Dr Jesse Adams Stein is an interdisciplinary design researcher specialising in the relationship between technology, work and material culture. Her research shifts between historical and contemporary contexts and focuses on the quieter and less fashionable aspects of design: industrial craft, manufacturing, repair, skill loss and human redundancy in the face of economic and technological change.
Stein's current (postdoctoral) research – Reshaping Australian Manufacturing – reveals the ongoing significance of industrial craft in Australian manufacturing. The project provides an historically informed understanding of Australia’s creative and productive capacity, offering constructive alternatives to nostalgic representations of ‘lost trades’. She is currently writing her second monograph, Voices of Industrial Craft for Palgrave Macmillan's Studies in Oral History series.
Stein is the author of Hot Metal: Material Culture & Tangible Labour (Manchester University Press, 2016), which re-examines technological change and workplace upheaval in the Australian printing industry between the 1960s and the 1980s. Hot Metal pioneered an interdisciplinary approach that integrates design history, labour history, and oral histories of working life. See: book reviews here.
Stein is also co-Chief Investigator on an emerging collaborative project, Repair Design: Shared Knowledge & Practice, which examines repair as design, and opens up informed, realistic and meaningful public discourse about repair practices, capacities, rights and limitations in an Australian context (Project Co-CI: A. Crosby, AIs: T. Lee, K. Scardifield, C. Cooper, commenced mid-2019).
- Finalist in the UTS Vice Chancellor's Award for Early Career Research Excellence 2018
- UTS Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellowship (2016 – ongoing);
- Member of the Australian Centre for Public History (ACPH) and Leader of the Design Histories research node within ACPH;
- PhD thesis included in the UTS Chancellor's List of best 6 PhD Theses at UTS (2015);
- Member of the Society for the History of Technology, the Design History Society; and Oral History NSW;
- Internal Board / Committee memberships: 2017-18 HASS Strategy Working Group; 2018 CPDRF Selection Committee; DAB Faculty Board (2013–2014); DAB Research Management Committee (2014); DAB Student Assessment Review Committee (2014); UTS Graduate Research Students Appeals Committee (2014);
- Regular peer reviewer for the Journal of Design History, Design and Culture, Technology & Culture;
- Editorial Board Member of the journal craft + design enquiry (ANU Press) (2014 – 2015);
- Early Career Researcher Mentorship, Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (2014)
- Australian Postgraduate Award, UTS (2011–2014)
- University Medal for Art Theory, UNSW, 2005
Current research (general areas):
- Industrial craft, makers, trade skills, repair;
- Technology and the labour process;
- Australian manufacturing - social and cultural aspects;
- Interdisciplinary perspectives involving labour history and design history;
- Gender and technology;
- Oral history methods;
- Political imaginaries of 3D printing;
- Industrial design of 20th century computing technology;
- 20th century histories of printing;
- Urban history, architecture and spatial memory;
- Public art and site specificty;
- Design history (1850 - 1990)
- Material culture studies
- Industrial craft & maker cultures
- History of technology
- Gender, design and technology
- Labour history and the future of work
- Printing history and the history of visual communication design
- Academic literacy and academic writing
* * *
Available to supervise Masters by Research and Secondary supervision for PhDs. Supervision strengths best catered to history/theory candidates in the fields of design history, design studies, material culture, craft studies, visual communication, print culture, architectural history, labour history, and the history of technology, particularly for projects involving interviews, archival research and visual analysis.
The world of work is tightly entwined with the world of things. Hot metal illuminates connections between design, material culture and labour between the 1960s and the 1980s, when the traditional crafts of hot-metal typesetting and letterpress were finally made obsolete with the introduction of computerised technologies. This multidisciplinary history provides an evocative rendering of design culture by exploring an intriguing case: a doggedly traditional Government Printing Office in Australia. It explores the struggles experienced by printers as they engaged in technological retraining, shortly before facing factory closure.
