“A Framework for Repairing Craft: A Case Study On Wire-Bending In Trinidad & Tobago.” PhD Dissertation Defense, PSU

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May 2019 – On May 9th 2019, I successfully defended my Ph.D. dissertation, “A Framework for Repairing Craft: A Case Study On Wire-Bending In Trinidad & Tobago.” I will post a link to it as soon as it appears online. Below is the abstract and committee info.


This dissertation develops the concept of repair in craft practices. It creates and proposes a framework of tools, processes, and methodologies for how craft knowledges and practices can be repaired. Three problems I address in this work are:

  1. The disappearance of craft knowledges and communities;
  2. The exclusion of craft cultures from discourses around computation; and
  3. A focus on crafts’ contributions to dominant fields with less attention given to repatriating these knowledges back into minority communities from which they were extracted.

Philosopher Richard Sennett writes that repair comprises of three things: restoration, remediation, and reconfiguration. He defines restoration as a recovery in which the damage and use of history is undone; remediation as preserving an existing form while also substituting old parts for new and improved ones; and reconfiguration as a radical kind of repair that is experimental. In this work, I seek to investigate and extend Richard Sennett’s definition of repair through the case study of the craft of wire-bending. It is my position that any craft practice can be repaired, it does not have to be dying, disappearing, or dead to be repaired. In this work, I explore repair using formal, theoretical, and technological approaches. The vision of this work is to repair craft practices and knowledges for contributions to craft communities, academic and research communities, and professional communities. This dissertation proposes methodologies coming out of in-situ research, ethnography, computational design, Non-Representational Research, and Human Computer Interaction (HCI) to restore, remediate, and reconfigure craft knowledge and practices. Working within frames of design, computation, craft, making, technology and society, anthropology and ethnography, and the Trinidad Carnival, I use the craft of wire-bending in Trinidad and Tobago as a case study for how one would repair a craft. Through a lens of design, this dissertation discusses social, technical and conceptual issues affecting wire-bending in Trinidad & Tobago. If wire-bending knowledge in Trinidad & Tobago is not repaired, connections between meaning, history, and knowledge of craftpersons and their contributions to community and culture will be lost. Outcomes of this work include computational descriptions of wire-bending; novel design tools and methods that include digital technology for engagement in the craft; design software for application in wire-bending; theoretical descriptions of the craft; and explorations in the design and fabrication of dancing sculptures and architecture using wire-bending. This study demonstrates the contributions that can be made to design scholarship, practice and pedagogy when traditional craft practices are repaired and seeks to respect and amplify local, situated practices; explore applications of existing knowledge beyond their current scope; and repatriate new knowledges.


Benay Gürsoy Toykoç, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Pennsylvania State University, Dissertation Advisor

José Pinto Duarte, Professor of Architecture, Pennsylvania State University, Committee Chair

Felecia Davis, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Pennsylvania State University, Dissertation Reader

Andrea Tapia, Professor of Information Sciences and Technology, Pennsylvania State University, Dissertation Reader

Daniel Cardoso Llach, Assistant Professor of Architecture, Carnegie Mellon University, Dissertation Reader

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