Sleek Screens / Dusty Machines

Adam Schueler



Cyrus Peñarroyo


Sleek Screens / Dusty Machines gives agency to unseen materialities of digital media. Presently, digital media infiltrates almost every aspect of our routines, so much so that we forget about the amount of matter and energy needed to support our lifestyles. Hidden behind the sleek screens with which we interact are whole economies, spaces of exception, and ecologies that often become visible through the accumulation of dust, a ubiquitous yet unobserved byproduct of technology. This thesis mines dust for its archival potential.

Since the Industrial Revolution, human civilization has had an exponential impact on the geologic landscape of our planet, a construct referred to as the Anthropocene. In recent years, a large portion of this impact can be attributed to the materiality of digital media. By studying the composition of the ground and the buildup of particulate matter over time, geologists can speculate on the Earth’s future.

Thus, this thesis proposes The Planetary Dust Archive, a centralized facility for the accumulation and dissemination of knowledge surrounding dust in our digital age. The research institute will support the collection, preservation, and analysis of earth core samples from around the world. The building – an expansive, three-dimensional grid consisting of mechanical systems, circulation routes, and large-scale industrial hardware – acts as a machine for managing the material environment. Visitors filtering through this process will gain a unique awareness of a seemingly immaterial culture of technology. If geologists study the Earth’s crust to understand its past formations and meteorologists study the Earth’s atmosphere to forecast the weather, researchers at this facility combine these efforts and examine dust to clarify an otherwise hazy future with digital technology.