen better. My ears hear differently, pick up differently the languages of earth and sky. The vibrations reverberate in a deep part of my inner landscape. The threads are like the string that keeps me connected to the sky world. Weaving becomes a language that connects my inner and outer worlds, crafting each basket into a story. Stories that keep me connected to communities. Communities that include what Jace Weaver refers to as “the wider community of Creation itself” (xiii). Stories like that Songspiral of those Seven Sisters. The Seven Sisters creation story that we now read in the sky as the Pleiades: “those faint, gentle stars have touched all our lives on a multitude of levels. Their celestial influence in all spheres of life is prolific while their esoteric, spiritual nature in world mythology is profound. Beyond their symbolic meaning, the practical application of the Pleiades in the sciences – especially in measurements, geodesics, geometry, architecture and navigation – is considerable” (Andrews 8). Those Seven Sisters speak to me of my Creation Story and I see their emplaced myth in both the landscape of my body and on my Country. A resting site of theirs nearby. Such emplaced myth speaks of connection and community. The solidity of the raffia strands keeps me grounded in earth, while the rhythm of weaving tugs on my string to the Milky Way.</p> <p>My great, great Aunt (my Nan really) taught me to crochet when I was little. We would sit together out the back of the kitchen and I would listen to her tell stories about locals while we crocheted ourselves together in a rug. Lifetimes later, I learnt how to weave after collecting pandanus, stripping, dying, drying it, sat in a circle on the earth with Aunts and Grandmothers. My sinful left-handedness called to mind my late Mum’s voice – “you cacky-handed bitch” – making me try with my right hand out of shame when I see not one other woman is using her left hand! Eventually, I give in to the calling of my naturally inclined hand to hold the needle and I switch over, requiring me to learn left to right all over again. Now, another lifetime later, I mostly weave alone. But that’s another story and one that’s changing as I sit on my Country with family, little ones, and Elders, hopelessly trying to teach the kids to mirror me, not follow me. From weaving with Yolŋu yapas, to weaving alone, to weaving with mob, the threads of each experience always bring me back to connection. Back together. Joseph Couture says that “Native ‘seeing’ is a primary dynamic, an open and moving mindscape. This process determines and drives the Native habit to be fully alive in the present, without fear of self and others, non-compulsively and non-addictively in full relationship to all that is – in relationship with the ‘is’-ness of a self-organizing ecology, a cosmic community of ‘all my relations” (48). Weaving that relationship became a language for me, allowing me to find the words to write. </p> <p>Once it’s finished, I will give the basket away. I only ever start weaving an item with a person in mind to gift it to. From my heart to my hands, I try to imbue each strand with love, with strength, with harmony. Sometimes the baskets emerge slightly lopsided and uneven in their base or bulgy in some spots in the side. Sometimes I weave embroidered trimming in swirls around the top edge. Holding the emerging basket in my hands, each one takes its own form in co-creation with the world around me. I have no idea how each basket will turn out, its size, its shape, its depth, until it says to me in the process of embodied co-creation, it’s time, it’s done. And so I gather the final strands and weave into the whole. “Sometimes knowledge is received as a gift at a moment of need; sometimes it manifests itself as a sense that ‘the time is right’ to hunt, or counsel, or make a decisive turn in one’s life path” (Castellano 24).</p> <p>Why do I weave?</p> <p>To weave myself whole again. To remember. “From fish traps and cradles to coffins, a basket can hold many things: food, babies, love, trinkets, water, sustenance, bones, burdens, grief and secrets. Like a gathering up of ‘all those shattered pieces’ that have been taken, lost or forgotten, a basket can hold stories, ceremonies and dances, for a new remembering” (Harkin 156).</p> <p>I stop and start this article so many times. I stop because of tears and fears. I start again because of love. The threads of raffia I am using feel alive in my hands. I acknowledge and pay respect to Pandanus and briefly in my imagination return to north-east Arnhem Land: the sky, the smell, the hooked stick to pull the strands of pandanus down, filling bags to take back to camp to prepare for stripping and dying. I run my fingers down a few strands, recalling through my fingers a nightmare as a child – a thread of hair, expanding, igniting a horror in me that even waking up didn’t dispel. Once, when I told a sista about this dream, she said perhaps someone had sung me as a child. The threads of raffia don’t feel like the terror of the hair strand, though. Instead, they feel like home and each time I touch the threads, pushing through, curling over, pulling up, the rhythm, the flow of the pattern, centres me, grounds me while my bare feet rest on the earth. On my Country. That black soil that grew me up. The smell of first rain on its layer of dry dust is the best smell in the world. Petrichor, my sons would say. And I weave the elements of earth, rain, and air into my nest, the basket that will carry love after transmuting my fears with each thread. Seneca dancer Rosy Simas writes, “recent scientific study verifies what many Native people have always known: that traumatic events in our ancestors’ lives persist in our bodies, blood, and bones. These events leave molecular scars that adhere to our DNA” (29). The stories I carry in my body, in my DNA, the stories I carry for my descendants, may not be able to be expressed in spoken English, but my baskets hold them.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="605" height="812" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 4: The Whole.</em></p> <p>Radley, Ryan, and Dowse refer to this as “intentionally trusting ancestors and their gifts of cellular memory to guide [us] when something is, or is not, right” and explain how it underscores their ethical and cultural research protocols (435). Dancer Monique Mojica, from the Guna and Rappahannock nations, expresses how “our bodies are our libraries – [with] references in memory, an endless resource, a giant database of stories. Some we lived, some were passed on, some dreamt, some forgotten, some we are unaware of, or dormant, awaiting the key that will release them” (97). I carry my Ancestors in my DNA and the threads that hold us together become solid in my hands. And so, I breathe and weave.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Andrews, Munya. <em>The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades: Stories from Around the World</em>. North Melbourne: Spinifex, 2004.</p> <p>Bell, Diane. <em>Ngarrindjeri Wurruwarrin: A World That Is, Was, and Will Be</em>. North Melbourne: Spinifex, 1998.</p> <p>Cajete, Gregory. "Philosophy of Native Science." <em>American Indian Thought</em> (2004): 45-57.</p> <p>Carmichael, Elisa J. <em>How Is Weaving Past, Present, Futures?</em> Dissertation. Queensland University of Technology, 2017.</p> <p>Castellano, Marlene Brant. "Updating Aboriginal Traditions of Knowledge." <em>Indigenous Knowledges in Global Contexts: Multiple Readings of Our World</em> (2000): 21-36.</p> <p>Couture, Joseph E. <em>A Metaphoric Mind: Selected Writings of Joseph Couture</em>. Athabasca: University Press, 2013.</p> <p>Ermine, Willie, M. Battiste, and J. Barman. "Aboriginal Epistemology." <em>First Nations Education in Canada: The Circle Unfolds</em> (1995): 101-12.</p> <p>Harkin, Natalie. "Weaving the Colonial Archive: A Basket to Lighten the Load." <em>Journal of Australian Studies</em> 44.2 (2020): 154-166.</p> <p>Hinch-Bourns, Andrea Colleen. <em>In Their Own Words, in Their Own Time, in Their Own Ways: Indigenous Women's Experiences of Loss, Grief, and Finding Meaning through Spirituality.</em> Canada: University of Manitoba, 2013.</p> <p>Mojica, Monique. "Stories from the Body: Blood Memory and Organic Texts." <em>Native American Performance and Representation</em> (2009): 97-109.</p> <p>Nimkulrat, Nithikul. "Hands-On Intellect: Integrating Craft Practice into Design Research." <em>International Journal of Design</em> 6.3 (2012): 1-14.</p> <p>Radley, Anjilkurri, Tess Ryan, and Kylie Dowse. "Ganggali Garral Djuyalgu (Weaving Story): Indigenous Language Research, The Insider–Outsider Experience and Weaving Aboriginal Ways of Knowing, Being, and Doing into Academia." <em>WINHEC: International Journal of Indigenous Education Scholarship</em> 1 (2021): 411-448.</p> <p>Simas, Rosy. “My Making of We Wait in the Darkness.” <em>Dance Research Journal</em> 48.1 (2016): 29.</p> <p>Smith, Linda Tuhiwai. <em>Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples</em>. London: Zed, 1999.</p> <p>Weaver, Jace. <em>That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community</em>. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997.</p> <p>Welch, Shay. “Dance as Native Performative Knowledge.” <em>Native American and Indigenous Philosophy</em> 18.1 (2018): 23-35.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Brooke Collins-Gearing Stitchers of Instagram 2023-07-22T05:24:22+00:00 Ümit Kennedy <h1><strong>Embroidery: A Subversive History</strong></h1> <p>Embroidery has a long history as a woman’s craft. Traditionally, the gendered history of embroidery as domestic, practical (utilitarian), and relational has placed it firmly in the category of craft, resulting in its exclusion from the male-dominated arena of art in public space (Emery; Durham; Jefferies). This traditional view of embroidery, and textile work in general, has been thoroughly challenged over the last 60 years. The second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s brought women’s textile work, and its private, domestic, relational subjects and lives, into the public arena: into art galleries and public spaces, challenging traditional notions of what constitutes art, and highlighting the subversive act of women making (Emery; Jefferies; Parker).</p> <p>Women have been using “fancy work”, as embroidery was called, as overt acts of defiance, rebellion, social justice, care for self and others, and as a collective means of making sense of the world and changing it for good, for generations (Davidson; Minahan and Cox; Emery; Sawden and Etaati; Robertson and Vinebaum; Hackney; Vyas). The suffragettes famously used embroidery in their banners and sashes in their fight for the woman’s right to vote (Helland). In the 1970s, collectives such as the Sydney-based Women’s Domestic Needlework Group brought the work of everyday ordinary women into a public collection and exhibition of art (Emery). The exhibition highlighted the value of women making things together as a normal part of their everyday lives, and it positioned their domestic textile work as material artifacts of knowledge and significance worthy of observation, recognition, and analysis in public space.</p> <p>More recently, there has been a resurgence of young women engaging in textile crafts online signaling a “new energy” with radical potential (Hackney 170; Robertson and Vinebaum; Jefferies; Minahan and Cox). These women are socially engaged and tech-savvy, gathering online and in-person to use craft to explore and critique their everyday lives and experiences (Minahan and Cox; Hackney). Women are using the Internet to make space to gather, to create, to develop language, knowledge, and to generate change. From forums and threads to networked digital media (see Meikle and Young) such as Facebook and Instagram (see Leaver et al.), the material gallery is now online: a public space for collective voice and representation in progress. The international embroidery community on Instagram create art in dialogue with, and in reference to, each other. The art being created is collaborative as it was in the 1970s, relational, intimate and intentional, subversive, and confronting. It falls in a category known as “craftivism” (Greer; Corbett; Jefferies; Emery; Hackney). Stitchers of Instagram reflect what Fiona Hackney refers to as a new “super-connected (informed, skilled, reflexive) amateur” (170) who engages in “the quiet activism of everyday making” (169).</p> <p>In this article, I focus on my experience participating in the embroidery community on Instagram. Uniquely situated at a time of deep global and personal anxiety, I explore my experience of using embroidery as a form of self-care, to process multiple lockdowns with small children and the death of my father. Embroidery gave me a purpose, it enveloped me in community, it offered me a sense of value and worth, and it connected me with a group of people experiencing the same thing at the same time. I spent two years embroidering and one year sharing my embroidery on Instagram using the account <a href="">@auburnevening</a>. This article comprises an autoethnographic process (see Ellis; Hollman Jones; Hughes and Pennington) in which I reflect on my experience of embroidering and analyse twelve months of being on Instagram, consisting of 300 posts, thousands of comments and interactions, and many deep and long-lasting relationships developed through private messages. I explore the role of making and online community in self-care, as a collective way to engage with, and respond to, personal and global lived experience.</p> <h1><strong>Embroidery as Therapy</strong></h1> <p>The history of embroidery as therapeutic is broad-ranging and well-documented. In the sixteenth century, Mary Queen of Scots famously used embroidery to pass her time in captivity. Mary was held captive from 1569 to 1585, and during this time she embroidered a series of “veiled symbols” demonstrating “the resistant pride of a woman with few other ways to assert control over her existence” (<a href="">V&amp;A Museum</a>). In more recent history, embroidery was used as a therapeutic application to treat British, Australian, and New Zealand soldiers suffering from shell-shock (Davidson). Returning WWI soldiers who experienced combat trauma were encouraged to take up “fancy work” (embroidery) “as a form of therapy and source of income” (Davidson 390). There are also “accounts of prisoners of war using needlework to cope with the hardships of captivity”, demonstrating that “creative activity of this type can be used to deal with extreme adversity” (391). Like these returned soldiers, I found that embroidery “affords the opportunity to focus attention away from personal ailments and fears, and through the finished product, to confer a sense of worth or even income” (391).</p> <p>In addition to the welcome opportunity to focus on the achievement of making a tangible product, like others I found embroidery to be soothing and peaceful. Nurit Wolk and Michal Bat Or explore the therapeutic aspects of embroidery for adolescent girls in post-hospitalisation boarding schools in Israel between 2020-2022. Among the five themes that they identified, they found that embroidery “inspires a sense of uniqueness and unconventionality … and provides a source of relaxation and tranquility” (14), acting as a “calming”, “soothing”, or “grounding” activity while processing trauma (Wolk and Bat Or). Similarly, Kari Sawden explores Saeedeh Niktab Etaati’s use of embroidery to process and ritualise personal grief during COVID-19 as an Iranian-Canadian (Sawden and Etaati). In their reflexive ethnography Sawden and Etaati explore embroidery as an opportunity to “meditate upon and emotionally grapple with experiences of grief and to make such reflections tangible in a way that allows for their release and the reclamation of personal peace” (2). Like Etaati, my experience of embroidery was profound as it allowed me to reclaim internal peace at a time of personal anguish.</p> <p>I began embroidering at a time when I had seemingly no control over my circumstances, with multiple lockdowns and lengthy periods of COVID restrictions, or over my feelings of intense grief over the death of my father, resulting in acute anxiety attacks that would last multiple days. During this period, embroidery allowed me to switch off in the quiet moments when my grief would visit me and my anxious thoughts were loudest. The creative focus that embroidery requires silenced my thoughts and feelings. While some, like Etaati, use embroidery to explore their feelings, I used embroidery as a respite from my feelings. Embroidery allowed me to focus on the process of making, and to momentarily attribute my worth to my ability to create something beautiful. In my very first <a href="">post</a> on Instagram, I write</p> <blockquote> <p><strong>auburnevening </strong>A new venture to share my evening creations. As a mother of two small children, there is nothing like the long awaited bliss of the evening. After a day full of chaos and noise, I crave the quiet, still evenings, when I pick up my embroidery hoop. There’s nothing like the process of making something beautiful with your hands. I love the way time stands still as I lose myself in the task, the rhythm, the creating. I love the way my brain goes quiet and I forget about all the demands and difficulties of the day. It’s my time.</p> <p>#auburnevening #eveningcreation #embroidery #embroideryart #embroiderydesign #embroiderylove #embroideryhoop #eveningescape #metime #make #create</p> </blockquote> <p>The focus of my work at the time was simply creating beautiful work, and I have never followed a pattern. All my designs are free-form. While some celebrate the role of the pattern, valuing it for its structure (Wolk and Bat Or), and its connection to a collective (such as Etaati’s contribution to the Redwork Embroidery Project; Sawden and Etaati), the fact that I was not bound to a pattern and free to create whatever I wanted in the moment was critical. It gave me a sense of <em>control</em> over my design, and it gave me a sense of <em>freedom</em>, both of which I was lacking in my personal life (with multiple lockdowns, anxiety attacks, and the existential crisis following the death of my father). Not surprisingly, my designs centred on finding beauty in the everyday mundane, something women are skilled at, and something much of the world was thrust into during COVID. My designs, like <a href="">home</a>, <a href="">breathe</a>, <a href="">slow down</a>, and <a href="">be still</a>, were a direct response to world events – lockdown, personal and collective lack of control, and anxiety. I was performing and embodying a “smell the roses” attitude, which while seemingly superficial when taken on its own was a desperate act of survival during a time of deep personal and social unrest.