Topics explored include spatial memory within oral history, gender-labour tensions, the rise of neoliberalism and the secret making of objects 'on the side'. This book will appeal to researchers in design and social history, labour history, material culture and gender studies. It is an accessible, richly argued text that will benefit students seeking to learn about the nature and erosion of blue-collar work and the history of printing as a craft.
This article considers the educational and social significance of specific types of ‘foreigner’ production in twentieth century industrial craft apprenticeship. A ‘foreigner’ is a regionally-specific term referring to a practice whereby workers customarily produce personal objects at work, with the tacit support of tradespeople and supervisors. Foreigner-making is a global phenomenon also known as homers, government jobs, foreign orders and la perruque. The example considered here is the practice of handmaking toolboxes and customized tools during an engineering patternmaking apprenticeship, in the context of twentieth century Australian manufacturing. This article finds that this type of ‘semi-legitimate’ foreigner production was a pedagogical strategy – part of a practical approach to apprentice education – and held particular social significance in the moral economy of industrial workplaces. With this context in mind, the recent business trend towards standardization and factory uniformity can be seen to have negative consequences. More broadly, the article demonstrates the significance of seemingly ‘unproductive’ craft practices in the industrial workplace.
Stein, JA 2019, 'Hidden Between Craft and Industry: Engineering Patternmakers’ Design Knowledge', Journal of Design History, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 280-303.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Craft is currently experiencing an academic and popular revival, as evidenced by increasing interest in ‘makers’ and artisanal practices, both within and beyond design history. Yet, in this moment of craft’s resurgence, some aspects are regularly overlooked. Industrial craft in manufacturing, for instance, is a field ripe for closer analysis. Engineering patternmaking is an industrial craft that remains almost invisible in design history, despite the design-related nature of patternmaking, and its centrality to many industrial manufacturing processes. Drawing on oral histories with Australian patternmakers, this article emphasizes that patternmaking is both a manual and intellectual practice that requires thorough knowledge of drawing, materials, geometry, three-dimensional visuality and manufacturing processes planning. Accordingly, I argue that patternmakers possess and enact a specific type of design knowledge, a form of expertise that has thus far been undervalued in both design and craft histories. Making use of Nigel Cross’ influential theorization of ‘designerly ways of knowing’, this article explores the connections and divergences between design and patternmaking knowledge sets, reminding us that the making of manufactured objects is deeply collaborative across professional and class formations. In doing so, I highlight the significance of industrial craft knowledge in the actualization of design. This example has broader historical implications for how design history frames and values the knowledge, skills and influence of those engaged in industrial production.
Book Review of Angela McRobbie's Be Creative: Making a Living in the New Culture Industries
Stein, JA 2017, 'The Political Imaginaries of 3D Printing: Prompting Mainstream Awareness of Design and Making', Design and Culture, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 3-27.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
3D printing is not only a diverse set of developing technologies, it is also a social phenomenon operating within the political imaginary. The past half-decade has seen a surge of “futuring” activity and widespread public attention devoted to 3D printing, which is typically represented as a harbinger of economic revival and political transformation. This article explores how 3D-printed futures are imagined across a broad political spectrum, by undertaking a multidisciplinary analysis of academic and popular literature. Three influential political imaginaries of 3D printing are identified: the maker-as-entrepreneur; the economic revival of the nation state; and commons-based utopias. In spite of stark contrasts in political alignment, these imagined futures share one important thing: an increasing awareness of design, making, and production. This insertion of design into mainstream discourse is an important development for design history and theory, as it potentially enables an increasing public comprehension of the profound significance of design in the world, in both historical and contemporary terms.
Stein, JA 2016, 'Masculinity and material culture in technological transitions: From letterpress to offset-lithography, 1960s - 1980s', Technology & Culture, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 24-53.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
Between the 1960s and the 1980s the printing industry in advanced capitalist economies underwent dramatic technological change. While the transition from “hot metal” compositing to computerized typesetting has been the focus of much analysis, there was another transformation occurring simultaneously, which has received far less attention. In the press-room, letterpress was gradually replaced by offset-lithography. Many letterpress-machinists retrained in offset-lithography: moving from a heavy, manual and time-consuming technology (with an entrenched patriarchal culture), to a method that was faster and less physically taxing.
