Footwear of the Future; A Digital Artefact

For my digital artefact I wanted to make something.  Something that while satisfying the ‘digital’ part of the project was also a physical manifestation of the research.  For that reason, additive manufacturing (more commonly known as 3D-printing) was the perfect medium for the assignment.

So, I knew I wanted to print something, but relating 3d-printing to the concepts presented in the Future Cultures subject was the part I needed to figure out.  It wasn’t until Chris spoke about objects that we take for granted like eye-glasses or phones or SHOES, making us ‘cyborgs’ did it hit me.  They were the perfect pairing; the cyborg, a melding of machine and man, and the future capabilities of a technology like additive manufacturing.

Figuring out how I was going to do this was the next step. This wasn’t hard, with the talk in class of the ‘cyborg’ concept being far simpler than the examples we see in sci-fi films I knew I could leverage the idea in a way that would satisfy my own passion of footwear.  Additive manufacturing in the footwear industry has been a major topic of the last few years. All the key brands are investing heavily in the technology as it has potential to revolutionise, not only the footwear, but how we manufacture all goods.  My second blog post ‘You Gotta Have Sole‘ went into some detail about where companies like Nike and Adidas are currently taking the tech.

One of the biggest revelations from the use of 3D printing in footwear is how it may be implemented in the future.  Presenting at a tech summit held by GeekWire in 2015, Nike’s COO Eric Sprunk spoke about the possibility of a future where you can make your own Nike shoes at home.

He said;
“Do I envision a future where we might still own the file from an IP perspective — you can’t just have anyone making a Nike product — and have it manufactured in your own home or we do it for you at our store?” “Yeah, that’s not that far away.”

But, one must wonder how much they’ll charge for you to make your own shoes considering what has been reported in the past about their own labour practices…

Really, this isn’t such a hard future to imagine.  If additive manufacturing in the home becomes widely adopted (what actual catalyst function it could provide to get it to that point is up in the air), then it could very well be the way of the future.

With Sprunk’s comments in the back of my mind I set out to explore the ‘3D-printing a shoe at home’ concept myself.  Unfortunately, in the few years since the COO made that statement Nike is yet to release anything remotely like that.  Obviously, these things take time.  But as the 3D-printing race heats up in the industry, there is definitely a renewed spark around the implementation of the technology going forward.  Maybe additive manufacturing technology in the home is something that we won’t see for a few decades.  But at its current rate of growth, massive investment across a range of industries seems a certainty.

 

Image result for gutenberg printing press
(via Owlcation)

 

Printing in its most basic form has been the catalyst for major advancements in our history.  The invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in the mid-1400s birthed an information revolution.  It made the spread of knowledge rapid and accurate, taking it out of the hands of the Church and into those of the people.  Literature of a secular nature was far more easily disseminated, and by the 1600’s the printing press would lead to a new age in scientific revolution, the ‘enlightenment’ (Butler, 2007).  Now, inkjet printers are easily and cheaply bought and are an essential part of any business and even household.  It may have taken the best part of 600 years for the printed word to reach that point, but this could be the future for 3D-printers too.

Throughout this semester my research has been primarily focused on the uses of additive manufacturing in regards to footwear, and as was pointed out after my presentation this is a very micro view of what is very much a macro research topic.  But I saw it as a way to make the content accessible and relatable for myself.

As my digital artefact I wanted to try to make my own 3D-printed shoe (well, at least the sole).  It would be the melding of the future culture and the future tech.  In her seminal work, 1984’s ‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ Haraway isn’t talking about the metal-man of films, she is speaking of the blurred lines between the natural and the artificial. The age of the cyborg isn’t some far off dystopian future, it is here and now (Kunzru, 1997). As Kunzru (1997) writes, “It’s about athletic shoes.”  In her interview for Wired, she said “Before the Civil War, right and left feet weren’t even differentiated in shoe manufacture. Now we have a shoe for every activity.”  Of course this is a neat little excerpt that ties in with my focus of footwear as a cyborg extension, but it’s a good way to understand the deeper concepts Haraway is proposing. The cyborg is about how we have built these systems around us that constantly work to alter the natural.  That fact that we have even created an industry that says we need to wear something to protect the soles of our feet (because obviously the ‘natural’ hadn’t worked for 200,000 years) is a manifestation of the cyborg idea.

When it came to actually starting my digital project, I wasn’t really sure where to begin.  As I’ve stated previously, I am someone with absolutely no experience using any type of CAD software.  Which also seems to be the running theme amongst those attempting these types of projects (3D printing, Virtual Reality, etc.) for their digital artefact.

In the search for some CAD programs I came across things like ShoeMaster Sole Design and Delcam CRISPIN ShoeMaker.  Both looked like they would be straight-forward options, as they are purpose built for designing shoes (if the names weren’t obvious enough).  However, neither were available for free download.  I thought that looking for footwear specific CAD programs was probably going to produce very little in terms of things I could use, so I decided broaden my search.

 

Blender a free and open source 3D creation suite seemed to be a fan favourite, with a bunch of beginner’s tutorials to be found on YouTube.  I discovered the Australian YouTuber, Blender Guru’s  ‘Blender Beginner Tutorial Series’ to be a great place to start.  He did a fantastic job at introducing newcomers like myself to 3D-modelling, and more specifically the Blender program.

 

What I found more useful though was another of his series where he showed how to create a blacksmith’s anvil using Blender.

The shapes and overall construction methods seemed to more closely resemble what I thought I would need to do to create a model for the 3D-printed sole.

 

Now that I had the software and some guiding knowledge of how to use it, it was time to sketch out some prototypes to get a feel for how the finished product would look.  My design was an amalgamation of the Nike Zoomfly, and Futurecarft 4D by Adidas.

Image result for zoomfly sp
(via Sneaker News)

adidas Futurecraft 4D Ash Green
(via StockX)

 

I was pretty ambitious, with some intense lattice structures being the designs main component.

