“Enjoy your feeling:” A media archeology of material publics

Bassett, N. & Archer, JE. (2017). “Enjoy your feeling:” A media archeology of material publics. Communication and the Public.

Ubiquitous technology depends upon imposing standards. Choices in function and form reflect the homogenization of artifacts, necessitated by the intentions of experts to satisfy a plurality of users. In material publics, users with expert knowledge can develop customized artifacts satisfying desired affordances or aesthetics. This project involves a media archeology of computer keyboard design to explore the relationship between experts, publics, and the creation of these artifacts. Participation in these communities and study of enthusiast records result in a public-expert knowledge. The importance granted to minutia of design, from the choice of plastics to spring tensioning, parallels new form factors that reflect highly personalized choices. These reassert user control over the materiality of an otherwise ubiquitous and mundane mediating artifact. Publics then create a new political materiality by recomposing artifacts beyond what commercial expertise prescribes.