Conceptualizing the Maker
Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation



Binaebi Akah, Master’s Candidate
...
Dedication


This is dedicated to the two persons who gave me the
curiosity, talent, intelligence, tenacity, and quirkines...
Contents
Abstract                              12

1. Introduction                       14   2. Theoretical Foundations  ...
3. Triangulating the Maker                40   4. Theorizing the Maker          97

  Case Study: Steampunk               ...
Conceptualizing the Maker
“Products can be more than the sum of the
functions they perform. Their real value
can be in fulfilling people’s emotional...
Conceptualizing the Maker
Abstract
This research thesis discusses the design of artifacts. This is done in an
attempt to conceptually explore the re...
between everyday appropriation, and creative appropriation? Does this
difference empower personally identifiable technolog...
1                         Introduction




Conceptualizing the Maker
Technology as we know it is meant to ease the burden,        As with anything, there are varying degrees of
as it were, of...
“According to the ethical motive for user participation, people have a moral
right to influence their own destiny, and use...
Motivations                                                     Why should you care?
Having grown up in a do-it-yourself h...
What will you get out of this?                                Why is Appropriation Important?
As I mentioned before, we in...
It is not enough to have artifacts in
one’s life, as found by Odom et al.
People “desire to develop a strong
attachment to...
you create” (Poeter). It began as a literary movement in          We are in the midst of a tinkerer-maker revolution
the 1...
the United States, for instance, and I have the receipts
to prove it. So while I am sure that finances are always a
      ...
group of do-it-yourselfers who are prolific online through      By studying Steampunks, how they define themselves, and
bl...
2                         Prior Work




Conceptualizing the Maker
The underlying assumption guiding this research is that        Social Constructivism
people desire to be attached to artif...
approach because it provides “sensitivity to the importance     That said, I believe quite firmly that the insights gather...
With this in mind, how do I define this ephemeral              Identity, in its simplest form, is how we define our
phrase...
use within psychology, anthropology, and folklore papers,          is recognizable as a member of a group. (3) The
which l...
Oxford English Dictionary3: (1) The quality                       Why is this important? Because it showcases that even if...
an individual’s comprehension of him or                     had a different identity from the one you in fact
     herself...
fourth definition, in which I will discuss self-as-known,     interdependent identity. What is a community? It could
or th...
Oring states. After all, “collective identity,” or the identity   See the next page for a representation of this definitio...
Conceptualizing the Maker
Below are my findings followed with a discussion behind          person’s personal identity? Are there ever appropriated
w...
and is comfortable enough with the technology to use it in                    to another as an appendage. Obs. (6) To devo...
assigning (or reassigning) the purpose of an object as it      design: appropriation as temporal experience, and
suits the...
saying “we mean the remaking of something through a use          know that technology has become the users’ own,
that beco...
| 37
the object must become a part of one’s personal narrative.     As mentioned in my approach and methods section, I
        ...
and the relationship between the two, I utilized direct and    resource for the actual creatives and do-it-yourselfers,
in...
3                         Triangulating the Maker




Conceptualizing the Maker
To begin my user research, I used an indirect approach        Utilizing Google Alerts to scour the internet for any
by loo...
•   Inventor: Skilled in imaginative,                       ringing a bell? How about Casper? Phillip Pullman’s His
      ...
The Steampunk Magazine, an                  Steampunk machines are real, breathing,
independent, volunteer-run magazine
  ...
I look at the crafting aspects of Steampunk because             to Steampunk. This is why Steampunk is fascinating. It
“le...
constructivist understanding of the world, for, as Duncan
said, there is “no one right form of knowledge, and
multiple vie...
From doing this activity, I realized
                                                                             that I r...
appropriation is very much                the role of Lady Almyra Gunn,             for some semblance of truth. I am
some...
Conceptualizing the Maker
Obviously, this machine does not
actually work, since it is ceramic, i.e.
glass. That said, it was fun pushing
my imaginat...
Picture on page 49 is my non-functioning machine I                 •   It is a rewarding challenge to create something
dub...
•   Scholar: Interested in studying the                    interview took anywhere from half an hour to two
       phenome...
general questions about the subject’s understanding and
interpretation of Steampunk, how they came to that
conclusion, etc...
| 53
because I went to abstract too quickly. This was worrisome    topics pulled from these affinity diagram exercises are how
...