This paper examines the change from a long-established technology to a socially unsettling one, by focusing on relationships that existed between skilled workers (press-machinists) and their technologies, in an Australian government printery. This transition involved the development of new practices, altered social relations of production, and, crucially, the continued enactment of masculine craft identities. Intrinsic to this experience of technological change was a masculine embodiment that was attuned to and shaped by the materiality and aesthetics of printing technologies. This embodied dynamic enabled some press-machinists to maintain their employment, dignity and control over their work. Essentially this paper establishes how masculine craft identities do not rely exclusively on skill-based mastery of traditional technologies, they are also related to other dimensions of technology, such as aesthetics, embodied “know-how”, and the physical presence of large-scale industrial machinery.
Stein, JA 2015, 'Making ‘Foreign Orders’: Australian Print-workers and Clandestine Creative Production in the 1980s', Journal of Design History, vol. 28, no. 3, pp. 275-292.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
A ‘foreign order’ is an Australian industrial colloquialism referring to a practice whereby workers produce objects at work—using factory materials and work time—without authorization. This is an under-explored but global phenomenon with many names, including ‘homers’, ‘side productions’, ‘government jobs’ and la perruque. This article examines the unofficial creative activities of Australian print-workers through
a case study of a Sydney printing factory in the 1980s, when the printing industry was rapidly computerizing and manual skills were increasingly seen as redundant. Using oral and archival sources, the article explores how the making of foreign orders became more overt and politicized, as workers sensed their insecurity. The practice of making ‘on the side’ gave print-workers a degree of agency and the ability to narrativize their
own plight. Design history tends to examine ‘officially’ produced items, potentially leaving out whole swathes of design practice taking place on the factory floor. This study operates within what has been defined as the ‘expanded field’ of Australian design history, including considerations of the material culture of labour and manufacturing history within the design historian’s reach. It also engages with recent calls for an increased
awareness of amateur practices and ‘unsanctioned knowledge’ in design history.
Stein, JA 2014, 'The co-construction of spatial memory: Enriching architectural histories of 'ordinary' buildings', Fabrications, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 178-197.View/Download from: UTS OPUS or Publisher's site
While the disciplines of oral history and architectural history are beginning to engage with the expansive possibilities for oral testimony in relation to architecture, the question of how spatial memory operates in an interview is yet to receive thorough attention. Earlier approaches combining oral history and architecture tended to focus on interviewing architects. This research takes a different tack, interviewing workers about their experiences of working life, and, in the process, discovering that the their narratives often have strong spatial and architectural specificity. Interviews with former printworkers about their memories of the NSW Government Printing Office in Sydney uncovered a wealth of spatial and architectural content embedded within workers recollections. The interview is also a site where meaning is made. Accordingly, this paper explores how, through oral history, a co-construction of spatial memory is produced between the interviewer and the interviewee, resulting in a mnemonic spatial reconstruction of architectural space. The results recover detailed accounts of much-loved fig trees, painted-on doors and dysfunctional woodblock floors, to name but a few. This method of charting architectural memories has important implications for how we interpret the architectural histories of oft-ignored institutional buildings, and it highlights disparities between `official concepts related to modernist factory buildings and the lived experiences of workers.
Stein, JA 2013, 'Frank confessions from an oral history newcomer', Voiceprint, vol. 49, pp. 10-13.