</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="1408" height="1408" /></p> <p><em>Fig. 1: My embroideries shared on Instagram as <a href="">@auburnevening</a>.</em></p> <p>I experienced a significant increase in positive affect as a direct result of creating something tangible and beautiful. Embroidery gave me a daily focus and purpose, a routine of switching off and creating, which I looked forward to each day. The positive impact of embroidery was lasting, continuing throughout my two-year period of embroidering, which is consistent with studies exploring the ongoing effect of creative pursuits. In their study exploring 658 young adults, Conner, DeYoung, and Silvia found that daily creative activity leads to increased positive affect (feelings of happiness) and flourishing, a state of well-being described as “a state of optimal functioning accompanied by feelings of meaning, engagement, and purpose in life” (Conner et al.; Ryan and Deci). While most studies of this nature explore how mood affects creativity, Conner et al. focus on how creativity affects mood. They suggest that creative pursuits are “intrinsically motivating”, ultimately increasing feelings of happiness and well-being that importantly carry over into the “next-day”, which they call “next-day well-being” and “next-day flourishing”. A significant component of my flourishing was the collective, collaborative, communal experience of creating.</p> <h1><strong>Crafting Community and Creative Activism</strong></h1> <p>One of the most important aspects of my experience of embroidery was sharing my work on Instagram, and as a result forming connections with others and participating in a community. There are a growing number of women participating in embroidery on Instagram, which reflects the proliferation and resurgence of traditional textile crafts among young women (Minahan and Cox; Robertson and Vinebaum; Jefferies; Hackney). Through posting my embroideries on Instagram I connected with women, both here in Australia, and all over the world. One of my deepest connections was with <a href="">Mary</a>, a young woman living in Russia, who in addition to processing the experience of COVID was now facing life under sanctions due to the Russian war with Ukraine, and was experiencing a growing sense of despair. Although our contexts and circumstances are completely different – even our experience of the seasons is opposite – we both connected over our shared use of embroidery as a welcome escape from the difficulties we faced in life. Our friendship began with likes and comments but quickly expanded and developed through Instagram’s direct message function. Through embroidery, through our sharing of making online, we not only exchanged information about the craft, but also intimate information about our lives. #embroidery offers women like myself and Mary an opportunity to process, share, and respond to everyday life, and to connect with others doing the same. I shared intimate information about my experience, my feelings, my grief, and my anxiety with the embroidery community on Instagram. Sharing in this way fosters deep connection with others.</p> <p>In the embroidery community on Instagram I found a group of women who were socially conscious, deeply empathetic, brave in their bold and public statements, and deeply affirming of each other. I connected with women over various life experiences, but mostly over the experience of being a woman. I learned about the socio-political issues facing different communities through making. I participated in affirming narratives and experiences and I received enormous affirmation of my work, and in turn myself. At a time when we could not gather or connect in person, we gathered and connected online daily, and supported each other through our personal and collective grief. In one of my posts I write, “I just love the creative space and community on Instagram. You’re all so amazing and it’s a joy every time I get to connect and interact with any of you! I feel so welcomed and encouraged here – thank you ❤️”. In the same post I write that embroidery and the community “really helped me get through 2021 which was one of the darkest years of my life (anyone else? ✋)”. As I experienced, #embroidery continues the long history of women making as a relational act of care towards others (Robertson and Vinebaum; Emery; Vyas).</p> <p>Not only do women use embroidery to create social space and foster social bonds, they also use it to advocate for social change (Robertson and Vinebaum). Women are using textiles like embroidery in spaces like Instagram “to spur interpersonal dialog and exchange, and to educate, build community, and advocate for social change” (3). Minahan and Cox call this a “unique cyber-feminist phenomenon, one of women expressing their own thoughts and reflecting their own circumstances and environment” (Minahan and Cox 10; Florida). The embroidery community on Instagram brings together ordinary young women – amateur hobbyists, who are self-taught – who embody Luckman’s cyber-feminist description as “women-with-attitude” who are “modern, hip, sassy, postfeminist” (36), technology-literate (Minahan and Cox), informed, historically savvy, and reflexive (Hackney 171). Fiona Hackney calls these women the “new amateur”. These women come together in public, “transforming public spaces into shared, dynamic, communal social space” (Robertson and Vinebaum 5) in which “alternative values and ways of living can be imagined and shared, and practical examples for change defined and materialized” (Hackney 187).</p> <p>I argue elsewhere that women have gathered online to create space, share information, and find community for decades, in genres such as blogging (see Morrison) and vlogging (see Kennedy <em>Becoming</em>). Embroidery on Instagram is an example of this, a congregation of women who make as part of their everyday existence. Making is relational and collaborative, and fosters a collective narrative about life, about COVID, about embroidery techniques and process, about motherhood and domesticity and balancing domestic responsibilities with professional pursuits (embroidery is now included in this as a viable small-business and source of income for some). It also fosters a collective, collaborative response to current social issues, like climate change, diversity and inclusion, movements such as Black Lives Matter, events like Pride Month, and current political debates like abortion rights. All of this continues the long history of embroidery as a subversive act. Today’s “fancy work” on Instagram features beautifully embellished and bedazzled <a href="">swearwords</a>, <a href="">breasts</a>, and <a href="">vulvas</a>, for example, messages that continue to promote female empowerment and advocate for all human rights. Embroidery on Instagram is therefore an extension of craft that is “firmly placed in the language of empowerment and liberation” (Jefferies 28).</p> <p>This collective, participatory act of #embroidery can be understood as a type of “<a href="">craftivism</a>”, “slow activism”, or “quiet activism” (Greer; Williams; Jefferies; Hackney). <a href="">Betsy Greer</a> defines craftivism as “a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper and your quest for justice more infinite” (in Jefferies 25). K.A. Williams defines craftivism as “a social activism that explicitly links individual creativity with human based mechanisms of production to broader sociopolitical cultural contexts in an attempt to influence the social world” (305). Craft offers a way of knowing the world (Hardy 176), and for the new amateur, Fiona Hackney suggests, “craft is power” (170). Women on Instagram engage in the “quiet activism of everyday making” (169), which <a href="">Sarah Corbett</a> suggests is a form of slow activism, “a reflexive action which changes the participant as much as it does the world” (in Jefferies 27). One way in which #stitchersofinstagram continue the subversive act of embroidery is by selling their work on Etsy, through which they experience individual and collective affirmation and continue to challenge traditional notions of craft vs. art.