I sketched out the holistic emergent topics from each          With all this said, I’d like to analyze the intertextuality...
To give you some context to the selected quotations, I                                        Community
have listed the an...
Edgar: “The Steampunk community is                    Edgar: “If the true Steampunk fans think
   open, friendly. You can’...
“[Today’s tech] is so boring-looking!”
                                                 Lucy M.


There are elitists withi...
Harriet: “I’m always interested                          Charlotte: “I have a tendency to learn trades that
   to see what...
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation
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Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation

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This research thesis attempts to define an existing subset of end users as makers.
These makers bridge the gaps between technological gadgets, creative appropriation, and identity through their bricolage of hacking, crafting, online tutorials, and the materials and knowledge ready at hand. Further, in studying makers this thesis refers to the exploding online and offline culture of Steampunk as a case study.
What can the field of Human-computer Interaction learn from the Steampunk makers? What will you, as an interaction designer, do to empower and facilitate such personally identifiable creative acts?
What will you do to make appropriation possible?

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Conceptualizing the Maker: Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation

  1. 1. Conceptualizing the Maker Empowering Personal Identity through Creative Appropriation Binaebi Akah, Master’s Candidate Advised by Dr Shaowen Bardzell Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing Human Computer Interaction Design May 2010
  2. 2. Dedication This is dedicated to the two persons who gave me the curiosity, talent, intelligence, tenacity, and quirkiness to pull off this project, my parents. I know without their support and encouragement, I would not have succeeding in completing my graduate degree. And to my siblings; you guys are crazy in so many awesome ways. Remember what Barney the Dinosaur used to say? “‘Be careful’ means ‘I love you.’”
  3. 3. Contents Abstract 12 1. Introduction 14 2. Theoretical Foundations 25 From End User to Maker 16 Identity 26 Motivations 17 Everyday Definitions 27 Why should you care? 17 Academic Definitions 29 What will you get out of this? 18 Working Definition of Identity 31 Why is Appropriation Important? 18 Appropriation 31 Why Steampunk? 20 Everyday Definitions 31 Social Constructivism 24 Human-computer Interaction Definitions 35 Beliefs 25 Working Definition of Appropriation 38 Overview 38
  4. 4. 3. Triangulating the Maker 40 4. Theorizing the Maker 97 Case Study: Steampunk 42 Supporting the Maker 99 Autoethnography 44 Discussion and Contribution 101 Steampunk Interviews 50 Reflections 102 Summary of Findings 71 Acknowledgments 103 Case Study: Appropriation in the Wild 72 References 108 Bodily Appropriation 72 Appropriation of the Everyday 74 Appropriation, Steampunk-style 77 Summary of Findings 94
  5. 5. Conceptualizing the Maker
  6. 6. “Products can be more than the sum of the functions they perform. Their real value can be in fulfilling people’s emotional needs, and one of the most important needs of all is to establish one’s self-image and one’s place in the world.” Donald Norman, 2005 |9
  7. 7. Conceptualizing the Maker
  8. 8. Abstract This research thesis discusses the design of artifacts. This is done in an attempt to conceptually explore the relationship between designers and users, suggesting that users have far more agency on “finished” designs than designers perhaps acknowledge. This work suggests that users are makers. The world of today’s technological artifacts is homogenized, as exemplified by all Apple products which look and act the same when shipped from the factory. Not only are the artifacts homogenized, but they are proprietary; they are designed to discourage an exploration of the parts and pieces. Once bought, however, an artifact’s biography is determined by its owner, owners, and/or user. The appropriation of an artifact, i.e. the adoption of an artifact so it fits an individual’s life-world and identity, and therefore the community life-world and identity the individual belongs to, is difficult to pinpoint. The result of an act of appropriation, however, is not so difficult to distinguish. How does one know when an artifact has been appropriated? Are there artifacts that encourage/discourage appropriation? What is the difference Conceptualizing the Maker
  9. 9. between everyday appropriation, and creative appropriation? Does this difference empower personally identifiable technological gadgets? This research thesis attempts to define an existing subset of end users as makers. These makers bridge the gaps between technological gadgets, creative appropriation, and identity through their bricolage of hacking, crafting, online tutorials, and the materials and knowledge ready at hand. Further, in studying makers this thesis refers to the exploding online and offline culture of Steampunk as a case study. The physical aesthetics of Steampunk-appropriated technology rebel against our always-connected-with-my-super-high-tech-homogenized-gadget culture by finding inspiration in the past. Specifically, the Victorian era, when industrialization did not mean homogenized yet. What can the field of Human-computer Interaction learn from the Steampunk makers? What will you, as an interaction designer, do to empower and facilitate such personally identifiable creative acts? What will you, as an interaction designer, do to make appropriation possible? | 13
