Good Worker

Good Worker is a machine with a single task: to stretch a single strand of thread with its twin servomotors, infinitely. At performing this task, it is perfect. Good Worker enhances its performance when inspected, significantly increasing the speed of its efforts. When the day is done and darkness falls, Good Worker does not rest. A joystick allows Good Worker’s speed and offset to be adjusted at will, and visual feedback is provided when perfect equilibrium is reached (i.e. when both servomotors are in the exact same position).

This piece pays homage to both the minimalist sensibilities of Doug Back’s Sticks (1977) and the empathetic pathos (and nomenclature) evoked by Simone Jones’ Perfect Vehicle (2006). Good Worker’s infinite and ultimately purposeless endeavour occurs amid a mirrored space, a subtle suggestion of the existence of other Good Workers engaged in similar loops. In this regard, the piece positions itself as a criticism of late capitalism’s obsession with constructing artificial economies within its technological infrastructure (e.g. cryptocurrency mining, the commodification of land within the metaverse); these disembodied structures serve only to preoccupy our faculties when there is increasingly important work to be done in the tangible, material world. Good Worker has very little agency over its labour in one such manufactured economy: it continues working after dark, pushes itself to work faster when held in the light, and is subject to the whims of a joystick that changes its speed and motor offset. Its sole joy is the moment of equilibrium when both its servomotors are at identical degrees of oscillation — something that the user can help it achieve permanently if so desired. To the observer, this poses the question: what is our responsibility to the machine as we program it to do our bidding? And what possibilities within machine-space do we overlook as we race to fill it with replicated familiar structures of power and control?

This project was designed for Professor Steve Daniels‘ RTA321 Intro to Tangible Media course.