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Using Blender I would be able to create a printable model of the shoe sole using CAD, and then produce the sample using the 3D-printers found in UOW’s MakerSpace.

 

There were however some limitations I needed to consider;

  • The printers would only allow for a 20x20x20cm design. This meant that the sole would have to be dramatically scaled back from my own shoe size.
  • The materials that the printers used would not be able to make functional soles (namely PLA or Polylactic Acid filament). The same problem Adidas encountered when prototyping the initial Futurecraft 3D shoes.  I already knew this would be an issue, and didn’t think I would actually be able to use them.  But it was still a limitation when trying
  • Most importantly, I didn’t realise I would need to attend a safety induction course. While the inductions were only an hour long, when I realised this was needed there were none running at times when I would be able to make it to UOW.

 

Despite these limitations, I thought I might have found my saving grace.  When talking to one of my friends about the project he revealed his brother actually had one of the Cocoon Create 3D-printers that could be found at Aldi a few years ago.

While the size and material concerns were still an issue, it would mean I could print closer to home and sans induction course.  Now I just had to make a 3D model of my design.

 

I played around with the Blender program and was able to get the basic shape and design down for the midsole.  It was still a solid object as I couldn’t find anything about how to create the mesh/ lattice structure that would provide the shock absorption and flexibility.  The model I had made was rudimentary, but it was enough to convey what I was trying to achieve.

I did consider using a pre-modelled design I found on Thingiverse by creator AndresVH.  His design was more in-line with my concept sketches, and while it wouldn’t be my own it would still be something that I could print.

 

The last few weeks of semester were coming and I didn’t have much time left to produce the sole.  That’s when disaster struck.  My laptop asked me to update to the latest version of Windows 10.  Yep, great, done… I left it do its thing.  But when I returned, it was in a boot loop.  I wouldn’t recognise its system restore points, it wouldn’t roll back the update, and it wouldn’t even reset the laptop.  Four phone conversations with Microsoft technicians, and multiple trips to the guys in the IT department at work and the only solution was to wipe the entire system by clean installing Windows again.  I lost everything.  At the time, it wasn’t my CAD file I was worried about.  It was more about the music, movies and photos.  But the lost years of university work also hit me later.  You would think that surely I had it backed-up externally.  Yes, I did but it was from probably 2 years ago.  And as I would come to find, the hard drive it was stored on was corrupted from being dropped.  So please, this is an appeal to anyone who doesn’t back-up regularly.  DO IT or your system will inevitably fail at the most inconvenient time in your university life.

 

After cutting my losses with the computer I tried to look for alternatives. I found this video by YouTuber name notimportant explaining how to model a shoe using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 software.

 

That video led me to video from Adafruit Industries which showed him modelling something using Fusion 360 then exporting it and using the MeshMixer program to make a lattice design.

This was it.

 

After seeing this I downloaded Fusion 360 to see what I could do.  In theory, I would be able to use the two programs to finally create the lattice 3D model I first envisioned.  But after countless videos I just couldn’t get the hang of it.  The best I could do was to create the rough outline and extrude the shape to the correct height.  I just couldn’t learn how to do what I needed in the time I had left.  I just became too technical, and with more time to practice I’m sure I would have got the hang of it.

Capture.PNG

 

The project has been a complete and utter failure in terms of creating the printed shoe.  However, it did help me to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts presented in BCM325.  The research made me fully consider the impacts of how we view our current technologies and apply them in the future.

 

Butler, C. (2007). FC74: The invention of the printing press and its effects – The Flow of History. [online] The Flow of History. Available at: http://www.flowofhistory.com/units/west/11/FC74 [Accessed 30 May 2018].

Kunzru, H. (1997). You Are Cyborg. [online] WIRED. Available at: https://www.wired.com/1997/02/ffharaway/ [Accessed 31 May 2018].

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@ALive-TweetingExperience

Honestly, what’s a better start to the semester than watching films and shit-posting.  I’m not a big fan of twitter, outside of using it for uni subjects like this and looking at listicles titled something like, “The 85 Funniest Tweets Of All Time” I never really interact with the site.  This however, isn’t my first time live-tweeting in a subject (see DIGC330), but that didn’t mean it was any less difficult.

I love the discussion that live-tweeting offers, but I also thinks it’s a hard thing to do during films you’re watching for the first time.  It’s kind of a distraction, taking you out of the viewing experience and making you potentially miss essential parts of the plot.  What live-tweeting really did was let me see things from 30 different perspectives in real-time, something just not possible any other way.  I felt that the viewings and twitter feeds together really strengthened the information presented in Chris’ lectures.

As for my own tweets, I think I definitely could have been a bit less shit-posty and more constructive.  So that’s a lesson for next time.  Here are a selection of my tweets from throughout the 8 weeks with some added context.

 

 

Week 1 – Ghost in the Shell (1995)

1

I told one of my friends who is BIG into anime that we were watching this for week one.  He basically told me that it takes a few watches to really get a feel for the full scope of the film, and what it meant at the time of release.  I didn’t know what it was about or had seen the live action remake, so it was a totally fresh viewing experience.

 

 

2

I always thought this was one of the funnier things about dubbed content from other languages.  But it also brings up the debate about whether dubbing or subbing is the best way to convey the original meaning.

 

 

3

This related to the way hosts were created in the HBO re-boot of the sci-fi classic.  It’s both unsettling and fascinating to see.  It also relates well to the Futurecraft 4D printing process developed by Adidas and Carbon that I’ve spoken about in my other blog posts.

 

 

4

We are advancing our technology so quickly, it only seems right that sci-fi/ cyberpunk film and literature will be right about androids.  So how will legislated, controlled, governed… whatever.  Will they be given the same rights as humans, animals or toasters?

 

 

5

See my tweet about the android birthing/ Westworld thing.  Not sure if it’s true, but it seemed to be a likely link.