  10. 10. 1 Introduction Conceptualizing the Maker
  11. 11. Technology as we know it is meant to ease the burden, As with anything, there are varying degrees of as it were, of daily living. We are accustomed to using appropriation. For some, appropriation merely means to technology, even at its simplest form (a hammer, perhaps), “adapt and integrate” into one’s “everyday life” (Carroll). to solve our problems. We have cell phones that connect For others, appropriation means “unpacking” the us to loved ones, co-workers, clients. Our calculators object into its “constituent parts or functions” and then compute simple math as well as integrals and derivatives. creatively “customizing” the object so that “the user has Our global positioning units tell us where we are, where transformed the shape” (Carroll). we are heading, and where our desired destination is in relation to these two pieces of information. While both ends of the spectrum are interesting, the act of creative appropriation is most intriguing because of Technology, when put in this light, is wonderful. the sometime immense amount of energy required to accomplish it. The creative act of appropriation, emphasis Technology solves our problems and does it faster than on the verb act, becomes a creation of the self, rather than we could without it. Yet, we are dissatisfied with the the other. The other, in this case, is the designer/design technology we have. It is never fast enough, feels good team behind the artifact. enough, or accomplishes exactly what we want. And so, we reject it, hoping the next iteration will save us. “Once you modify something, you personalize it. And I mean personalize in a rather true sense. It’s no longer the That is, those of us without a connection to our creation of some other, but of one’s self ” (Rosner). technology reject it, hoping the next iteration will save us. There are a number of us who, rather than looking In varying degrees, we are all a part of a tradition in for the next best thing, are satisfied instead to develop which we “are driven to customize their artifacts and build relationships with our existing technology. We appropriate things;” it is not enough to simply accept artifacts as they the technology in our lives to suit our own purposes, are sometimes, we instead spend “copious amounts of time rather than relying on the next iteration designed by some tinkering” (Buechley). other to get a little closer to what we actually want. | 15
  12. 12. “According to the ethical motive for user participation, people have a moral right to influence their own destiny, and users have a right to influence technological decisions affecting their private and professional life.” Bergvall-Kåreborn and Ståhlbrost, 2008 Yet, certain artifacts are more likely to be appropriated, Bergvall-Kåreborn and Ståhlbrost introduce the and certain persons are more likely to creatively and “discourse” of the user in terms of computing technology explicitly appropriate. began in the 1970s, where the user was a “victim.” In the 1980s, the user became a “competent practitioner” before shifting to a “serious professional” in the 1990s,” and a From End User to Maker “source of inspiration” in the new millennium. Walk with me a moment as I trek this journey of No designer can design the perfect design; to have a understanding the ever-changing relationship between perfect design, we would need perfect users. Given that designers, end users, and artifacts. we interaction designers happen to design for people and people are not perfect, I am sad to say that this endeavor As it stands, designers have a limited understanding of designing the perfect design is, while noble, futile. of their end users. This is not for a lack of trying; participatory design, ethnography-inspired study, This thesis takes the ever-changing view of the user a contextual inquiry, and the like do not exist without step further. Not only should the user be considered an reason. These methods have been incorporated into the “inspiration,” the user should also be recognized for who interaction design community over the years in its quest they are, the lay-designer, or, as I like to say, the maker. to understand the role of the user. Conceptualizing the Maker
  13. 13. Motivations Why should you care? Having grown up in a do-it-yourself household where if Not to be alarmist, but it seems to me as though designers something broke you were expected to attempt to fix it are too far hidden from the practicalities of their designs, before buying its replacement, I am disappointed by the and some users are tired of it. Shapiro puts it quite nicely, current trajectory of the design of technological artifacts. in fact: It is growing increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to repair the artifacts in my life. What if I don’t want “As computing becomes mundane, so too to repair something that is broken, but simply alter the do its designers, and it is harder to see why physicality of the artifact, or alter the configuration of a or how they should be able to exercise more menu so it makes sense to me, rather than following some leverage for change than anyone else.” arbitrary configuration by some