Mechanics Engineers Tinkers & Steampunks: philosophy and the forgotten powers of hand-eye-mind

"Here's to getting it done with your own two hands: the original power tools"
PBS's promo for "This Old House"

There is a contemporary awareness of the life of things, tools, making and repair and their relation to hands, eyes, and minds. This awareness is especially held by Steampunks, Engineers, Mechanics, Repairers, Home Hobbyists, Crafters, and Tinkers. They are aware of the difference between the general skillfulness of the early modern and early industrial periods and that of the information age. They know first-hand how big the gap is between generalists and specialists. They employ handily all sorts of equipment, tools, materials, adhesives and connectors. They have a love of shapes and a job well done that stands over time. They have rich vocabularies, many skills, lots of know-how and a good bit of kow-why. Theirs is Ingenuity, Cleverness, DIY-ethic, the pleasures of making and repairing. In the interests of more sustainable social conditions and a less violent dwelling on the earth, they value Slowing Life Down, Throwing Less Away, Doing with Less, making do, Buying fewer things, Using all one's powers.

Schedule: 6-9 pm, Tuesdays. Begins February 15.
Location: at Sprout's studios in Davis Square, Somerville
Cost: $12/hour of class time per student
Teachers: Eric and Mike

Possible readings:
Shop Class as Soulcraft, Matthew Crawford
The Craftsmen, Richard Sennett
"Love and tectonics: Epikurean Philosophy and Reparative Architecture" Eric Buck
A New Theory of Urban Design
The craft stories of Zhuangzi
New Encyclopedia of Machine Shop Practice
Marlowe's Faust, not Goethe's Faust
Charles Kuralt's On the Road
The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Tools for Conviviality Ivan Illich
Apology Plato
"Eye and Mind" Maurice Merleau-Ponty
Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Magazine
The Borrowers - a novel of little people who take stuff from big peoples' houses and adapt it to meet their own needs
Payne Hollow and Shantyboat by Harlan Hubbard


The archetype of the tinker in films: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Making machines, including computers, stereos, telephones
Repairing, not throwing
Caring and Repairing
Gardening and cooking—making your food
Making your clothes
Building your house and city
Making your self/soul
Differences of the Elements: Earth/Stone, Wood, Metal
Merchandise, shit, crap, stuff, crib, piece of shit, Clutter, garbage, trash, toys, equipment, status symbol: Words For Things (George Lakoff, metaphor), implement
Is the digital age reducing the accumulation?


build a hammer from junk rebar
repair an air conditioner
retrofit an automobile to run on waste paper
improve a tool
develop continuously variable speeds for a phonograph
fix something broken from your life: appliance, house, relationship, community

Trips outwards

North Bennett Street School
Yin Yu Tang, the Chinese House at the Peabody-Essex Museum -

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