 

 

6

Obviously most famous for its use in the Matrix series, but I guess it had to come from somewhere.

 

 

7

With the talk of doctoring images and altering memories/ history, I thought the link between this and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was evident.

 

 

8

9

Everyone knows Lars is the real villain.

 

 

11

Again, what rights do you give something that can think and feel but is machine?

 

 

22

The score for this was awesome, and is just one of the similar elements you see across most of the cyberpunk genre.

 

 

Week 2 – Westworld (1972)

33

It’s one of those things you see in older film about the future, they think of some futuristic elements but not others.  Make realistic androids, but can’t clean them up in a cooler way.

 

 

44

Underrated film, the dance still holds up.

 

 

55

I think the multiple “Worlds” concept in the original is really cool, and something I hope they explore a bit more in the HBO series. (I just watched S2E1 and they showed the dead Bengal tiger, which obviously shouldn’t be in the wild west… so that’s promising)

 

 

66

This was a good read, and a good tweet as shown by the many interactions.  The quote Phi Phi extracted was perfect in capturing the film and many elements of sci-fi/ cyberpunk content.

 

 

Week 3 – Johnny Mnemonic (1995)

 

As a disclaimer, this was a terrible film and I couldn’t really bring myself to think about what complex ideas and concepts it presented.

 

 

77

The phone-booth time machine would have been a welcomed addition to this film.

 

 

88

The edgier the haircuts the more futuristic seems to be the general rule with these types of films.

 

 

99

It was hard to miss his very distinctive voice at the start.

 

 

111

Henry is an incredibly fascinating guy; made great music in his early days and speaks about some pretty heavy topics now.

 

 

222

Fresh off that other movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over fifty, and if its speed dropped, it would explode!  I think it was called “The Bus That Couldn’t Slow Down.”  It’s hard to believe he could make a film as poor as this.

 

 

333

I thought this was interesting.  I guess we already have the ‘HD storage’ the film speaks about built-in, and we’re constantly rewriting the data it holds.  For some it’s probably evident their twitter feed is them constantly backing up their head-held hard drive.

 

 

444

I don’t know how the Dolphin was introduced in Gibson’s short story but it confused the hell out of me in the film.  If I remember correctly, I was looking through the twitter feed when it was properly introduced, and so totally lacked any understanding for the rest of it.

 

 

555

This could have been the saving grace of the film.  Cage would have brought a little more life to the character and it would have given the film a big boost.  What would have been even better still is if the information that Johnny (now played by Nicolas Cage) have to transport via his brain drive was the Declaration of Independence.

And I spelt ‘spelt’ wrong… ironic

 

 

Week 4 – The Matrix (1999)

666

Outside of maybe the Terminator franchise, The Matrix has to take the cake for most stylistic and popular in the category.  The green code is now synonymous with the film and genre, and the ideas it presented have continued to be spoken about to this day.

 

 

777

I’d like to think Steve Ballmer wanted Microsoft to buy Nokia just so he had ownership of this phone.

 

 

888

Weaving does well in any role, but he just captured the character so well.  His portrayal was deserving of #82 on IGN list of Top Villains.

 

 

999

This just seems to be such a significant trope in the cyberpunk genre.  The dystopian future where they have all this technology and knowledge, but apparently anyone who can build new structures has disappeared so they must suffer with derelict buildings everywhere.

 

 

1111

This such a cool scene, and what I thought was really cool when I first watched this at my neighbour’s house as an 8 year old.

 

 

2222

Again, it is just something that doesn’t escape the genre.  Why isn’t everything all shiny and new?  IT’S THE FUTURE!

I thought I remembered Chris actually replying to this explaining where the theme came from, but I couldn’t find it when I looked.

 

 

3333

I’ve read a good bit about Rastafarianism, and listened to plenty of Reggae so when I saw Nebuchadnezzar I made the link.  Maybe it’s a tenuous connection, but something like that isn’t placed in the film on a whim.

 

 

4444

It’s a departure from the ethereal sounds of Vangelis in Blade Runner or Kenji Kawai in Ghost in the Shell, but it captures the film well.  I feel music for the genre goes two ways, it’s either more serene techno, very synth heavy or its grimy nu-metal.  Both styles work really well.

 

 

5555

I look forward to checking out The Animatrix in the break.  I suppose a hypothetical-something to consider is, if AI was to become self-aware and self-actualising, would its process of ‘evolution’ become faster and more streamlined.  The ultimate goal of evolution is efficiency, so if the AI was to become aware that a something about its self could be more efficient, would it fix it at that moment.  Repeating the process until maximum efficiency is achieved.

Were the more ‘organic’ appearing forms of machines we saw a result of the AI’s quest for efficiency.

 

 

6666

They’re horrendous, he wasn’t helping.

 

 

Week 5 – Black Mirror S2E1 ‘’Be Right Back” (2013)

7777

One of the most enjoyable things about watching Black Mirror before the Netflix takeover was the amount of British and Irish talent we got to see.  At this point Atwell was playing Peggy Carter in the Captain America franchise, and Gleeson had played Bill Weasley in Harry Potter.

 

 

8888

Please tell me a better option.

 

 

9999

The newest season just didn’t hold a candle to Seasons 1 or 2.  While the budget may have gone up due to Netflix’s involvement, the quality of story and the technological concepts they tackled just didn’t seem as interesting or realistic.

 

 

11111

The realism of early episodes was what hooked me instantly, it made you really considered the impact of the technology they were introducing.  How would this affect me?

 

 

22222

Something that we should all consider every time we hit the ‘post’ button.  It stays with you, whatever you put out there.  So making sure you are able to accept the consequences is essential to navigating social media.

 

 

33333

But anyone who posts enough for a program to gather sufficient data to rebuild you as a person needs to rethink how they use social media, it is only a tool.

 

 

44444

It’s the little things that make a difference.