designer? Do you want to lose your credibility as an interaction We all have things we would like to change in order to designer simply because the realm of your designs is now make the artifacts in our lives work better for us. This, “mundane,” and your users are questioning why you get to then, is the inspirational source for this study. make the decisions? The fact remains that we all appropriate the artifacts I would prefer instead to give the users their fair due, in our lives, digital or analogue, consciously or and recognize that they are “intelligent, creative, and subconsciously. This is an interesting research area because productive contributors to communities, organizations, of its relationship with personal identity, and the influence and society if they are equipped with the right tools” a designer has over the personal identity of the end user. (Bergvall-Kåreborn and Ståhlbrost). The tools, in this case, are our designed artifact, whether it is a laptop, keyboard, email client, or cell phone menu. | 17
  14. 14. What will you get out of this? Why is Appropriation Important? As I mentioned before, we interaction designers simply First, one must admit that “in all human cultures, cannot share the “life worlds or world views” of our material artifacts are social communicators” (Mackay). users due to the knowledge we have of the technology of It is unavoidable to judge another person based on their our designs; we are “limited in the extent to which [we] clothing, what shoes they wear, etc. are capable of understanding each others’ experiences” (Bergvall-Kåreborn and Ståhlbrost). The same goes for our This is not to say that this judgment is negative, per se, it users in terms of understanding the designer’s life world. is merely a level of understanding a person based on the artifacts they choose to wear. Should one visit the home By keeping this in mind, and seeing your end user as a of a friend, there is an added layer of understanding into maker, you will not have to determine the “use-before-use the personality, morals, etc, of said friend. The color as suggested by Redström (Ehn). This is the impossible of the walls, the style of chairs, the types of kitchen task I spoke of earlier, where interaction design utilizes utensils, are all indicators of the person and their preferred participatory design as a way to “meet the unattainable understanding of their surrounding world. design challenge of fully anticipating use before actual use” (Ehn). Let’s lift some of the burden from our There are many who feel they “might as well have a shoulders as designers by deferring some of the design relationship with the items” with which they surround until after the design, and place decisions in the hands of themselves (Rosner). As Norman says, our users. …Products can be more than the sum of the functions they perform. Their real value can be in fulfilling people’s emotional needs, and one of the most important needs of all is to establish one’s self-image and one’s place in the world. Conceptualizing the Maker
  15. 15. It is not enough to have artifacts in one’s life, as found by Odom et al. People “desire to develop a strong attachment to particular digital things such as laptops” (Odom). In order to engage digital material artifacts, people have turned to such do-it-yourself activities as “IKEA hacking,” where one “takes something off-the-shelf, alters it to fit [one’s] needs—to be more personal, to make a statement, to improve it better than mass marketing could” to provide interaction designers with a theory that will provide the basis for (Rosner). The importance behind designs that make appropriation possible. this is that through this “hacking,” i.e. appropriation, the object is “no I am not advocating that we make our designs easier to appropriate, only that longer the creation of some other, but we should not make our designs impossible to appropriate. of one’s self ” (Rosner). Appropriation happens in multiple realms, from bodily appropriation This is the subject of this capstone: (piercings, tattoos), to appropriation of everyday items (furniture, buttons, to study the overlap between identity etc), to the extreme creative appropriation of digital material artifacts, and the and appropriation, to empower the case study of this capstone, Steampunk. user to make him- or herself through the design concept. In studying Steampunk, informally speaking, is a “cultural movement” that is “much more identity and appropriation, I mean than just an aesthetic,” it’s “also about being more deeply connected to what | 19
  16. 16. you create” (Poeter). It began as a literary movement in We are in the midst of a tinkerer-maker revolution the 1980s as an “outgrowth” of the futuristic Cyberpunk; where everyone from amateur geeks to world-class an “antiquated re-imagining of Cyberpunk set 100 years artists are sharing a common spirit of creative energy. in the past rather than 100 years in the future” (Gross, The DIY attitude is one of play, experimentation, C). Please refer to the literature review section for a more and an appreciation for an intellectual landscape formal definition. of possibility and undefined paths (Diana). This is a preliminary answer to the question “why does the do-it-yourself movement exist today?” After all, it is Why Steampunk? more convenient and possibly even more practical to buy Steampunk is a “non-luddite critique of technology” a finished product. Yet, stores like Lowes, JoAnn Fabrics, (Catastrophone). Persons involved in