Machine-Made vs. Craftsmanship

January 20th, 2011 by | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Last Monday, I attended a lecture called Affirmative Objects by Glenn Adamson who is Deputy Head of Research and Head of Graduate Studies at Albert and Victoria Museum.  He brought up a particular thought-provoking point in the lecture that motivated me to write a blog entry.  He discussed the differences between machine-made products and craftsmanship products and the ethics of child labor.  He said that craft would be better replaced by machines as there are some items that you can’t automate.  He brought up an example of manufacturing soccer balls.  Soccer balls are usually done entirely by hand because of pliable material.  Most are made in Pakistan where child labor perhaps exist and probably manufactured by a sub-contractor of a sub-contractor.  For the last World Cup in South Africa, Jabulani balls, the official soccer balls, were made in a Chinese factory utilizing both machines and hands to reduce the exploitation of child labor and low wage manufacturing.  However, there was a problem in utilizing the machines!  The soccer players at the World Cup complained that the Jabulani ball lacked in some qualities that those soccer balls, made by people working in factories where poor conditions and child labor existed in Pakistan, had.  There were criticisms stating that because the soccer balls were too perfect spheres that they weren’t able to fly straight and the goalkeepers had a hard time predicting where the ball would head.  Some soccer players were saying that they would much rather purchase a cheap soccer ball from a supermarket that works better than soccer balls made by mostly machines

Thus, it turns out that soccer balls manufactured by people working in factories where poor conditions and child labor existed, are better than those manufactured by mostly machines.  This situation raises questions on whether soccer balls should continue to be made with machines to reduce the exploitation or continue to be made by people working in poor conditions and/or children in order to provide better satisfaction for the soccer players.  This issue also brings up the importance of continuing to produce products that have craftsmanship qualities and are made entirely by hands, as they bring in higher qualities.

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