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Nuken: How Things Being Measured

Nuken: How Things Being Measured
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  1  Nuken 1 :How Things BeingMeasured 2 Faridah SahariInstitute of East Asian Studies, UNIMASsfaridah@faca.unimas.myAbstract Orang Ulu settlements inupper river and its tributaries ofBelaga were once so remote and hardlyaccessedby outsiders.Inaccessibility for tradersto penetrated the areahas caused absence of economic activitiesthus hinderedthe standard measurement systemto beused inquantification,transaction,productvaluationandlabour exchange in the regionduring that time. Thus, thispaper discusses how Orang Ulu measured thingsusing objects they have madepurposelyandunpurposely asgaugesin the pastand how figuresobtained from the measurementimply toproductivity, value and exchange in their daily transactions and routines. The discussion alsoincludesthetraditional measuringmethodsusedin some of their utilitarian objects production inquantifyingraw materialstoestimateresourcesand todetermine sizeof finished objects.Themain reason for doing so is to draw attention and share thisknowledgewith others onOrang Ulu’s technology ofarithmetic and scientific thinkingapplied in their traditional measuringsystem in objects production, tradeand exchangeamong theseCentral Borneonatives.  Keywords : Orang Ulu,material culture, measuring systems, traditional gauges, exchange Abstrak Penempatan Orang Uludihulusungaidikawasan pedalamanBelagadahulunyaamatsukardidatangioleh orang luar.Ini telahmenyukarkanparapedagangterutamanyamenembusikawasan tersebut untuk menjalankanaktiviti ekonomisekaligusmenghalangpenggunaansistemukuranpiawaiuntukmengukurand menyukatkuantitibagitujuantransaksi,pertukaranbarangandan perkhidmatanpada ketika itu.Justeru, makalahinimembincangkansistempengukuran tradisional yangpernahdigunakan dalam kalangan masyarakat Orang Ulu.Initermasuklahperalatanyangmerekabuat khasdanobjek sediadayang digunapakaiuntuk menyukat. Makalah ini juga turut membincangkan bagaimana Orang Ulu memanfaatkan hasilukuran dan sukatan sebagaipenanda aras danindikasikepadaproduktiviti, nilai dan pertukarandalam urusan transaksi dan rutin harian hidup mereka.Selainitu,makalah inijuga menerangkankaedah ukur dan sukat dalam pembuatan objek utilitarian mereka dalam membuatanggarankeperluansumberbahanmentah dan saizobjek.Tujuanutamaperbincangan ini adalahuntuk memberi tumpuandan berkongsipengetahuanmengenaiteknologi aritmetik danpemikiransaintifikOrang Uludalamsistem ukurdan sukattradisional yang digunapakai dalamprosespembuatan objek,urusan jualbeli danpertukaran.  Katakunci :Orang Ulu,budaya benda, sistemukur,toloktradisional,pertukaran 1 A Kayan term for measure. 2 This paper discusses results based on my study of Orang Ulu material culture and highlights findingson relatedsubject from other researchers done elsewhere previously.  2 Introduction Belaga is home to Orang Ulusuch as Kayan, Kenyah, Bhukat, Penanandmany othersubgroups.The groups of people were once livingupriveranddeep in the jungle;so remote thattheywerenoteasilyreachableby traders.Inaccessibility totradershas hinderedeconomic activities whichconsequently also forbiduniversal measuring system being practiced among the communities.Despites all that, Orang Ulu in Central Borneo have had their own self-sufficient economy wheremost foods and other commodities produced themselves either by farming or collecting form theforest. This somehowprevented them from being toodependent to tradersfor live necessities.Inspite of this, theyhavedeveloped andexercised their own measuring principal that suit theirculture, accepted by the whole communities among them; to quantify, performdailytransactions,product valuation and exchangeof goods andlabourwithin the region.In the past, Orang Uluinvolved predominantly in swidden farming and hunter-gathering as theirmain subsistence activity, thus this paper focuses on measuring system used by Orang Ulu inrelate topaddyor rice andjungle produce such asrattan as these were the most importantcommodities in theirsubsistenceandeconomicactivities. The paper discusses the traditionalgauges and methods used by the Orang Ulu communities to measure and how theymakeuseof thefiguresin determiningvalueand exchange in daily transactionas well as a productionindicator. Orang UluPrincipalof Measurement Orang Ulu used some principal measurementsin developingstandard form of reciprocityandquantificationin their dailytransactionandroutinesdue tolack ofaccess tostandarduniversalmeasuringgauges and tools.Despite, theyhavemadeusedbody parts such as fingers and limbsas measuring toolsandutilizedreadilymadeobjectsaround themasgauges andtools. Thisunique traditional measurement system have been practiced and