</p> <h1><strong>Selling on Etsy</strong></h1> <p>An important part of the experience of sharing embroidery on Instagram is the progression that many stitchers make from making to selling their work. It wasn't long before I started sharing my embroidery on Instagram that I too opened an Etsy shop. In one of my <a href="">posts</a> on Instagram, responding to the #marchmeetthemaker tag, I introduce myself as the face behind @auburnevening. In addition to my introduction and my heart-felt gratitude to the community I had found on the site, I also shared the news about my shop: “I’ve recently opened an Etsy shop, not to become a small business and not to make a profit but simply to supplement this rather expensive hobby 💸 and as a solution to my growing piles of finished hoops that I have no idea what to do with 😂”. As a stay-at-home-mother at the time, as many #stitchersofinstagram are, producing a tangible product with social and financial value had a significant impact on my sense of worth. I only ever earned half the amount I spent on supplies, but for others selling their embroidery is much more successful. It is not surprising that part of the exchange of information and knowledge on Instagram, therefore, is increasingly about content creation, managing the algorithm (see Bishop), setting up a small business, branding and marketing, selling on Etsy (Robertson <em>Embroidery</em>), and generally the labour of creating on social media (see Duffy and Hund; Kennedy <em>Arriving</em>). As others have noted, craft is increasingly a “source of achievement and economic self-sufficiency” (Jefferies 28; Waterhouse), offering “lucrative opportunities” (Robertson <em>Embroidery </em>87). The opportunity to sell embroidery is celebrated on Instagram as affirming and empowering, although it has been criticised by some.</p> <p>Janis Jefferies argues that the crafting movement is being reconfigured by a neoliberal agenda, which celebrates self-employment and entrepreneurship in the new creative economy (26). Although she argues that this reconfiguration threatens to wipe out 40 years of feminist literature, I suggest that this movement is a contemporary progression. The second-wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s discussed by Jefferies achieved the phenomenon of moving women’s craft from the private, domestic sphere into the public sphere, and this has continued ever since. As Fiona Hackney writes, “we need to recognize the existence of a new super connected amateur who, informed by a wealth of on- and offline resources … as well as their individual life experiences and expertise, are equally active as they open up new channels of value and exchange by engaging in alternative craft economies and harnessing assets in often surprising, productive ways” (171). Women embroidering on Instagram and selling on Etsy are an example of this. Today’s #stitchersofInstagram are entrepreneurs and small business owners. Responding to a history of unseen, unpaid, undervalued domestic labour, selling “fancy work” on sites like Etsy continues to challenge traditional notions of amateur vs. professional and craft vs. art by generating income from craft. The fact that everyday ordinary women (many of whom are stay-at-home-mothers with small children) are successfully selling their embroideries, often through commissions from strangers, challenges the traditional lack of value associated with women’s craft. Rather than removing embroidery from its gendered identity, or erasing a rich feminist history, the current trend of women making and selling embroidery reflects a postfeminist (see McRobbie; Duffy and Hund) orientation which seeks to re-define women’s work and domestic work as tangible, valuable, paid work.</p> <h1><strong>Conclusion </strong></h1> <p>Embroidery continues to be a subversive act, bringing women together on Instagram from all over the world to share information and knowledge about the practice, and to share their experiences of life. Through sharing #embroidery on Instagram, women form deep connections and community with each other. This community works together to create a collective public voice and narrative about the issues facing our society. Embroidery offers a way to process and respond to current events and personal issues, acting as a form of personal and collective therapy. As I experienced, embroidery gave me a respite from my anxiety, allowing me to focus solely on my ability to create something with my hands. Sharing my creations on Instagram was affirming, connecting me with others, and giving me a sense of purpose, meaning, value, and worth. Through the connections I formed with others on Instagram I gained a deeper understanding of, and empathy towards, the issues facing our world. Engaging in the participatory collective of #embroidery offers women like myself the ability to engage with ideas and dialogue in a tangible way, through the act of creating permanent material artifacts. These artifacts are significant as unique personal and communal responses to a specific time in our history and socio-political context. Stitchers of Instagram continue to challenge the traditional tensions that surround women’s creative activities. By selling their work on sites such as Etsy as a collective, they blur the traditional boundaries of amateur vs. professional and craft vs. art. #embroidery is valuable not only because it represents an individual and collective contemporary (mostly young female) voice, but also because increasingly the artifacts produced out of this making are sought after, commissioned, paid for, and valued as art that people want to display in their homes.</p> <h2><strong>References</strong></h2> <p>Bishop, Sophie. “Managing Visibility on YouTube through Algorithmic Gossip.” <em>New Media &amp; Society </em>21 (2019): 2589-2606.</p> <p>Conner, Tamlin S., Colin G. De Young, and Paul J. Silvia. “Everyday Creative Activity as a Path to Flourishing.” <em>The Journal of Positive Psychology </em>13.2 (2018): 181-189</p> <p>Davidson, Jonathan. “Threading the Needle: When Embroidery Was Used to Treat Shell-Shock.” <em>J R Army Med Corps</em> 164.5 (2018): 390.</p> <p>Duffy, Brooke Erin, and Emily Hund. “‘Having It All’ on Social Media: Entrepreneurial Femininity and Self-Branding among Fashion Bloggers.” <em>Social Media + Society</em> (2015).</p> <p>Durham, Carolyn A<em>.</em> “The Subversive Stitch: Female Craft, Culture, and Ecriture.” <em>Women’s Studies</em> 17 (1990): 341-359.</p> <p>Ellis, Carolyn. <em>The Ethnographic I: A Methodological Novel about Autoethnography.</em> Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira, 2004.</p> <p>Emery, Elizabeth. “Subversive Stitches: Needlework as Activism in Australian Feminist Art of the 1970s.” <em>Everyday Revolutions: Remaking Gender, Sexuality and Culture in 1970s Australia.</em> Eds. Michelle Arrow and Angela Woollacott. ANU P, 2019. 103-120.</p> <p>Gauntlett, David. <em>Making Is Connecting: The Social Meaning of Creativity, from DIY and Knitting to YouTube and Web 2.0.</em> London: Polity, 2011.</p> <p>Greer, Betsy. <em>Knitting for Good! The Guide to Creating Personal, Social, and Political Change, Stitch by Stitch.</em> Boston: Trumpeter, 2008.</p> <p>Hackney, Fiona. “Quiet Activism and the New Amateur.” <em>Design and Culture</em> 5.2 (2015): 169-193.</p> <p>Hardy, Michele. “Feminism, Crafts &amp; Knowledge.” <em>Objects and Meaning: New Perspectives on Art and Craft.</em> Eds. M. Anna Fariello and Paula Owens. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2004. 176-183.</p> <p>Helland, Janice. “From Prison to Citizenship, 1910: The Making and Display of a Suffragist Banner.” <em>Stitching the Self: Identity and Needle Arts. </em>Eds. Johanna Amos and Lisa Binkley. London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2020. 97-110.</p> <p>Hollman Jones, Stacy. “Autoethnography: Making the Personal Political.” <em>Handbook of Qualitative Research</em>. Eds. Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005.</p> <p>Hughes, Sherick A., and Julie L. Pennington. <em>Autoethnography: Process, Product, and Possibility for Critical Social Research.</em> Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2017.</p> <p>Jefferies, Janice. “Crocheted Strategies: Women Crafting Their Own Communities.” <em>TEXTILE</em> 14.1 (2016): 14-35.</p> <p>Kennedy, Ümit. “Arriving on YouTube: Vlogs, Automedia and Autoethnography.” <em>Life Writing</em> (2021).</p> <p>———. <em>Becoming on YouTube: Exploring the Automedial Identities and Narratives of Australian Mummy Vlogging</em>. PhD thesis. Western Sydney University, 2019.</p> <p>Leaver, Tama, Tim Highfield, and Crystal Abidin. <em>Instagram: Visual Social Media Cultures. </em>Polity, 2020.</p> <p>Luckman, Susan. “(En)gendering the Digital Body: Feminism and the Internet.” <em>Hecate </em>25.2 (1999): 36-47.</p> <p>McRobbie, Angela. “Post-Feminism and Popular Culture”. <em>Feminist Media Studies</em> 4.3 (2004): 255-264.</p> <p>Meikle, Graham, and Sherman Young. <em>Media Convergence: Networked Digital Media in Everyday Life</em>. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.</p> <p>Minahan, Stella, and Julie Wolfram Cox. “STITCH’nBITCH: Cyberfeminism, a Third Place and the New Materiality.” <em>Journal of Material Culture</em> 12.1 (2007): 5-21.</p> <p>Moravec, Michelle. <em>Motherhood Online</em>. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2011.