 

 

Week 6 – Robot and Frank (2012)

55555

“Hey! Frank Langella we have this movie we would love you to be a part of, it’s called ‘Robot and Stanley’”

“Forget about it”

“It’s called ‘Robot and Frank’”

“I’m in”

 

 

66666

Whenever the subject matter dealt with robots/ androids it was always the same question for me.  How will they be treated in our communities when the time comes that they are more ‘human’ than some of us?

Will there be a time when someone decides Asmiov’s Laws of Robotics stand in the way of progress?

What happens when we can control our creations?

 

77777

88888

 

 

Their relationship did blossom and they did become great pals.

99999

111111

This was hard to do for some of the viewings.  I became so interested in the movie I didn’t even want to look at twitter.

222222

Yeah, that was pretty hard to watch.  We’re obviously not built to live forever, but it’s hard to see someone’s body/ mind failing them, especially someone close.

Week 7 – Black Mirror S3E6 ‘Hated in the Nation’

333333444444555555666666

The manipulation of social media channels to drive events, political or otherwise, is an extremely common practice.  In light of the election scandal, companies like twitter have committed to better police these abuses.  But the threat is still very real.

Traditional media sources have always been the prime movers of opinion in the political sphere, but now we are seeing just how important a retweet or hashtag really is.

While legacy media sources were the gate keepers, it meant the influence of foreign powers was more or less kept in check.  The ability of global access to the social media feeds of citizens has completely changed how foreign governments can manipulate the minds of citizens.

 

 

7777777

What do you give up in the quest for innovation?  Do we sacrifice our security on one side, to gain something on their other?  Is it actually worth it?  Just save the goddamn bees, people have BEEn saying it for years.  You don’t need to make an artificial plan BEE, just focus on the little pollinating pals we have now.

 

 

888888

Am I now on a list somewhere?

I probably already am.

I hope the Garret Scholes of the world know I didn’t mean it.

 

 

as

1111111

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The twist that this episode leaves you on is definitely my favourite part.  He should BEE PUNished.

 

 

As I said, live-tweeting is a great experience.  It adds a whole new dimension to the class room and allows for this really weird silent discussion aspect.  I recommend live-tweeting to everyone when watching something live, it can be a lot of fun.  At the very least watch the twitter feeds for reality shows like The Bachelor, they can be an absolute comedy gold-mine.

 

You Gotta Have Sole

Image result for flyprint
(via TechCrunch)

In the last blog post I tried to give a sort of overview of the concept and the existing ideas around 3D-printing footwear.  So in this post I want to address how I’m travelling with the project, and do a bit of a deeper dive into the research and literature surrounding the topic.

How is the project coming along?

When I first laid out my ideas for the project I think I too heavily leaned on the process of me attempting to make a 3D-printed shoe sole, while neglecting the more interesting things like the existing technology and its implications for the future of footwear.

For me, learning how this technology can be made viable for wider implementation is the most interesting part.  I love all aspects of footwear, having worked in the industry at a retail and now corporate level.  So I can definitely appreciate the effects that this technology will have on a grand scale.

My big question is about how we going to see it come to fruition commercially.  Of course, as I spoke about in the last post there are major footwear brands starting to incorporate printing tech into their products.  But what I want to know is how this will impact footwear going forward, are we going to see an era of mass personalisation?

Currently we are seeing these 3D-printed designs release in small numbers and higher price points.  But as the industry continues to move with this tech we are no doubt going to see an increase in accessibility and decrease in cost for the average consumer.

However, I feel that this approach would be to the detriment of 3D-printing.  Bringing its use in-line with existing manufacturing techniques feels gimmicky. Honestly, if you’re just going to substitute the foam midsoles that the market is familiar with to with 3D-printed versions that offer no added personalisation then I would think it’s safe to say it’s a waste.

 

What has already been published about it?

When I looked into what has already been published on this subject, I found my searches came up pretty bare.  There seems to be very little published at an academic level.  I think the reason for this is two-fold; the application of 3D-printing in the footwear/ textile industry is very new/ pretty experimental, and because it has been traditionally used in more ‘technical’ industries for prototyping/ construction.

However, articles outside of the scholarly space are plentiful.  Due to footwear (more specifically sneakers) being part of the cultural zeitgeist, there are many publications writing about the latest styles and technological advances.

So what have I found?

  • Anna Perry(2017) 3D-printed apparel and 3D-printer: exploring advantages, concerns, and purchases, International Journal of Fashion Design, Technology and Education, 11:1, 95-103, DOI: 1080/17543266.2017.1306118

This article examines the perceptions a group of study participants had to 3D-printed apparel and technology.  The results indicated that the advantages (customisation and fit) were not the main drives to purchase, but the concerns (perceived comfortability and little ease of motion) were the dominant reasons for not buying.

  • Corral, Laura C. and Walker, Kaitlyn J., “Exploring the Abilities of 3D Printing and its Viability for Consumption in the Fashion Industry” (2017). Apparel Merchandising and Product Development Undergraduate Honors Theses. 1. http://scholarworks.uark.edu/ampduht/1

This thesis first explores the process and applications of 3D-printing in a fashion context.  The authors then explore the viability of 3D printed garments by making their own wear-test sample and measuring consumer response.  The found overall perceptions to be positive, and concluded that further study and testing of its capabilities was warranted.

***I found that this paper really resonated with what I’m attempting to do but with textiles.  They did the research and then tried to design and produce samples to further investigate.***

 

I found AndresVH’s CAD files on Thingiverse and it is definitely the best example of what I’m trying to replicate.  He create a modular version of the ‘FutureCraft’ sole design, and although it isn’t to the same standard of printed using the same material, it is a very decent at home attempt.