the Steampunk and Hobby Lobby; television shows like Design on a movement, also known as Steampunks, are “dialing down Dime, Trading Spaces, and Carter Can; and websites like their digital existence in favor of embracing physical Etsy, IKEA Hacker, and Instructables, are all flourishing. materialization as a route to creative satisfaction” (Hell). Why is this? This has a direct relation to the do-it-yourself movement Informally speaking, I often hear it is the “bad economy,” as discovered in the field of human-computer interaction, and this explains why people are doing more on their own. where it was noted that: This is both true and untrue… it is still much cheaper to buy clothing than to make it from a yard of fabric in This is the subject of this capstone: to study the overlap between identity and appropriation, to empower the user to make him- or herself through the design concept. Conceptualizing the Maker
  17. 17. the United States, for instance, and I have the receipts to prove it. So while I am sure that finances are always a “The user autonomy […] is factor, I contend that a large portion of the do-it-yourself connected to the very individual, movement exists because it is in people’s nature to have a social, cultural and emotional certain “creative energy” (Diana). value of the artifacts and perhaps I contend that people want a certain number of artifacts suggests that the designer that are personal, meaningful, unique, and with a story. should look at ways in which to After all, for an object to be “relevant to human life,” it leave space in the design for the must be “interpreted” in order to “play a part in a human consumers’ own interpretation, narrative” (Harré). People like to have a certain number rather than design a piece to of artifacts that they keep for “so long” that they are be used only as directed by the “perceived as having personality, soul, charcter, and is loved and cared for” (Battarbee). designer. For example, enabling the user to personalize an object People are more than “just problem solvers;” we are or adapt the way it is used.” “creatures of boundless curiosity” (Paulos). More than that, there are certain people, do-it-yourselfers, also Lacey, 2009 known as “makers,” who “find resonance with materials and people” (Silver). Echoing Lacey, I feel human-computer interaction designers can learn from the creative act of appropriation by studying Steampunks, a conveniently enthusiastic | 21
  18. 18. group of do-it-yourselfers who are prolific online through By studying Steampunks, how they define themselves, and blogs, forums, and merchant websites to name a few. their relationships with the artifacts they choose to (and not to) appropriate, I will identify key characteristics of Steampunk has multiple connotations with fashion, that encourage appropriation, and develop a framework fiction, music, and technological physical aesthetics, based on these characteristics. among others (Ratt). I am focusing on the latter. The technological aesthetics of Steampunk rebel against our The ideas I present are not meant as a formula for always-connected-with-my-super-high-tech-homogenized- appropriation. Instead, they are meant as a starting point gadget culture by finding inspiration in the past, for designers to think about the artifacts they design, and specifically, the Victorian era, when industrialization the potential they provide for user appropriation. did not mean homogenized yet. Why do people join this movement, and how? What is their creative process? How does this creative act of appropriation reflect, influence, and potentially define their sense of self? With all this said, my goal with this project is to provide a foundation for understanding technological appropriation by studying the motives behind the act of creative appropriation within the Steampunk movement. Conceptualizing the Maker
  19. 19. 2 Prior Work Conceptualizing the Maker
  20. 20. The underlying assumption guiding this research is that Social Constructivism people desire to be attached to artifacts. There are varying levels of desire, attachment, and the relationship between I was once asked how I define myself and if my self- them, and depend completely on the person, their history, perception had any bearing on how I perceived the world. culture, etc. The simple answer is, of course, yes. Despite this variance, designers need to be aware that I see myself as a maker, an artist, a writer, a designer, there is a need for people to feel a connection with the and an engineer. I believe this order greatly impacts how artifacts brought into their life-worlds. I understand the world. I tend to see every event as a In this way, the topic of appropriation is suited for narrative, which I can then extract something beautiful a human-centered research project. When someone or ugly from it that provides insight into a design I may appropriates an artifact, it speaks to the level of someday implement. connection felt. But how can we know when someone I realize, however, that how I see the world is not how has appropriated an object, why, if they are aware of it, others see it. In fact, the way I see the world is entirely and how it reflects/influences their sense of self and/or dependent on me; on my history, emotions, and personal identity? perceptions. How I understand the world is a foreign set Additionally, this research assumes that all persons are of concepts to those around me, and vice versa. creative, with the caveat that there are as many types of This capstone project is based in social constructivism. As creativity as there are people. Because of this, and the mentioned in the Creswell text, I “seek understanding of aforementioned assumption, much of the research for the world” in which I “live and work” (Creswell). Meaning this project will be qualitative, based firmly in a social is “constructed” by humans as they “engage with the world constructivist understanding of the information gathered. they are interpreting,” and it is important to “understand the context” (Creswell). I am using a social constructivist Conceptualizing the Maker