</p> <p>Morrison, Amy. “Autobiography in Real Time: A Genre Analysis of Personal Mommy Blogging.” <em>Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace</em> 4.2 (2010): 14.</p> <p>Parker, Rozsika. <em>The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine.</em> London: The Women’s Press, 1984.</p> <p>Robertson, Kirsty. “Embroidery Pirates and Fashion Victims: Textiles, Craft and Copyright.” <em>TEXTILE</em> 8.1 (2015): 86-111.</p> <p>Robertson, Kirsty, and Lisa Vinebaum. “Crafting Community.” <em>TEXTILE</em> 14.1 (2016): 2-3.</p> <p>Ryan, Richard M., and Edward L. Deci. “On Happiness and Human Potentials: A Review of Research on Hedonic and Eudaimonic Well-Being.” <em>Annual Review of Psychology</em> 52 (2001): 141-166.</p> <p>Sawden, Kari, and Saeedeh Niktab Etaati. “Constructing Grief: Processing Tragedy through the Ritualization of Embroidery.” <em>Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice</em> (2023): 1-10.</p> <p>Vyas, Dhaval. “Altruism and Wellbeing as Care Work in a Craft-Based Maker Culture.” <em>PACM on Human-Computer Interaction </em>3 (2019): 239.</p> <p>Waterhouse, Jo. <em>Indie Craft</em>. London: Laurence King, 2010.</p> <p>Williams, Kristen A. “Old Time Mem’ry”: Contemporary Urban Craftivism and the Politics of Doing-It-Yourself in Postindustrial America.” <em>Utopian Studies </em>22.2 (2011): 303-320.</p> <p>Wolk, Nurit, and Michal Bat Or. “The Therapeutic Aspects of Embroidery in Art Therapy from the Perspective of Adolescent Girls in a Post-Hospitalization Boarding School.” <em>Children</em> 10.1084 (2023): 1-24.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Ümit Kennedy Ghost-Stitching American Politics 2022-10-26T00:54:25+00:00 Caroline Veronica Wallace <p>In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, feminist and online craft communities responded with a call to arms (or needles) aimed at resistance through collective action in thread, yarn, and textiles. One such project, Diana Weymar’s <em>Tiny Pricks Project, </em>records the incessant barrage of Trump’s media coverage: tweets, journalist reportage, and statements in stitched thread. Weymar started <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>on 8 January 2018, stitching the 45th President’s bluster of a 6 January tweet, “I AM A VERY STABLE GENIUS”, in yellow thread across a field of tapestry flowers. Issuing an invitation for contributions from stitchers around the world, Weymar accrued a vast archive of over 5,000 individual textile works which transform political rhetoric into thread. Although the project has been exhibited in its material form in galleries around the United States (particularly in the lead-up to the 2020 election), its primary display is online, where the textured and tactile objects are imaged and uploaded to Instagram. Drawing on the associations of a medium associated with intimacy and femininity, @tinypricksproject traces Trump’s presidency, rejecting the immediacy of the 24-hour media cycle with careful, time-consuming stitching that bears the imprint of its makers.</p> <p>As an attempt to reshape Trump’s violent utterances as a material symbol of resistance, <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>has a close parallel in the bright pink hand-knitted “pussyhats” that became the symbol of the 2017 Women’s March. With a pattern distributed online through platforms such as Ravelry and sold on online marketplaces such as Etsy, the Pussyhat Project exemplifies the ambitions of twentyfirst-century craftivism, that “creativity can be a catalyst for change” (Greer, 183), but also the neoliberal commodification of these ideals. The contested legacy of the Pussyhat Project, lauded as a means of participatory politics but criticised for the whiteness and transphobic essentialism of its chosen symbol, demonstrates the challenges in harnessing craft as collective activism (Black), and suggests the need for individualised, responsive ways of connecting politics and hand-making. The same phrase that inspired the Pussyhats, Trump’s recording of 2005 admitting sexual assault (“They let you do it. You can do anything. Grab ’em by the pussy.”) also appears across the <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> as an embroidered text where it performs a very different role. In contrast to the performative use of knitted projects as a garment to wear in action, Weymar describes <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>as a “stitched material record” and as “testimony”. Both acts, of stitching and posting, are acts of memory-making and communication, and as such, the cumulative posts of <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> function as a feminist vernacular temporary memorial. Initially focussed exclusively on Trump, the project has expanded in both territory (with a dedicated <em>Tiny Pricks Project UK</em>) and politically to encompass direct statements of opposition. The intimacy and history of needlework in <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>punctures distance, drawing the violence of Trump’s political rhetoric (against women, immigrants, the disabled, and the vulnerable) into a direct, affective contact with the bodies of stitchers and viewers.</p> <p>This article proposes the contact of <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> as a form of haunting, where threads pierce through memories of the past and bodies in the present. Embroiderers have a term for stitching which follows a pattern from the other side – <em>ghost stitching</em> – allowing for the thread to create a pattern which is elsewhere but not visible, a tracing through to the inverse and across multiple layers of textile. To consider threads as conveying presence recognises the powerful affective charge of stitching. As Roszika Parker asserts in her influential work of feminist art history, <em>The Subversive Stitch</em>, “embroiderers … transform materials to produce sense” (6), making complex embodied meaning through thread and fabric. A digital ghost stitch, the tracing of online content in needlework that records the sense of its maker, which is then reposted elsewhere, draws out the affective quality of the material that “pricks” the user. Ghosts here are defined through the work of Avery Gordon, where they are “that special instance of the merging of the visible and the invisible, the dead and the living, the past and the present” (25). In their production of material effects, ghosts are the manifestation of haunting, which for Gordon is a particular form of mediation that breaks down distance:</p> <blockquote> <p>in haunting, organized forces and systemic structures that appear removed from us make their impact felt in everyday life in a way that confounds our analytic separations and confounds the social separations themselves. (19)</p> </blockquote> <p>A ghost stitch, then, is the specific quality of stitched thread in a digital post to puncture mediatised politics, drawing together otherwise invisible bodies and histories.</p> <p>To draw out the haunted nature of thread this article locates the affective quality of the stitched politics of <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> in the context of contemporary memorial cultures, rather than the field of craftivism or digital activism. Focussing on the histories and politics of needlework, I begin by understanding the material use of thread and stitching in <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> as a connection to intimate forms of memory-making, specifically American traditions of quilting. I then locate the specific form of @tinypricksproject, cumulative posts on Instagram in response and reaction to historical events, as a form of vernacular memorial that punctures the screen with the presence of stitchers, framing this discussion in relationship to new forms of public memory-making in both public spaces and online. Finally, I consider the combination of these forms, threaded stitches and digital memorials, as a “ghost stitch” that “pricks” me when I scroll through the feed, forcing an embodied relationship with its haunted political texts. </p> <p>The stitched thread has a powerful emotional charge that intimately traces the body, through the gestural mark of a hand, and evokes memory, through a connection to family heirlooms and domestic material culture. This nostalgic embodiment is exploited in the material form of <em>Tiny Pricks Project, </em>where Trump’s words in are stitched into vintage textiles, such as lace-edged napkins or printed children’s handkerchiefs, each carrying sentimental associations. Items of clothing sometimes appear as the support – as Trump’s response to the 2019 Senate inquiry that “I did nothing wrong” stitched in red on the front of a child’s dress decorated with red, white, and blue ric-rac and stars. The technical skill on display varies across the project, but most text is rendered in simple back stitch, creating a punctuated and punctured line that wobbles and reveals its handmade quality. Weymar’s own hand is evident in the use of bold, block lettering, often layered over tapestry – such in a repeat of “I AM A VERY STABLE GENIUS” in blue and yellow thread stitched over a stag tapestry by her grandmother. Some have the addition of more elaborative embroidered imagery or applique in the form of anachronistic illustrations and decorative motifs. Whilst information on individual panels (the stitcher, the source of the quote, and sometimes an account of the work’s production) is available in the Instagram caption in the feed and tag, each individual painstakingly stitched post is understood in relationship to the surrounding images.