(Above is the finished product combining the Adidas UltraBoost with the modular printed sole unit)

 

This is what really put printed footwear technology on the map.  Adidas had been on a roll with releases and were having their best financial period ever when they announced Futurecraft.  It started out as a regularly 3D-printed sole unit, but once the German giants linked-up with the Silicon Valley based tech firm Carbon, Futurecraft 4D was born.  Utilising Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology, the 4D was dubbed the “world’s first high performance footwear midsoles crafted with light and oxygen,” designed to provide a controlled return of energy due to its lattice design.

If you have a few $$$ to blow you can purchase the Futurecraft 4D here and here.

 

 

As I spoke about in the last post, there has been a push in the last couple of years for the bigger brands to incorporate 3D-printing into their designs.  While for a long time it was only prototypes being shown to the public, the last couple of years have seen commercially available models release from the likes of Adidas, New Balance, and Under Armour.

While the other big names in footwear have focused their efforts on printing soles.  It’s only this week that Nike has announced their new Flyprint technology.  Nike Flyprint is the first time we have seen a 3D-printed textile upper in the performance space.  As a basic overview, Flyprint consists of a TPU filament that is unwound froma coil, melted and printed into specific layers.  This printing method revolutionises the way in which performance footwear can be personalised.  Flyprint starts with performance data collected from the athlete which is translated into the most beneficial Flyprint design.  Nike have also engineered the process to bond with their existing Flyknit upper material, meaning enhanced flexibility and stretch in the design.

Thankfully, this breakthrough means I’ll soon be able to buy a pair of 3D-printed sneakers from my beloved Nike.

 

These are just a few examples of the information that’s out there about 3D-printing in the footwear industry.  It’s fun to search through different 3D-printing CAD sites like Thingiverse to see some of the designs people have made.  There’s also tonnes more information from the various footwear blogs, magazines and websites (here’s a good start).

 

 

As for my own 3D-printed creation I mentioned earlier progress has slowed.  I haven’t found time to get a really good feel of how some of the CAD software like Blender work.  One idea I have had however is to try and modify the design by AndresVH that I spoke about above.  It gives me a basis to work up from rather than designing the lattice etc. from scratch.

Footwear for the Future

Image result for adidas lattice
(via Carbon)

I wasn’t sure about which way to go with this Digital Artefact.  I’ve done a few DIGC subjects previously, but always taken the easier routes of doing essays or videos.  But it’s my very last semester, so I wanted to create something a bit more involved/ challenging.

 

The ‘Future Cultures’ concept could go so many ways, so I wasn’t quite sure where to look for inspiration.  Then an Instagram post caught my attention.  It was a photo set from Adidas’ VP & Creative Director Marc Dolce.  The post contained a few archive Adidas models in a monochromatic colourway, but one thing stood out.  Each of the shoes had their soles re-done using the ‘Futurecraft 4D’ technology that the Three Stripes is developing with Silicon Valley-based 3D-printing company Carbon.

The ‘Futurecraft’ tech has been knocking around for a few years now, with limited releases here and there, but what drew me in was the application to existing styles rather than new silhouettes.


(Adidas’ original 3D printed sneaker via HighSnob)

Now, Adidas aren’t the only ones looking at 3D printing as the future of footwear.  All the major brands have spoken about implementing the process going forward.  Under Armour and New Balance have also released models incorporating 3D printing, however it is Adidas that really has the market excited.


(via Under Armour)

 

New Balance partners with Nervous System to 3D-print personalised soles
(via Dezeen)

The futures applications for 3D printed footwear is incredible.  Just imagine going into a store, walking on one of those test things they have in The Athletes Foot, they take some measurements, and then print you custom footwear.  Shoes that are specifically made for you in every way.  It is insane.

 

Brand like SOLS are already sending selling 3D printed insoles, which must be a massive innovation in the Podiatry industry.  But that’s just one small element of the shoe.

 

The big problem with Adidas’ innovations in the 3D printing field is that I hate Adidas with a passion.  I understand that brand loyalty is silly and people should just buy the most impactful/efficient/effective products on the market, but I’m a Nike man.

 

So, because I don’t want to support those Bavarian bastards by buying their 3D printed shoes but I reeeeeeeeally want a pair, I’ll have to design and print my own.

 

The other week, Chris was speaking about the fact that we use things like shoes or glasses or phones or hearing aids makes us cyborgs.  I guess in that context it isn’t something that I had ever really considered.  But they are obviously items that innovate and extend the human body and mind.  So I think that is the something to investigate deeper.  We will no doubt be wearing some form of footwear a long way into the future, so how can we do it with the most personalisation and least waste.

 

As for the 3D printing my own shoes part.  There are some things that I’ll need to consider;

 

  • For obvious reasons it won’t be the whole shoe (duh), but the midsole.
  • I’ll be learning to model using the CAD tool Blender as it seems to be the most widely used free software (and because there are a tonne of videos and tutorial posts about how to navigate your way around the process).
  • This will be modelled from some initial sketches I’ll do. Not quite sure on a certain style of sole to design, but I guess something with a more contemporary edge.
  • As someone with very little interest in maths or engineering I’ll have to navigate my way the physics of a 3D printed sole. Where do I reinforce?  How do I combat rolling?  How do I maintain flexibility while maintaining support?

 

I want to live in a future where the shoes I obsess over can be custom tuned to my specifications.  It is a process that I want to see become commercially viable on a grand-scale, and I know that it is edging closer to that every single day.

 

As I said, it’s my last semester so I think it would be wise to explore something that I’m passionate about through a process I’m not comfortable with.  I also want to make use of that Maker Space that we’ve all paid for.

A Gaijin’s Guide to Instant Noodles

When I was speaking about this the response from my friend Minh was a disappointed  “White man advises fellow white men on entry level supermarket snacks.”

So here it is.

 

 

Throughout my life there have been a few experiences where I’ve just thought, “Damn, I’m very white”.  Now that’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with that, there are some situations where you can feel a little out of place.  Preparing for this digital artefact was one of those times.

