Sunday, 7 June 2015

tenterhooks or looming large

In a brilliant gloss for Æon magazine, writer Virginia Postrel presents an an excellent exposition on how textiles and fashions parallel and drive technological advancement.

The broadest example lies in trade, captured famously along the Silk Road, the trade route that saw not only the exchange of cloth but of also knowledge and ideas between the Orient and Occident worlds, and the later shipping empires.
Research into natural pigments and dyeing techniques led to greater understanding the discipline of chemistry. The printing-presses of clothmakers (to imprint patterns) inspired Johannes Gutenberg to establish the publishing industry in the West. It was factories that housed the great power-looms and the flying-shuttle that drove the Industrial Revolution and gave manufacturing countries a distinct advantage, leading to a huge population explosive, lasting environmental impact, colonialism, labour-issues and societal upheaval from those who puzzled over what mass-production meant. The punch-cards that were the basis of programming these steam-powered jabberwockies to produce increasing intricate designs that led to the development of computers. Contemporaneously, cheap and disposable clothing represents the debate on exploitation, out-sourcing and off-shoring—plus our notions of consumption in general. Even if the shirt on one’s back is not yet a Wearable, it is still heir to all the excellence and dread of human achievement, and that is truly something to think about.