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Freelance consultant, learning facilitator, and writer, founder of extreme-inventing.com, ooleee.net (with artist Gary King), knowledgecafe0151. Teach technology entrepreneurship at School of Engineering at University of Liverpool, UK. I have a longstanding and avid interest in Technology as a unique human phenomenon. I'm actively engaged in research on how enterprising individuals shape material culture through inventing and innovating, with palaeoanthropologists at the Dept. of Archaeology, Egyptology and Classics, also at University of Liverpool.

Takes two to tangle

Using a spider’s web to catch a fish. A truly fascinating case of extreme inventing. Like many, I came across this technique while watching a BBC series about the islands of the South Pacific. Fish are caught  using a spider’s web, but not as you might first think. Immediate response to a story about fishing with a web would be to imagine it being cast into the sea or a lake just as you would a normal fishing net. This is different. Just a quick reminder that extreme inventing is about capturing or incorporating a property of an object within what then becomes a new technical system. This example is about the technical system used by Solomon Islanders to catch garfish using a spider’s web.

Garfish have very small mouths which, it seems, do not open wide enough for them to bite onto a hook in the more familiar catching technique. The web is used to get around this problem. The spider’s web is collected in the local forest, rolled into a ball and used as bait on the end of a line. The video below explains the method in more detail. Instead of getting caught on a hook, with or without a barb, the sharp teeth of the garfish become entangled in the web sufficiently strongly for them to be pulled out of the water. If you think of this technical system carefully, it does not come into existence until the teeth become entangled. It’s not simply the property of the web that’s captured in the technical system, it’s also the small sharp teeth. Without the small sharp teeth  the web would be useless and the new and really useful technical system would not exist.  So it takes two to tangle.

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