shared among all Orang Ulucommunities in Belaga for centuries.Orang Ulu measure not only to quantify physical quantitiessuch as length, width, mass and volume of things related to their daily economic and exchangeactivities butmore than thatthey also rely on the figuresas indicatorsand determinantsofmanythings includingraw material utilization,dimension of finished object, productivity and use of   3 land, rate of exchange and value of object and commodity. Next descriptionexplains howthistraditional measurement system practicesamong the Orang Ulu in Belaga. Technology inMakingProductand Material Utilization This section will discussthe traditional measuring methods used in some of their utilitarianobjects production in quantifying raw materials to estimate resources and to determine size of finished objects.To measure length, they used two general standards namely buka and buhak  . (Hose andMcDougall, 1912).  Buka is the length of the span finger tip to tip of the outstretched arms, while buhak  is the length of the span from tip of the thumb to the tip of the first finger of the samehand.These two methods are frequently used to measure length of rattan, to value the price whenrattan is to be sold raw or to estimate quantity of rattan needed to weaveutilitarian objects likebasketsandmats.This is crucial as guideline in resources management pertaining to naturalresources utilization, waste and sustainabilityissues.  Rattan Basket Production Orang Ulu have been used plant materials as main constructive material to produce utilitarianobjects for everyday use as well as crafts and artefacts for ceremonial practices(Chin, 1986).Sarawak ecology boasts as one of the richest rattan floras in the world, making it the mostcommon material used forvarious types ofplaited items such as baskets, mats, baby carrier andheadband among the Orang Ulu(Pearce, 1991, Dransfield, 1992).Rattan is divided equallyand number of division is depending on thediameterof rattan andtypeofobjectto bemade. Forasmall basketlike ajat  , a finer rattansuch as sega ( calamus optimus) or sega mas (calamuslaevigatus) is used while for ingen and keba’  , a bigger rattanlike letikan ( calamuscaesius) or seringan (daemonoropssabut) isfrequently used.The selection of therattan is based on its propertysuch as strength and aestheticqualityto serve best for the purpose.  4  Ingen  Ingen is a traditional basketmade andcomprehensively used by Orang Ulu in Central Borneo. Itiscarried at the back of the bearer while harvesting paddy in the farm.For acommon size ingen ;40cmin diameter and 45cmofheight,itrequires20 of one buka rattansticks, whichapproximatelyabout 2metres inlengthto weave a complete basket.The type of rattan usedusually measured as 10mm in diameterwhichisdividable tofivestrips.By this method, themaker can estimatequantity of resources andpreparethe material beforehand, thus try tominimize wastage during production.Since ingen was also used as traditional measuring tool tomeasure paddy, other ingen wasused as mould during the weaving process to ensureright sizeandcapacityof the end product can be achievedperfectly. Figure1  Ingen weaving processwith other  ingen used as mould  Ajat and Blanyat  Ajat  and blanyat  are flexibledrawstringrattan baskets used as a personal backpack among OrangUlu. Ulat  is a separate woven loop attached around the openingis the basis of every drawstringbasket type. String is passing through the ulats to formadrawstringmechanismforopen/close atthe toppart of the basket.Apparently, number of  ulat  alsoplays an important role. Itwas usedasadeterminant of number of rattanstrandsrequired for theweavingand to estimate the dimensionof the finished product and the selling price if the basket is meant to betraded or exchanged.  5 For each ulat  , it will require two strands of rattan. If the basket has 30 ulats , it means 60 strandsof rattan are needed to weave a complete basket. This is another method applied by Orang Ulu toestimate quantity of material prior to main construction process started.Apart from that, theyalso use number ulat  to estimate the finished circumference of the basket. Figure2(a)  Blanyat weaving process(b)  Blanyat (c)String through  ulats and(d)  Ulat as weaving starting point Table1:  Ulat as  Ajat ’s or  Blanyat Size DeterminantMeasurement UnitConversion 1 ulat  requires2rattan strandsIn buhak  (traditional)Circumference   distance of  ulats interval(d)X (no. of  ulat  )For example:If number of  ulat  = 3060 rattan strands are required to complete the basketCircumference   1/12(30)   2.5 buhak  d ulat ulat  d is  a distance of  ulats interval. In normalpractice, the distance is measured in pointfinger width, which is approximately 1/12of a buhak  length.
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