  21. 21. approach because it provides “sensitivity to the importance That said, I believe quite firmly that the insights gathered of both technological and social issues and the interaction from a study of physical artifacts can inform and/or between the two” (Carroll). inspire designs based in the digital realm. Beliefs Theoretical Foundations “You live in a fantasy world, where every The term “appropriation” is generally used in terms day is a musical and inanimate artifacts of finances and property, relating to illegal possession. speak back to you.” – Jacqueline Akah Within human-computer interaction, however, it has been used as a positive reflection of users relating to The quote above is an anecdote in which my mother the technology in their lives. Not only is it a positive informed me that I am not of this world. You see, phenomenon, it seems to be a desired outcome of I anthropomorphize everything. Rest assured, I am technological design. not psychotic, nor am I schizophrenic. I treasure my engagement with the world around me. It is not enough The benefits are obvious from a business standpoint: for me to simply exist; I need to have explicit relationships design a product, interface, etc, that allows and encourages with the artifacts and persons in my life. I need to be able a potential customer/user to relate to it, see themselves in to touch an artifact and register the sensation. it, allow it to reflect how they see themselves and in turn allow it to influence how they see themselves… Therefore, this project was guided by the belief that I, as a tactile person, care more about physical artifacts It is a powerful thing, to feel an artifact reflects and than digital artifacts, and that these artifacts have (or influences how one sees oneself. If a company can tap into develop) personalities. As such, I focused on the act that experience then they have possibly created a customer of appropriating physical technology, rather than the for life. Additionally, the customer is able to take pride in, ephemeral digital artifacts hidden behind the LCD screen. and feel empowered and encouraged by, the product. | 25
  22. 22. With this in mind, how do I define this ephemeral Identity, in its simplest form, is how we define our phrase, personal identity? What do I mean when I refer sense of self defines how we see and/or interpret and/ to one’s ‘sense of self?’ How does this definition relate to or comprehend the world around us. Identity colors our appropriation, and my case study of Steampunk? actions and scopes our interests. Identity and sense of self are large, they “contain multitudes,” to loosely quote This literature review section is divided into the following Whitman. However, I have come to realize that identity is sections: identity, appropriation, and Steampunk. Within in no way the same thing as sense of self. each section, I review pertinent resources and definitions in order to build my working definitions, which will, Identity is a representation of that self, but not necessarily once coupled with interviews and observations, help me the self itself. crystallize a design theory/framework about identity and the appropriation of technology. Identity According to my research, identity is a hot topic in the psychology, sociology, anthropology, folklore, and other related realms of study. As such, I have no intention of launching into a ground-breaking study about identity and technology. I am happy to rely on those who have come before me; they have a much stronger understanding I approached defining identity from two angles, the of identity and its importance. established everyday definition, and the established academic definitions. The everyday definition establishes a good working definition to then understand the technical Conceptualizing the Maker
  23. 23. use within psychology, anthropology, and folklore papers, is recognizable as a member of a group. (3) The which led to my definition of identity. quality or condition of being the same as something else. (4) The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity; individuality. (5) Everyday Definitions Information, such as an identification number, used to establish or prove a person’s individuality, When the general public wants to understand what as in providing access to a credit account. identity means, where do they turn? Being a member of the general public myself, I turned to what I always This definition emphasizes the importance of turn to when in doubt about the meaning of a word: the “distinction,” that is, a recognizable attribute about a dictionary. Given my experience with dictionaries, I have person which makes them different from others. It is, I realized that the definition varies depending on the source. assume, the way that helps us “identify” one another as separate persons in the first place. To triangulate the everyday definition of identity, I referenced the