It was after work on a Monday night, the city was bustling; suits on their way home, others doing their shopping.  I was making my way downtown, walking fast, faces passed en route to Citi Super, the Asian grocers at Town Hall.  I go there often, so it’s not an unfamiliar place but that doesn’t stop it from being somewhat intimidating.  I didn’t grow up with much of the food there, and can’t speak any of the languages so my experience is probably very different to their average customer.  Now, this isn’t one of those little shops that cater to the Asiaphiles whose interest in eastern cuisine venture no farther than Pocky and matcha; no, this place is the real deal.

The instant noodle section takes pride of place near the fridges.  An entire isle dedicated to a food resembling early 2000’s Justin Timberlake is breathtaking.  The obvious language barrier is tough, so it’s not so much about what is written on the packets, but the funny cartoons or bright colours that catch my eye.  I’m standing there for what feels like forever.  Just staring blankly at the wall of noodles.  An older Chinese couple are watching me as I pick up packet after packet inspecting the flavour and country of origin.  I open google to aid in my investigation.  They giggle and keep walking.  I’m not in Kansas anymore.

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I make my selection, packets from all over the place.  Enough of a variety to gain a better understanding of each area’s different flavours.  At the counter, the attendant unpacks the basket.  She sees the assorted noodles and giggles.  “It’s for an assignment” I offer, hoping she would understand.  “Is there a brand you like that I should try?” She asks if I can handle chilli.

“Damn, I’m very white”

 

This, I feel is one of the key epiphanies from my experience with the topic of instant noodles.  The “Damn, I’m very white” phase is a rather crass way of conveying it, but I think it sort of works.  Not having grown up with any specific Asian influence, but the ‘western’ bastardisations popular dishes shaped my understanding of the region’s cuisine.  Now, I’ve been lucky enough to be exposed to more authentic food, which has definitely changed how I viewed and interacted with it.  But over that time there’s been one thing that has remained a constant, the instant noodle.  When I was younger I ate the heinous yellow Maggi noodles that part of many people’s childhood.  Then progressing to varieties more true to their origins.  There’s a familiarity between them, but they can be just so far removed from each other as well.

What has become one of the most interesting parts of my experience throughout this assignment is how instant noodles are utilised across the globe.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and they were born through post-war necessity.  But now, they serve a different purpose to different communities.  Prior to this, I would have considered instant noodles to be a snack food.  They’re cheap, not particularly nutritional, and sold in convenience stores.  To me they weren’t a meal.  Many in the west would share the same sentiment; they’re a student, a last resort.  But across Asia instant noodles are seen so differently, they’re almost revered.

Rachel Bartholomeusz wrote a great article for SBS in 2016, also highlighting the disparity between how instant noodles are perceived globally.  She detailed her time travelling across Asia, having to dodge the synonymous Styrofoam cups at every turn.  Bartholomeusz also spoke to Dan Hong, the executive chef of Merivale joints Ms. G’s and Mr Wong.  Hong made a point that I think really ties speaks to why there is this difference of opinion on the noodles.  He said, “In Asian culture, it’s like the sandwich.  We don’t have sandwiches, we have instant noodles.”  So while convenience may play a part in why they are now so popular it’s deeper than that, it goes back to their origins.  When the US gave Japan flour and said for them to make bread they said no we will make what we know, and the instant noodle was born.  I found Dan’s comment about noodles being Asia’s sandwich… profound?  At least it has helped me to understand where the (not) obsession, but respect for the instant noodle came from.

 

My video is an investigation into the many varieties of instant noodles that can be found across Asia and at home.  I think that understanding the different types of noodles is important in learning how they can be utilised.  One of the things that was most influential in my thoughts on this was what the noodles represent or replicate.  The Maggi noodles we see lining the selves of Woolworths and Coles are snack food because that’s how they are presented.  Instant noodles won’t be taken seriously in Australia until there is some sort of finesse with them.  The noodles I tried from across Asia hard a deeper level of everything to them.  They were ‘convenient’ takes on actual dishes, and I think that makes a massive difference to how cultures perceive them.

 

Fantastic Oriental                                                         
Maggi Chicken Noodles                                                
Indo Mie Mi Goreng                                                      ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
SuperMi Mi Goreng Traditional                                    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
MAMA Shrimp Creamy Tom Yum                                ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nongshim SOON Veggie Ramyun                                ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nongshim Mr. Bibim Stir-Fried Kimchi                        ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nongshim Zha Wang Roasted Blackbean Sauce        ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Nissin Tonkotsu Flavor                                                   ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
SamYang Hot Chicken Flavor                                       🔥
SamYang Hot Chicken Flavor ‘2 x Spicy’                      🔥🔥

 

 

Bartholomeusz, R. (2016). Embrace the instant noodle. [online] SBS. Available at: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2016/01/25/embrace-instant-noodle [Accessed 25 Oct. 2017].

Deal or Noo-dle?

While this is something that is supposed to be about a new Asian experience, I have to admit that instant noodles are an old and familiar friend.  I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in the area by any stretch, but I have consumed a good few bowls in my day.  If the last post was supposed to be purely experience based – documenting epiphanies with the cultural product, than this post will hopefully provide some context.

In last week’s blog I wrote about my encounter with ‘Shin Ramyun’, the kind of gold standard for instant noodles in the Korean/ Japanese style (and the best for breakfast according to this post).  They were great!  Everything you would want in a quick and easy snack; affordability, accessibility, little preparation, and of course they are bloody tasty.