Stein, JA 2013, ''That was a posed photo': Reflections on the process of combining oral histories with institutional photographs', Oral History Association of Australia Journal, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 49-57.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
This paper emerged from observations following oral history interviews with thirty people who worked at the New South Wales (NSW) Government Printing Office, Sydney between 1933 and 1989. This project incorporates photographs from the NSW Government Printing Office collection: institutional images taken within this public service workplace. This paper describes how the use of institutional photographs during the oral history interview can provide insight into the disjuncture between bureaucratic representations of an organisation, and former employees' recollections of working life. Oral history interviews indicate that these former employees possessed a confident and playful awareness of the 'grey area' between institutional representation and everyday practice, and they performed an active role in the shaping of some of these situations. this paper engages with oral history literature on the relationship between oral testimony and photographs, and opens up the fuel to include the use of institutional photographs in the interview process, rather than personal or family images, which have often been the focus of previous research in this area.
Critical essay on Charles & Ray Eames' work for IBM at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Seizure is a journal of new Australian literature, fiction and non-fiction
This paper considers one of the first personal computers to be marketed to a mainstream American audience in the late 1970s: the Apple II. Lewis Mumford's notion of "ideological and social preparation" is adapted to describe this period as a preparatory phase for the later ubiquity and absorbing quality of our relationship with personal computers. In examining the Apple II's design alongside a key marketing image we can discern that domesticity and gender were crucial points of negotiation during this period. In the late 1970s marketing for Apple the image of idyllic domesticity quickly became a major context for computer promotion, a development that had gendered implications. The example of 1930s streamlining in the design of domestic household appliances is used as a parallel with the Apple II's startling application of a plastic case: the concealing plastic exterior simultaneously simplified and obscured the device, transforming it from a "machine" into a "personal appliance."
Lunney, D, Matthews, A, Stein, JA & Lunney, HWM 2002, 'Australian Bat Research: The Limitations of the Action Plan for Australian Bats in Determining the Direction of Research', Pacific Conservation Biology, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 255-260.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
The Action Plan for Australian Bats is a Commonwealth initiative (Duncan et al. 1999a) which sets out the species considered to be in need of conservation and recommends Commonwealth funding to be applied. The argument of the present paper is that the Action Plan does not provide an adequate basis for bat research in Australia because it concentrates almost exclusively on a small number of threatened species and omits general bat research. This argument is supported by recent surveys of the opinions of bat researchers. The threatened species determinations of the various States also suffer from the same deficiency, i.e., threatened species have become the focus of attention at the expense of the conservation of all bat species. This increasing emphasis on threatened species, particularly those now on the national list, diminishes the possibility of carrying out basic bat research or research on species threatened at State level (at least in New South Wales) but not listed on a federal level under current national criteria. We contend that a better approach would be to focus on the threatening processes that affect all bat species (including non-threatened species) across the country in order to simultaneously determine strategies for protecting those that are threatened, as well as instituting measures that will prevent others from declining.
Stein, JA & Rowden, E 2019, 'Speaking from the Inside: Challenging the Myths of Architectural History through the Oral Histories of Maitland Gaol' in Gosseye, J, Stead, N & van der Plaat, D (eds), Speaking of Buildings: Oral History in Architectural Research, Princeton Architectural Press, Princeton, pp. 28-49.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Stein, JA 2014, 'The thinking man's food processor: Domesticity, Gender and the Apple II' in Matheson, J (ed), Interface: People, Machines, Design, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Sydney, pp. 29-34.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Stein, JA 2011, 'Conversations from the Wonder Chamber: Jesse Adams Stein in conversation with Matthew Connell' in Dean, B & Muller, L (eds), Awfully Wonderful: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art, Performance Space Pty Ltd, Sydney, pp. 14-19.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Essay in the catalogue accompanying the exhibition"Awfully Wonderful: Science Fiction in Contemporary Art" - curated by Dr Lizzie Muller & Bec Dean. Matthew Connell & Jesse Adams Stein discuss circumferentors, theolodites, Curta calculators and the Sinclair ZX80, among other technological wonders.
Stein, JA 2018, 'Retraining the 'last generation' trades: Hot metal compositors and engineering patternmakers in Australia', Production of Information Technologies: Media Markets and Labour in the Twentieth Century [invited paper, funded by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the German Research Foundation (DFG)], Museum der Arbeit, Hamburg.