online Free Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster2: (1a) Sameness of essential the Oxford English Dictionary, and Wikipedia. or generic character in different instances. (1b) Sameness in all that constitutes the Below are my findings followed with a discussion behind objective reality of a thing: oneness. (2a) The why that particular definition relates personal identity and distinguishing character or personality of an appropriation. The emphasis is mine. individual: individuality. (2b) The relation established by psychological identification. Free Dictionary1: (1) The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively To have an “identity,” one must be an “individual” with at recognizable or known. (2) The set of behavioral least one “distinguishing characteristic or personality.” or personal characteristics by which an individual 1 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/identity 2 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/identity | 27
  24. 24. Oxford English Dictionary3: (1) The quality Why is this important? Because it showcases that even if a or condition of being the same in substance, person acts one way in a certain environment, e.g. work, composition, nature, properties, or in particular and a completely different way in another situation, e.g. qualities under consideration; absolute or essential home, they are the same person. The characteristics may sameness; oneness; absolute identity, that asserted in change depending on the environment, yet, there is still the metaphysical doctrine of Schelling that mind and the matter that the person defines him- or herself as him- matter are phenomenal modifications of the same or herself, and not anyone else. substance. (2) The sameness of a person or thing at all times or in all circumstances; the condition Wikipedia4 (philosophy): identity (also called or fact that a person or thing is itself and not sameness) is whatever makes an entity definable something else; individuality, personality; personal and recognizable, in terms of possessing a set identity (in Psychology), the condition or fact of of qualities or characteristics that distinguish remaining the same person throughout the various it from entities of a different type. Identity is phases of existence; continuity of the personality. whatever makes something same or different. Through the Oxford English Dictionary, we finally get The pattern these definitions form is that there must an explicit reference to personal identity, describing it as be some definite, recognizable detail, particular, the simple fact of “remaining the same person,” that is, a characteristic, etc, that allows us to say, without a doubt, certain “continuity of personality.” that he is he, she is she, and that this he-and-she is not another he-and-she. Wikipedia 5 (social science): an umbrella term 3 http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50111220?query_type=word&qu used throughout the social sciences to describe eryword=identity&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&result_ place=1&search_id=om2G-HMcDAB-17104&hilite=50111220 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_%28philosophy%29 5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Identity_%28social_science%29 Conceptualizing the Maker
  25. 25. an individual’s comprehension of him or had a different identity from the one you in fact herself as a discrete, separate entity. have—and one that you might have for a while and then lose: you could acquire a new individual Identity is about the individual. Identity is about the identity, or perhaps even get by without one. unique properties, qualities, characteristics that make one an autonomous entity. This is an interesting concept, because it shows that we define our own sense of identity. It is not only what makes you unique (that is, the unique properties, qualities, and Academic Definitions characteristics that make one an autonomous entity), but also how you interpret these properties, values, and According to the following academic definitions, there are convictions to define your identity. a number of theories about personal identity, one’s sense of self, etc. If discussing the self, in particular, Leary lists the different uses in the magazine Self and Identity, as shown below: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy6: Your identity in this sense consists roughly of what makes you 1. Self as synonym for person, unique as an individual and different from 2. Self as synonym for personality, others. Or it is the way you see or define yourself, 3. Self as self-as-knower, I-self, self-as-subject, or the network of values and convictions that structure your life. This individual identity is a 4. Self-as-known, me-self, self-as-object; i.e. the property (or set of properties). Presumably it is perceptions, thoughts, beliefs, evaluations and one you have only contingently—you might have feelings people have about themselves, and 5. Self as decision-maker and doer, the agentic ghost in the machine. 6 http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/ In the instance of this capstone, I will be utilizing the | 29
