Jesse Adams Stein’s book is a fascinating and accessible study of the declining fortunes of the Government Printing Office, located on Harris Street, Ultimo. It is greatly enriched by the oral histories of the (mostly) men and some women who found themselves in an almost Kafkaesque position, facing rapid technological change, corporatisation – which undermined traditional unionism – neo-liberalism and post-industrial capitalism in the later decades of the 20th century. Its special contribution comes from its thoughtful analysis of the role of objects in this process. ‘Work’, the author notes, “is inextricably bound up with a world of things, with and through which the social and gendered processes of workplace life are enacted and experienced. Understanding how we interact with and interpret design is crucial for appreciating the complexities of the labour experience, particularly at times of technological disruption.” This original and cross-disciplinary book brings together design, design history, oral history, labour history, gender and material culture studies. It sheds a powerful light on the transformation and loss of blue-collar work and the demise of printing as a craft.
Jesse Adams Stein is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow in UTS’s Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building. Hot Metal is her first book.