Stein, JA 2018, 'The Historian as Document Producer: A Critical Reflection on the Production of Oral History Timed Summaries', What is a Document? A Workshop on Documentation, Records and Evidence, UTS.
Stein, JA & Rowden, E 2017, 'Talking spatial memory: Workers, inmates and institutional buildings', Oral History Australia Conference, Sydney.
Stein, JA, Simpson, AV, Berti, M & Hermens, A 2017, '‘Keeping the axe workshop going’: Australian manufacturing and the hidden maintenance of historical practices', The Maintainers II: Labor, Technology and Social Order, Stevens Institute of Technology.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Simpson, AV, Berti, M, Stein, JA & Hermens, A 2016, 'Tradition of innovation and innovation of tradition: Processes of constructive disruption in a family firm', European Group of Organisation Studies (EGOS), Naples, Italy.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Stein, JA 2013, 'Picturing the Guv: reflections on the process of combining oral histories with institutional photographs', SA State History Conference / Oral History Association of Australia Biannual Conference, Adelaide.
Stein, JA 2012, 'Weighty matters in the shift from letterpress to offset-lithography: Gender, design, & tradition at a Government Printing Office', Gender, Bodies and Technology, Roanoke, Virginia.View/Download from: UTS OPUS
Stein, JA 2010, 'Domesticity and gender in the industrial design of Apple Computer', Popular Culture Association of Australia and New Zealand, Sydney.
Stein, JA 2009, 'The mystification machine: the Eames Office and the IBM Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair 1964-1965', Failed Design: What Were They Thinking? Bard Graduate School Symposium, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture, New York.
Rosenman, O & Stein, J 2018, 'Invisible Hands (HistoryLab Podcast S1Ep2) (Producer: Olivia Rosenman, Contributing Historian: Jesse Adams Stein, Host: Tamson Pietsch, Executive Producer: Tom Allinson)', Contributing Historian, 2SER.
Where do jelly babies come from? Mass-produced things are all around us. But they all start with a single object. In this episode, Olivia goes looking for the patternmakers, whose invisible hands are the original creators of much of the stuff we use every day. They see a world no-one else can see. So why are they disappearing? And what will we lose when they are gone?
“The story of workers being ‘deskilled’ by technology is a very old one, but that story is not over. In today’s economic framework, technology reigns triumphant, and anyone who doesn’t ‘keep up’ is simply branded as inflexible, a dinosaur from another time”, says Jesse Adams Stein. This episode of History Lab helps “us pause to think about the everyday objects around us, and ask – whose hands might have made those ‘original’ forms – and where are they now?” “We need to be conscious of the impacts of technological change, without necessarily taking an anti-technology, luddite view”, says Jesse. “We need to ask who benefits from new technology? What are its impacts? Is faster, cheaper, more efficient always better?”
History Lab is a collaboration between the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney and 2SER 107.3
Stein, JA, 'Pictures, pranks and printers: unofficial creative practice at the NSW Government Printing Office, 1959-1989 (Public lecture and online video) (2013)', History Council of NSW.
Stein, JA 2019, 'Does Australia Need the ‘Right to Repair’?', Ewaste Watch Institute.
Rowden, E & Stein, JA 2018, 'Reading List: Public Architecture', Places Journal.
Stein, JA 2017, 'Is 2017 the year to ditch the term ‘innovation’?', The Conversation.
Stein, JA 2017, 'Public submission to NSW Parliament Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, submission no. 12', NSW Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No. 4 Inquiry into Museums and Galleries, Sydney.
Stein, J 2014, 'Architecture Discipline Network: Learning & Teaching for Architecture & Building (website)', website.
Architecture Discipline Network is a learning and teaching network connecting educational, professional and accreditation bodies. Project led by Prof Desley Luscombe, and developed under the auspices of the Australian Deans of the Built Environment & Design (ADBED). It is the result of a grant from the Australian Government’s Office for Teaching & Learning (OLT). Website research and text by Jesse Adams Stein.