</p> <p>The combination of the individual panels of repurposed fabric of <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>evokes the iconic American form of the patchwork quilt that pieces together textiles with their own histories and memories to make new form that is both fragmented and connected. On @tinyprickproject the visual similarity to a quilt is striking, as an image of each textile panel is joined to the next via Instagram’s gridded interface. In the individualised feeds of the account’s followers, each <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> post is stitched together with other algorithmically selected images, generating a unique piecing together of politics with the personal, as a digital quilt. Although the image of quilting in the popular imagination remains dominated by images of white femininity (as in the 1996 film <em>How to Make an American Quilt</em>), quilts have historically also been a site of expression and memory-making for bodies otherwise effaced in American culture. The tradition of Black quilting, for example, has a complicated history, as bell hooks describes, where quilts were produced out of basic material need but were also a powerful form of aesthetic expression. Remembering her grandmother’s quilting, hooks identifies the way that the reuse of the family’s tattered and worn clothing in crazy quilts results in “bits and pieces of my mama’s life, held and contained there” (121). Peter Stallybrass similarly articulates the powerful communication of presence and absence of using worn garments for quilting, where “a network of cloth can trace the connection of love across the boundaries of absence, of death, because cloth is able to carry the absent body, memory, genealogy” (36-37). In their material and form, quilts have a powerful connection to memories outside dominant narratives as an assertion of the bodies who laboured on them, those bodies whose worn garments have been transformed into pattern, and the bodies they symbolically cover.</p> <p>This quality of intimacy, memory, and embodiment has a political potentiality, as exploited in the cumulative, community NAMES project AIDS Memorial Quilt. Founded by Cleve Jones and first displayed in 1987 in Washington D.C., each individual panel approximates the size of a body (or coffin) and is stitched with the name and memory of someone lost in the AIDS crisis. In its public display through the late 1980s and early 1990s, with the panels spread out on the ground in public spaces, AIDS quilts (both the original NAMES project and subsequent localised versions around the world) controversially drew individual memory into public politics, deploying feeling as a form of activism. At the height of AIDS crisis, Queer art theorist and ACT UP member Douglas Crimp, for example, positioned the spectacle of mourning in opposition to militancy, where “public mourning rituals may of course have their own political force, but they nevertheless often seem, from an activist perspective, indulgent, sentimental, defeatist” (5). Countering this position, Peter Hawkins argued that the quilt “made intimacy its object; it has enabled quite private reality (sometimes sentimental and homey, sometimes kinky and erotic) to ‘come out’ in public” (770), a powerful personification of social and political ambitions. The recent digitisation of the 50,000 panels of the quilt on the National AIDS Memorial Website makes more direct the connect between the intimate feeling of mourning and the “stitching” ability of digital memory.</p> <p>Beyond the specific form of the quilt, on a broader social level the nostalgic quality of <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em>’s accumulation of hand-stitched textiles draws together the past and the present. The rise of craft culture is underpinned by online platforms (including Instagram) that have facilitated DIY and craftivist communities, where historical material processes such as knitting, crocheting, needlework, and sewing provide powerful affective and political points of connection. Addressing the relationship of contemporary artists working in textiles to the economic, political, and social context of globalised late capitalism, Kirsty Robertson argues that such works are “haunted by their passages through time and space”, specifically the “ghosts of textile artists and workers” (195). This connection to bodies across history is wrapped up in the materiality and gestural process of needlework. These are the ghosts of those whose presence is rendered invisible in twentyfirst-century deindustrialised countries, where textile industries have largely disappeared and where feminism has fundamentally changed the ubiquity of domestic crafts in the home. Their return, either in art or the “hobby” sphere, carries both a radical political legacy and a complicated nostalgic charge. In the context of the United States, a further material trace in the stitched and embroidered works of <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> is in the fibres of the materials themselves, in the bleached history of cotton’s brutal past that connects enslavement and contemporary capitalism (Beckert). The threads of handmade embroidery, quilt, and woven crafts move across time, as art historian Julia Bryan Wilson argues:</p> <blockquote> <p>textiles warp between the past and the present: relentlessly recruited for pressing contemporary concerns they are also tasked with reminding us of, and are often pulled back to, the traditions from which they sprung. (261)</p> </blockquote> <p>Ironically, then, the popularity of online textile and needlecraft projects such as <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> can then be mapped alongside the rhetoric of Trump’s populist “recruitment” of America’s industrial history (Making America Great <em>Again</em>) as an emotive “pull” to an imagined past within contemporary politics more broadly (Kenny). This deployment of sentimentality untethered from facts is one part of what Lauren Berlant described as the “noise” of Trump, the concentration of feeling as the substance of his politics:</p> <blockquote> <p>Trump is sound and fury and garble. Yet—and this is key—the noise in his message <em>increases</em> the apparent value of what’s clear about it. The ways he’s right seem more powerful, somehow, in relief against the ways he’s blabbing.</p> </blockquote> <p>Rather than communicating a political messaging, Trump’s bluster exemplifies a mediatised politics that has taken on the logic of social media and 24-hour news cycles, fragmenting and dissipating attention (Crary). The disconnection of noisy mediatised politics makes it always just in the past, endlessly present in its digital archive, but evasive in its meaning.</p> <p><em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> is just one example of drawing affective attention to Trump’s words through this same medium, recontextualising them as an act of memorial-making. Certain key quotes are recovered again and again in different hands alongside “I am a very stable genius” and “grab ‘em by the pussy”. Some are ironic, such as “I know words, I have the best words” (from a speech about Barack Obama in 2015) and “I don’t have a racist bone in my body” (a tweet in 2019); but many capture the most misogynist and racist records of Trump’s speech including “Nasty Woman” (directed at Hillary Clinton in 2016); and “send her back” (a rally chant about Ilhan Omar, 2019). Embroidering Trump’s tweets and soundbites into material form, then preserving these on a digital wall for all to see, <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>appropriates into thread the American tradition of hagiographic presidential monuments that immortalise political actors through their speech made material. Across Washington D.C., epigraphs are carved into stone and cast in steel, as at the Lincoln Memorial (1922), which fixes its subject’s meaning in historical place with select quotations that evade the mention of slavery. The dominance of these forms of monument to America’s past efface the complex racial violence of the country’s past, as Kirk Savage has argued, and it is only when encountered with living bodies that this becomes legible again as in the iconic use of the Lincoln Memorial for Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech (1963). Indicative of a shift in the culture of memory-making and memorials, this visible contest between vulnerable bodies and symbols of state power played out during Trump’s administration in sites across the country, most notably at Charlottesville in 2017, where conflict over the fate of the city’s Robert E. Lee statue boiled over into fatal white supremacist violence.