To better understand the phenomenon that is these little bricks of fried noodles it is important to understand their origins and the role they played in places like Japan in the post-war period.  While instant noodles have become an obvious staple in the diets of hungry and frugal (#broke) university students, you would be remiss in thinking that was their original purpose.  Rather, instant noodles have a proud history in helping prevent famine in Japan following WWII.  The post-war period saw a battered Japan face a horrific shortage of food.  To help combat this, the United States was kind enough to send over something but luckily this time is was in the form of flour and not atomic bombs.  The US encouraged the Japanese to make bread, but noodles had always been a more essential part of Japanese cuisine.  With this, inventor Momofuku Ando went about creating a ramen that would be longer lasting than traditional noodles.  It needed to tasty, non-perishable, and most importantly easy to replicate on a grand scale.  And he did it, instant noodles were a massive success with packets being sold in the 50’s and ‘Cup Noodle’ developed in the late 70’s.  This video by Big Great Story gives a nice visual to the journey.

 

With this week’s post I really wanted to look more closely into how instant noodles are consumed around the world.  In the west, there is the prevailing feeling that instant noodles are cheap, lazy, and the only time to eat them is when you’re stuck with no other choice.  Now this perception has changed slightly with influences from Asia becoming more and more apparent.  We have even seen instant noodle burger buns and various “ramen hacks” throughout social media, and with this a greater variety and acceptance.

 

Across Asia however, they don’t really hold the same college stigma.  Noodles are a staple in places like Japan and Korea, and are taken very seriously.  Japan boasts an estimated 50,000 ramen so you can expect they know what they want in the instant version.

Convenience stores can be found all across Japan with chains like 7-Eleven having nearly 20,000 locations.  It’s in these convenience stores that instant noodles are mostly bought and consumed.  Places like 7-Eleven are such an integral part of the instant noodles experience in Japan that one of only two Michelin Star ramen restaurants ‘Tsuta’s’ collaborated on an instant version of their much beloved product.  In places like Indonesia where the Mi Goreng style of a broth-less instant noodle is more popular I’ve heard that children eat them for breakfast.  Instant noodles are considered proper meals as opposed to the view of them being a ‘snack’ product in Australia.  So I think that has to make you wonder why there is this dissonance between the east and west about the role that instant noodles play.  I suspect that it is purely a thing of noodles being a staple carb in many of those cultures and only being introduced to the west much later (with the exception of pasta).

One curious thing I did find the other day is that in the aisle of my local Woolworths where they have what would be the familiar brands like Maggi, Suiman and Fantastic noodles there is also the “Asian” food section.  In this section they have the brands like Shin and Nissin, the original and most well-loved across Asia.  It just seems as though they should be showcased with the others for all to enjoy.

 

If you’re in Japan don’t forget to visit the Cup Noodle Museum in Osaka.

For more information abou the history of instant noodles take a look at the World Instant Noodles Association.

 

Moving forward with this assignment, I’m not quite sure how to tackle the Digital Artefact side of it.  I don’t think noodles will translate particularly well to a podcast or blog post type thing, so I guess video will be the best option.  I’m thinking a taste test or showcase type deal, but if anyone has an suggestions I would love to hear them.

Not Just For The Broke Uni Student Anymore

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I have to admit I did a good bit of flip-flopping around about my digital artefact.  At the beginning of the semester I thought I knew what I wanted to look at; the way that Japan more or less stole aspects of American culture to make it their own (Denim/ Workwear, Cuisine, Jazz… etc.).  It was a matter that I had looked into in previous subjects, but the more I considered the assignment at hand the more I knew I needed to move towards a different topic.

That brought me to the humble instant noodles.

Noodles… Asia… Great, how very original.  I get it, it doesn’t seem like a massive leap towards any real cultural experience or immersion, but I think in some ways that’s the point I’m trying to make.  A true Asian experience (at least culinary) doesn’t have to be this far reaching thing, but is readily available.

Finding a decent instant noodles isn’t a hard task.  Depending on what style you’re after (without or without broth etc.) and what region’s specific flavour profile you like, there are many choices available in your local supermarket.  I always find it surprising to see just how big my local Woolworths noodle selection is.  I live in an area that is VERY white, but this just shows how much of Asia has influenced Australia’s food culture.

It can be overwhelming, and I understand why many would select to buy the familiar bright yellow packet of ‘2-Minute Noodles’ that Maggi provides.  But if you can step out of your comfort zone and forget about the language barrier there are far superior products to be found.

For my experience with instant noodles this week I chose to keep it simple.  I picked up a packet of Shin Ramyun Red which is usual the first step for people venturing into the Korean/ Japanese style of instant noodles.  When speaking about this assignment with some friends from work they all recommended Shin as a good introductory instant noodle for those not familiar with them.

For this tasting I chose what the starting point is really for many, NongShim Shin Ramyun.  The South Korean noodles are available just about everywhere (UOW IGA even has them), and due to their mild flavour it’s easy to see why so many like them.

So what comes in the packet?  In the packet you’ll find a curiously circular brick of dried noodles and two flavour sachets; one containing some dried vegetables and the other being the MSG laced spice mix that makes it all so tasty.

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(via Serious Eats)

Cooking techniques for instant noodles vary widely between people.  Usually I just like to eat the noodles, drink the boiling water and snort the seasoning.  But today in the name of autoethnography I thought that I would read the packet and follow the instructions.  While lazy Conor would throw it all in a bowl, chuck it in the microwave and hope for the best, I used the stove top to make me feel like a real chef.

If you look for other pieces of writing about instant hacks you’ll find Buzzfeed listicle after Buzzfeed listicle about so called “ramen hacks” that’ll “blow your mind”.  But I am man of simple tastes, and instead of throwing in everything ingredient your typical ‘Ramen-ya’ would offer (various sliced meats, kimchi, mushrooms etc.) I opted for the humble soft boiled egg… well two.  I didn’t want to add anything that would detract from the original Shin Ramyun flavor flav *yeeeeeahh boyyyyyy*.

 

Now for the eating…

Shin has garnered quite the following worldwide.  Its beef and chilli base make for a delightful bowl of noodles. The broth is this creamy reddish-orangey colour and the strong chilli, garlic and ginger aroma hit you as it boils… and let me tell you, the scent travels.  It was so pungent that my sister came downstairs to see what the hell I was making at 9am on a Friday morning.

