The Future Workplace

This week in our lecture we looked at the future workplace and how this might affect us in the future.

  • What will work be like in 2030? Computerised – new technologies – progress faster.
  • How old will you be? 35
  • Who will you be working with? Myself mainly, but I will want to be in contact with other artists and have links with them to work as a collaboration.
  • How do you think your time will be occupied? Knitting and researching. I want to be constantly finding new things that I can explore as well as running workshops to pass on the knowledge that I have gained.
  • What do you think your daily routine might involve? Planning, knitting, drawing – working from home.

In order to look to the future, we have to look to the past in order to see where we have come from. To do this, we looked at a video clip from Charlie Chaplin – Modern Times (1936).

  • How has the future been thought about in the past?

In the past, the future workplace is pictured to be a very hard environment because everything is supposed to be sped up in order to meet a larger demand. This will have a negative impact on the worker because they cannot keep up with this speed and their work will suffer due to their own well being.

  • What will the workplace be like in the future?

In the future, the workplace will be more mechanised because they machines will make fewer mistakes than the worker, but this will have a negative impact on the worker because they will no longer have a job and morale will be low.

  • What role might textiles play in shaping workplaces of the future?

The role of textiles in the future I think will bring people back to the man-made aspect of industry because it is a material that engages people. This is due to it’s qualities of being touched and felt, which machines cannot compete with. There is a lot of tradition around textiles which I think people do not want to lose; therefore I do not think that it will go completely digital which is where a lot of other design areas have gone or are going.

The main impact that has affected the future workplace is demand. The demand of the population has meant that more people have been wanting products, not just across a country, but the world. This has meant that manufacturers have had to modernise their systems so that they can meet these demands; however, this has had a negative impact on the worker, as explored in Charlie Chaplin’s video earlier.

We have been given a piece of writing from a book that explores the future workplace by looking to the past and how we can bring these methods back into use by repurposing machines that no longer have a use, or have been forgotten about.

Melanie Miller, ‘The Romance of Modern Manufacture – A Brief History of Embroidered Embellishment’ in Melanie Miller and June Hill, Mechanical Drawing – The Schiffili Project [exhibition catalog]. Manchester: Righton Press/Manchester Metropolitan University, pp.18-25.

This extract focuses on the idea of bringing something from the past into the future and repurposing it in order to hold onto our heritage; in this circumstance, it is the Schiffli Machine which is a machine that is a unique way of embroidering fabrics on an industrial scale.

This machine was very innovative because it embroidered a single garment with a multitude of needles that enable it to mass produce products. It was also sought after because it provided the same appearance as hand embroidery, but less labour intensive. This was the first move towards the industrial revolution. The next step was to have the machines work on there own without the need of an operator. The operators would use a pantograph to guide the machine which would then translate the movements made by the operator onto the final embroidered design. The industry did mange to make some of these machines work on their own; however, unusually it was actually more costly to convert the machines to do this, and cheaper to keep the operators running the machine. This is very controversial compared to what we are used to today. Outsourcing lead to the decline of the Schiffli machine because English companies could not compete with the cost of outsourcing.

The MMU have a Schiffli machine that they are working on a project to keep this machine working and try and integrate it into our modern uses. The technique they are using it for is called ‘Mechanical Drawing’ and they are using it as a drawing tool in order to give it a new purpose.

This is amazing because it is a way of looking back to our past and using it to influence our future. It could also be considered a way a recycling because it is all about repurposing old machinery and giving it a new lease of life, whilst forcing its user to be inventive. Using it as a learning exercise and a way of progression.


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