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Through the lens of scale, this paper combines knowledge and perspectives from the history of technology and materials science and engineering to examine the materiality of the ubiquitous technological systems that are so often hidden in the everyday. The simultaneously exceptional and prosaic case of materials underpinning water filtration is examined in a 19th century manufacturing city in the United States. An analysis related to materials structure-property-processing-performance correlations is integrated with historical approaches to technological landscapes, the co-construction of use and value, and narratives of progress. This study provides insights into the dynamic social and material relationships that change across scales, as well as into mechanisms and cumulative influences of material constituents in larger sociotechnical systems. This contribution is incorporated within a framework for socially-directed science and technology, and its implementation in new and existing higher education institutions is discussed.
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