Stein, JA 2014, 'Who gives a … ? Contemporary design and an ethic of care', Cusp (exhibition essay), Australian Design Centre.
Stein, JA 2013, 'Different strokes: Artistic innovation gives drab urban facades a colourful new look', Sydney Morning Herald.
Stein, JA 2013, 'Two thumbs up for Sydney's 'ugliest building'', Sydney Morning Herald.
Stein, JA 2012, 'Links to the right paths take the city forwards', Sydney Morning Herald.
Stein, JA 2012, 'Social Sculpture', Runway, pp. 72-75.
This thesis is an industrial design history of Apple Computer, spanning the company’s
early industrial design in 1977, to the first Macintosh computer in 1984. Using Lewis
Mumford’s notion of ‘ideological and social preparation,’ I describe the period in
question as a preparatory phase for the later ubiquity and absorptive quality of our
relationship with personal computers.
This study applies methodological strategies similar to those used by sociologists
and design historians such as Bruno Latour, Michel Callon, Jeffrey Meikle and Paul
Atkinson. Their various approaches to material culture have informed my analysis of
early personal computers, leading me to situate computer objects as active artefacts within a complex network of social, technological and economic relations. In examining the design and marketing of some of Apple’s most successful (and problematic) early
personal computers – the Apple II (1977), the Apple IIe (1982-83), and the Macintosh
(1984) my findings are that domesticity and gender were crucial points of negotiation
during this social preparation for the mainstream acceptance of the personal computer.
In marketing material for early Apple computers, the image of idyllic domesticity
became a major context for the computer’s promotion, attempting to make personal
computers appear safe for apprehensive consumers. One consequence of this dynamic
was that the modes of labor and leisure became blurred, bringing the organisation and
control of the office into the home, and the comfortable veneer of domestic appliances
into workspaces. I use the example of 1930s streamlining in the design of household
appliances as a parallel with the Apple II’s startling application of a plastic case: the
concealing plastic exterior simultaneously simplified and obscured the device,
transforming it from a machine into a personal appliance. In the mid-1980s the gender coding of computers experienced a shift, from keyboards being associated with feminine, ‘secretari...
Stein, JA 2006, 'Public Art and Site-Specificity: Critical Dilemmas in the Sydney Sculpture Walk (Hons thesis)'.
This thesis takes the form of a critical examination of the Sydney Sculpture Walk. The broader context of this analysis relates to discourses surrounding public art and site-specificity in art history. The first chapter will outline the various ways in which site-specificity has been interpreted, delineating two key conceptions of ‘site’: the literal and the discursive site. This chapter argues for a balanced mediation between these two notions of site, which would acknowledge the social and cultural conditions of particular places, while not lapsing into an overly narrow focus on a specific, localised site.
The second chapter characterises the Sydney Sculpture Walk as a relatively uncritical, depoliticised project, and presents an argument for ‘critical’ public art. The argument pertains specifically to the Sculpture Walk’s position in Sydney’s Central Business District, the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Domain. These are historically specific zones that are unquestionably political, in terms of contact history and contemporary urban spatial relations, and yet this complexity is generally unacknowledged in the site-specific artworks of the Sculpture Walk. The chapter refers to critical social theory of
the Frankfurt School in order to define further the concept of ‘critical’ public art, and to complicate notions of how ‘underlying ideologies’ may have functioned in public art
produced in the year of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. Of the ten completed artworks in the Sydney Sculpture Walk, six are examined in detail in this thesis. Two separate public art projects demonstrating critical and subversive strategies are
discussed in the conclusion.
As co-CI of the project Repair Design: Shared Knowledge & Practice (with CIs Crosby, AIs: Scardifield, Lee and Cooper), Stein initiated a partnership with The Bower Reuse & Repair Centre, Sydney. (Project commenced mid-2019.)
As CI of the project Reshaping Australian Manufacturing, Stein initiated a partnership with the National Library of Australia in 2017. (ongoing)