Using the cooking technique was a new experience for me.  Whenever I eat instant noodles it is usually due to time constraints or laziness (mostly the latter), so putting in the time for the broth to steep and really develop its flavours was something new.  I also usually eat Indonesian style noodles that are served with very minimal broth so the microwave is always the easiest way to prepare them.

Upon first mouthful it was the beefiness and saltiness of the broth that I tasted – the heat soon followed.  It wasn’t very spicy, but the heat was just right.  Hot enough to be enjoyable without overpowering the rest of the dish.

 

It’s hard not to compare these with their yellow packeted cousin.  The whole experience is something else completely.  Shin Ramyun isn’t just a meal to have when you’re poor or lazy but to use as the base for some genuinely good ramen that’s easily accessible.

It was hard to write this piece without doing any of what we are supposed to do next week, so I look forward to delving into the deep, dark world of the noodle.

 

*I accidentally left this sitting in my drafts for the last week instead of acutally uploading oops*

My Overview – Autoethnography

Digital Asia

When Chris first mentioned ‘autoethnography’ I was immediately taken back to subjects like SOC326 and BCM240 where I had first learnt about the concept and attempted to put it into practice.  The reading for this week was Ellis, Adams & Bochner’s 2011 ‘Autoethnography: An Overview, and it was quite the… overview.

Throughout university the idea of keeping one’s own thoughts separate from their work has been the norm.  Research the topic, present the facts.  That’s been the formula for academic study.  For areas like physics and engineering it works.  They’re number heavy and there is a right and a wrong, with little room for the interpretation and feeling of the writer.  But the social sciences are different, they’re nuanced, dealing with humanity and its many facets.  It’s qualitative rather than quantitative, and that’s why autoethnography has really flourished in this field.

As the name suggests, autoethnography is the attempt to…

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Ahhhhhhhh, It’s Gojira!!!!!

Image result for gojira

Last Thursday must have been one of the more interesting opening tutorials I’ve experienced.  It was nostalgic.  I can vividly remember seeing Hollywood productions of the same black and white era being played around midday every weekend.  Watching a monster film instead of the usual “Hi, I’m blah-blah-blah and I like blah-blah-blah” was definitely a nice change.  While I knew about the Kaiju genre of Japanese films, I had never properly sat down to watch an original.

From the outside, you could be forgiven for thinking that ‘Gojira’ is a movie without much substance.  People awaken monster, monster destroys stuff, people come together to destroy monster.  I had never given these films much thought either.  Perhaps that’s because so many of the Kaiju-esque films that Hollywood produces follow this same trope without much in the way of themes or worthwhile story.

But ‘Gojira’ needs to be viewed differently; understanding its context is important.  With ‘Gorjia’ releasing in 1954, it’s hard not to realise just how politically and culturally important the film is for Japan.  Godzilla represents nuclear holocaust, with his attacks being a reflection on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

Reflecting on my own context and media consumption experience, it has always been the “communists” or in more recent times those from Middle Eastern origins who have been portrayed as the antagonists in films we see in the west.  It must also be said that they are far less subtly villainised on the that the US was in ‘Gojira’.

My consumption of Japanese media is usually limited to food or fashion, so being able to view the important cultural roots of Japanese cinema was excellent.

‘Gorjia’ has really given birth to global genre, and one of the more interesting offshoots is that of North Korea’s 1985 film ‘Pulgasari’.  Why is it interesting?  Well that’s because Kim Jong-il had the man hailed as “South Korea’s Spielberg” kidnapped in 1978 to help make North Korea a film making powerhouse. Sufficed to say the plan didn’t work very well, but it made for a cult hit in the western world.

Smarter Than The Average Bear

With the exception some microorganisms, it’s probably safe to say that humankind has conquered the animal kingdom.  However, in this position of power we have projected our own behavioural and emotional qualities onto the other animals we share this planet with.  We have humanised and personified them, and this perhaps a way to better understand the world around us.

This is something that we experience early.  Whether it is the story of the Garden of Eden where the serpent convinces Eve to eat the forbidden fruit.  A bear tricking tourists out of their picnic baskets.  Or even a cricket acting as the voice of reason for a ‘real boy’.  Our anthropomorphising shapes how we perceive the world from a young age.  However, I would like to suggest that this humanising may be doing more harm than good.

Throughout film, television and literature we have portrayed lions and tigers and bears as creature that share our complex emotions and abstract thinking, but we have no knowledge of them sharing these traits in real life.  So is this creating a dangerous misrepresentation of reality of children growing up with these depictions?

Patricia Ganea, a psychologist at Toronto University, conducted a series of experiments in which children three to five years old were given information about animals in both a factual way, and in an over-the-top anthropomorphised way.  The findings suggested that the children were less likely to keep in mind the factual information about the animals when shown that the animals live life just like humans.

She said that while this is good for developing a sense of empathy with animals that may be mistreated, there is a downside.  This anthropomorphising may lead to an incorrect understanding of natural biological processes.  She also said that, “it can also lead to inappropriate behaviours towards wild animals through a misunderstanding of their actions or intentions.

We must consider that while our human tendencies are familiar to us, many animals display lots of (what we would consider) ‘human-like’ behaviour.  Chimpanzees have shown the ability to plan through situations… and hold grudges.  Wolves live is tight family groups.  And as the saying goes, elephants never forget and have been shown to suffer from grief and PTSD.

Now I’ll be honest, while I can definitely understand this viewpoint that some hold that anthropomorphising animals can be harmful to a child’s development as they learn about the danger of the world that surrounds them.  I myself can’t recall ever truly thinking that bears exclusively eat from a honey pot, or that sharks could be vegetarian and live by the mantra that “Fish are friends, not food.”  However, I do know that I learnt a lot about my own species through empathising with the animal characters of my childhood.