</p> <p><em>Tiny Prick Project</em>’s function as a collectively generated memorial is part of this broader cultural shift: what Erica Doss has described as America’s “memorial mania”, an explosion in fragmentary memory-making where an ever-growing number of official monuments are joined by individualised commemoration and contestation. Inscribing Trump’s words on repurposed materials, <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> reshapes presidential monuments through the aesthetics of temporary memorials. Examples such as the spontaneous memorials around the city of New York in the wake of September 11 and mementos left in the chain fence near the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing site “embod[y] the faith that Americans place in things to negotiate complex moments and events” (Doss, 71). Such memorials rely upon stable and commodified ideas of identity such as teddy bears and American flags to assert the “comfort culture” (Sturken, <em>Tourists of History</em>, 6) of American consumerism in the midst of trauma and loss. This has created a visual lexicon for traumatic events that is predicated on the accumulation of the mundane and everyday of material culture.</p> <p>In the sheer scale of posts on the @tinypricksproject Instagram feed the effect is of a cumulative vernacular memorial where the stitched posts accrue over time like mementoes on a wall, each with an affective connection both individual and collective. In many ways the process of memory-making online mirrors the assertion of presence on physical sites, most directly in the convergence of selfies and social media posts at memorial sites: what Kate Douglas describes as “dark selfies” where the act of photographing and sharing is a form of witnessing that locates the self in relationship to the past. Like temporary memorials, on platforms such as Instagram the emphasis is on individualised traces of memories constituted through a shared use of a platform and set of recognisable imagery. The participatory function of digital culture connects memory to identity and communication, through “mediated memories”: media theorist José van Dijck’s term for "the activities and objects we produce and appropriate by means of media technology for creating and re-creating a sense of past, present, and future of ourselves in relation to others” (21). The specific agency of Instagram to hold memory (a capacity built into functionality such as “on this day” or “Memories” features) casts all its posts into memory, but with the potential to return as “mediatised ghosts to haunt participants” (Garde-Hansen et al., 6).</p> <p>There is a distancing effect facilitated by the mediation of digital memory, a re-directing of absence into the presence of participation in social media consumption, echoing the participatory consumption of memorial culture more broadly. As Martin Pogačar argues, digital memorials online facilitate the “exteriorization of intimate and affective … practices of memory and remembering”, but he claims there is still a subversive potential here, “to elude these constraints by negotiating and revising the institutionalized forms and canons of memory and remembering” (33). Similarly, despite official intentions or commoditisation, physical memorials are also sites of feeling that can rupture any containment: they are “haunted” as Marita Sturken describes in her analysis of the Ground Zero Memorial in New York as an official memorial that cannot “contain the ghosts that live there” (“Containing Absence”, 314). In her analysis, Sturken is drawing on Gordon, who argues that haunting has the capacity to produce counter-memory by allowing for unexpected and potentially contradictory connections to be formed that challenge official structures. For Sturken it is the direct embodied trace of individual experience, such as recordings of victims’ voices, that is the ghost here. </p> <p>The difference between the official, intended meaning of a memorial and the haunted counter-memory is akin to the distinction between Roland Barthes’s <em>studium </em>and <em>punctum</em> in a photograph. Where the studium is the communication of conventionalised forms of meaning across a surface, the punctum pierces the viewer’s body, it is “that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)” (27). The “prick” of the punctum is, in the context of haunted memorials, the ghost making its presence felt as a material impact. The “prick” of the stitched thread in the posts of <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> is a similar form of haunting, a ghost stitch that allows direct feeling through in the externalised context of mediatised politics and digital memory as followers scroll and touch each post in close and intimate contact or see the works exhibited in a gallery. As Weymar has said of the project as a site of feeling, “if you can stay present long enough to read what he’s saying, you will become politically active. You will feel a sense of urgency” (Chernick). </p> <p>With its ironic use of nostalgia, the ghost stitch of the <em>Tiny Prick Project</em> posts also punctures through contemporary political rhetoric, exposing the artifice and contradictions of sentimentality for an American past. Instead, <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> proposes a counter-memorial of Trump’s presidency. A counter-memory of stitched thread runs through American political history, and when introduced to the space of digital memory this thread has a capacity to “prick” by bringing with it an affective connection to the familiar, intimate, and embodied presence distinct to hand-stitching. Defying the fragmentary nature of digital culture, thread sutures and connects, but also punctures and pierces, bringing together but also allowing points of escape. Considering <em>Tiny Pricks Project </em>as an example of digital ghost stitching opens up possibilities for the active role of thread as a way to “prick” the viewer and pull through connections across and between bodies and social systems as a form of political resistance.</p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Barthes, Roland. <em>Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. </em>Trans. Richard Howard. Hill and Wang, 1981.</p> <p>Beckert, Sven. <em>Empire of Cotton: A Global History. </em>Alfred A. Knopf, 2014. </p> <p>Berlant, Lauren. “Trump. Or Political Emotions.” <em>Supervalent Thought Blog</em>, 4 Aug. 2016. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Black, Shannon. “KNIT RESIST: Placing the Pussyhat Project in the Context of Craft Activism.” <em>Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography</em> 24.5 (2017): 696–710.</p> <p>Bryan-Wilson, Julia. <em>Fray: Art + Textile Politics</em>. U of Chicago P, 2017.</p> <p>Chernick, Karen. “US President Donald Trump’s Angry Tweets Recorded in Tiny Pricks.” <em>The Art Newspaper</em>, 20 Sep. 2020. &lt;<a href=""></a>&gt;.</p> <p>Crary, Jonathan. <em>Scorched Earth beyond the Digital Age to a Post-Capitalist World</em>. Verso, 2022.</p> <p>Crimp, Douglas. “Mourning and Militancy.”<em> October</em> 51 (1989): 3-18.</p> <p>Douglas, Kate. “Youth, Trauma and Memorialisation: The Selfie as Witnessing.” <em>Memory Studies</em> 13.4 (2020): 384–399.</p> <p>Doss, Erika. <em>Memorial Mania: Public Feeling in America</em>. U of Chicago P, 2010.</p> <p>Garde-Hansen, Joanne, et al. <em>Save As... Digital Memories</em>. Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.</p> <p>Gordon, Avery. <em>Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination</em>. 2nd ed. U of Minnesota P, 2008. </p> <p>Greer, Betsy. “Craftivist History.” <em>Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art.</em> Ed. Maria Elena Buszek. Duke UP, 2011. 175-183.</p> <p>Hawkins, Peter S. “The Art of Memory and the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt.” <em>Critical Inquiry</em> 19.4 (1993): 752-779.</p> <p>hooks, bell. ‘Aesthetic Inheritances: History Worked by Hand.” <em>Yearning</em>. 2nd ed. Routledge, 2015. 115-122.</p> <p>Kenny, Michael. “Back to the Populist Future?: Understanding Nostalgia in Contemporary Ideological Discourse.” <em>Journal of Political Ideologies</em> 22.3 (2017): 256-273.</p> <p>Parker, Rozsika. <em>The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine</em>. New ed. I.B. Tauris, 2010.</p> <p>Pogačar, Martin. “Culture of the Past: Digital Connectivity and Dispotentiated Futures.” <em>Digital Memory Studies: Media Pasts in</em> <em>Transition.</em> Ed. Andrew Hoskins. Taylor &amp; Francis, 2017. 27-47.</p> <p>Robertson, Kirsty. “Rebellious Doilies and Subversive Stitches: Writing a Craftivist History.” <em>Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art</em>. Ed. Maria Elena Buszek. Duke UP, 2011. 184-203.</p> <p>Savage, Kirk. <em>Standing Soldiers, Kneeling Slaves: Race, War, and Monument in Nineteenth-Century America</em>. New ed. Princeton UP, 2018.</p> <p>Stallybrass, Peter. “Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning, and the Life of Things.”