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Howstuffismade (HSIM) is a visual encyclopedia that documents the manufacturing processes, labor conditions and environmental impacts involved in the production of contemporary products. It is a free, independent, academic resource published by engineering and design students, who research and produce summative photoessays describing the life cycle of the product, with a view to improvement.
Natalie Jeremijenko a Visual Art faculty member at UC San Diego, created the HSIM project. "She wanted to encourage her engineering and design students to think more critically about the manufacturing process behind consumer goods. She also thought the use of wiki-based assignments would deter plagiarism as well as encourage students to use higher standards when evaluating evidence."
Academic faculty are responsible for ensuring that appropriate standards of evidence are upheld, and guide the students in collaborating with interested manufacturers. Faculty incorporate this visual assignment into engineering and design curricula to introduce students to real-world issues involved in developing feasible innovations, and to facilitate increased transparency in manufacturing sector. Although these do not preclude a full life cycle analysis, the visual representations produce are legible to a more diverse audience. Because information and innovations move through open information realms more efficiently, this project is intended to explore the benefits of increasing transparency accountability production, distribution and
This curricula has been used in the Faculty of Engineering and School of Management at Yale University; in the Sociology and Visual Art and Art Professions, NYU and at UCSD Visual Arts Department. It is currently part of the Honors Seminar series NYU, under the title Writing in the Inforamtion Age.