<em> Cultural Memory and the Construction of Identity</em>. Eds. Liliane Weissberg and Dan Ben-Amos. Wayne State UP, 1999. 27-45.</p> <p>Sturken, Marita. <em>Tourists of History: Memory, Kitsch, and Consumerism from Oklahoma City to Ground Zero</em>. Duke UP, 2007.</p> <p>———. “Containing Absence, Shaping Presence at Ground Zero.” <em>Memory Studies</em> 13.3 (2020): 313–321.</p> <p>Van Dijck, José. <em>Mediated Memories in the Digital Age</em>. Stanford UP, 2007.</p> 2023-11-26T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Caroline Veronica Wallace Weaving in the Threads 2023-11-21T06:10:42+00:00 Christina Chau Sky Croeser <p>Textile arts and crafts have a longstanding history of being connected to femininity and domesticity. Prominent art historians Rozsika Parker and Griselda Pollock have been generative figures in highlighting the machinations and effects of patriarchal stratification which relegated women making decorative arts in domestic spaces. Particularly for Parker, women, domesticity, and textiles have become inextricably linked in western cultures, to the point that “to know the history of embroidery is to know the history of women” (ix). While Parker’s research was focussed on embroidery, other academics have since explored adjacent approaches in relation to broader creative practices with textiles, and have analysed ways in which the tools and materials of the textile arts have also been primary resources through which (mostly) women have expressed their social, political, and ethical values.</p> <p>When we wrote the initial call for this issue in 2021, we (Sky Croeser and Christina Chau) were discussing multiple intersecting socio-political events unfolding in the world, and their effects on our lives. Our city Boorloo (Perth, Western Australia) had dodged waves of strict isolation that other capital cities in Australia had endured, partially due to our geographical isolation and ability to control movement across neighbouring regions nationally and internationally. Even still we participated in debates and discussions around interpretations of civil responsibility, individual action for collective good, in relation to the ongoing pandemic and climate crisis, and more personally creativity and early parenthood during a pandemic. </p> <p>While readjusting to ongoing interpretations of a ‘new normal’ and working from home, we also returned to making with textiles in our domestic spaces, as a way of practicing, enacting, and working through ideas around reparation, care, and ethics, in a time of global precarity. We noticed that many people were using similar materials to explore these ideas and communing online for a variety of reasons: from connecting with others to explore senses of community during isolation, to expressing and mobilising political action through communities interested in craft activism. Somehow there was a concurrent enmeshing of the conceptual threads being posted on social media sites and the discussion threads posted within them, and the actual textile threads people were holding in their hands to create all over the world were expressing and deliberating on their values and ethical positions through their creative practices. </p> <p>The call for this issue felt very timely, and we invited scholars to reflect on ways in which online communities post, commune, and discuss current socio-political context through craft activism, making, and repairing, as well as reflect on the history that these creative practices have with feminism, political action, and domesticity. </p> <p>Now that we are publishing this issue at the end of 2023, the socio-political contexts that concern us daily in our minds, on our feeds, over our sewing tables, and between neighbours continue to be all-engulfing. We continue to be concerned with local action in reaction to global events and are often overwhelmed with the gravity of unprecedented ecological and human suffering, while also knowing that these feelings of overwhelm have been ongoing from generation to generation. Also, people have continued to critique, express, protest, and call for action in a multitude of ways, including through textile crafts. </p> <p>The collection of articles that make up this issue each examine ways in which the personal is political, and how each stitch, weave, and cut form acts of subversion – all of which are amplified online and shown to other makers. During the pandemic, making, uploading, sharing, and commenting online became primary means for communicating, and since then makers and scholars have had time to reflect on the impact of online craft communities in a specific concentrated amount of time. Of course, online craft activism and communities have existed online for decades, as have offline communities and social gatherings, and movements. However, the interplay between online and offline making, sharing, expressing, and communicating has taken on particular nuances since COVID-19 because we have all had to rethink the delineations between our spheres of influence and control. </p> <p>The authors in this issue discuss relations between expression with textiles, and the online communities that form while supporting, guiding, and communing around material expression. Multiple themes have emerged through the collection and curation of the articles that make up this issue. There are often approaches to craft and textile practices as simultaneously politically subversive involving collective action, and also deeply personal and reparative. Many of the authors have also discussed contemporary practices as a continuation of earlier feminist critiques of patriarchal systems of power. </p> <p>Most prominently, however, we see that this issue also deals with how creators weave together the past and present, and presents optimism for future action, education, and change. Kouhia argues that hobby crafts are often linked with reactive pastimes: the surge in crafting during the pandemic sparked debates around the implementation of alternative futures linked with postfeminist forms of domesticity.</p> <p>Martin and Rosner each consider contemporary creative practices in relation to first- and second-wave feminism; Martin makes conceptual threads between contemporary digital zines and third-wave feminism, and back to longer histories of scrapbooking and other feminine craft practices. Rosner also focusses on recent artwork <em>b00b</em> (pronounced ‘bee-zero-zero-bee’ or ‘bewb’), which is an embroidered bra fitted with near-field communication technology, to discuss connections between trust, interaction, and embodiment alongside historical feminist performances such as Yoko Ono’s <em>Cut Piece</em>. </p> <p>Hanley also explores the ways in which weaving might connect the past; here Hanley reflects on makers convening at a local wool mill (and of the Yugara people who lived and cared for the land before the mill was built) with textile artists in the present, and points to possible futures for the building. Rönkkö, Lapinlahti, and Yliverronen also focus on knitting podcasts and social media platforms being used to continue crafting legacies around community building, skill sharing, collaboration, and creative empowerment. These authors each consider the potent effects of makers coming together and building community. </p> <p>Collins-Gearing focusses on more personal effects of making with textiles, and writes about the way that weaving connects her with her Ancestors and with their long history on Country, as well as a regeneration of self and culture; the article becomes its form of reflection-in-action. </p> <p>In this issue, crafting communities online are also considered as a vehicle for confronting and critiquing contemporary culture: Kennedy reflects on contemporary craftivism online in connection to legacies of subversive embroidery, to highlight how these communities create a collective public voice that processes and critiques current events and personal issues, to enable a form of personal and collective therapy; Wallace argues for the <em>Tiny Pricks Project</em> as a form of haunting, where threads pierce and connect memories of the past to create material critiques of vernacular patriarchal language in American political culture during Trump’s presidency. These authors each find great potency in small gestures to form collective expression and change in nuanced ways.</p> <p>This issue provides a clear indication of the potent changes created by making and sharing knowledge with others. Read together, the articles highlight that making with domestic materials and political critique have and will continue to go hand in hand. These gestures are often deeply personal accounts of how one processes current events and contemporary debates, and contribute to collective concern for the systems of power that pervade our lives. </p> <h2>References</h2> <p>Parker, Rozsika. <em>The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine</em>. London: Women’s Press, 1984.</p> <p>Pollock, Griselda, and Rozsika Parker. <em>Old Mistresses; Women, Art and Ideology</em>. London: I.B. Tauris, 2013.</p> 2023-11-28T00:00:00+00:00 Copyright (c) 2023 Christina Chau, Dr Sky Croeser