  26. 26. fourth definition, in which I will discuss self-as-known, interdependent identity. What is a community? It could or the self-as-object. I am interested in the perceptions, be considered a collection of individuals, in the way that thoughts, beliefs, evaluations, and feelings people have “personal identity is shaped from experiences that are about themselves than in their personality, etc. unique to the individual as well as from those common to a collection of individuals” (Oring). According to Markus and Kitayama, the self has two major “constructuals,” you can have an “independent” view of It seems to me that identity must be and is interdependent the self, or an “interdependent” view of self, which can as well as independent. When alone, I think, see, and “influence” and “determine” the “very nature of existence.” interpret myself and my actions in one way. However, The differences between these two constructuals are once in a social setting (i.e. I am no longer completely essentially (as found in a summary table on pg 230): alone), I interpret my thoughts and actions in relation to how I assume others may interpret them. As • Independent: internally-defined through thoughts such, my identity and understanding of myself shifts and feelings, separate from social context, bounded interdependently with the persons surrounding me. and stable, determined to be unique, etc That said, I agree that identity is a collection of • Interdependent: externally-defined through status characteristics, skills, qualities, etc, that make one an and relationships, connected with social context, entity, as with the common definitions. Since I also agree flexible and variable, determined to fit in, etc with the academic definitions about interdependency, especially as we are never truly alone but are members of That is to say, it is just as important to study the the culture in which we live, my definition of identity independent identity as it is to study the interdependent must keep this in mind. identity. In order to do this, it is important to look at the community that the individual belongs to, in order There is something to be said about having a collection to determine the influences that help determine the of qualities, experiences, etc, which are unique to an individual but also to a community of individuals, as Conceptualizing the Maker
  27. 27. Oring states. After all, “collective identity,” or the identity See the next page for a representation of this definition. of a community of individuals, is simply those “aspects With this definition of identity in mind, how do the of personal identity” derived from “experiences and artifacts in our lives reflect and influence it? Why do we expressions common to a group,” where the group is the choose these artifacts? What does it mean to appropriate? “intersection of personal identities and has no existence apart from the psyche of particular individuals (Oring). Appropriation Working Definition of Identity As with my definition of identity, I approached defining appropriation for this study from two angles, the everyday While writing this paper it was suggested that I read definition, and the definition used by the field of human- Hebdige and Turkle’s thoughts on the matter of identity computer interaction. The everyday definition establishes and technology. They are on my reading list, but in the a good working definition to then understand the meantime, I need a working definition of identity. technical use within human-computer interaction papers, which led me to my definition of appropriation. I am mainly focused on personal identity, rather than individual identity or communal identity, though they do have influencing roles. I do believe identity is about Everyday Definitions being unique, yet influenced by the community/culture. Therefore, my working definition of identity is: Similar to my method for defining identity, I triangulated definitions from Dictionary.com, the online Free Identity is the unique set of experiences, qualities, Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, the Oxford English characteristics, thoughts, behaviors, etc, that Dictionary, Wikipedia, and Wiktionary, in order to recognizably define an individual or collection of understand what it means to appropriate an object. individuals, and the relationships between them. | 31
  28. 28. Conceptualizing the Maker
  29. 29. Below are my findings followed with a discussion behind person’s personal identity? Are there ever appropriated why that particular definition relates personal identity and artifacts which do not influence/reflect personal identity? appropriation. The emphasis is mine. Free Dictionary:8 (1) To take for one’s own use, esp Dictionary.com7: adj (1) Suitable or fitting for illegally or without permission. (2) (Economics, a particular purpose, person, occasion, etc. (2) Accounting & Finance / Banking & Finance) To put Belonging to or peculiar to a person. v (3) aside (funds, etc.) for a particular purpose or person. To set apart, authorize, or legislate for some specific purpose or use. (4) To take to or for This definition is important because it highlights the oneself; take possession of. (5) To take without importance of the individual taking possession of an permission or consent; seize; expropriate. artifact without permission. Whose permission? In the (6) To steal, esp. to commit petty theft. everyday sense, it is perhaps the permission of the ‘original owner’ of the artifact. In terms of design, however, I read This definition of appropriation directly relates to the this to mean the designer of the artifact. individual, and therefore must be included in the factors contributing to my definition of appropriation. This That is, appropriation means to take an object for “one’s definition brought the following questions to mind: does own use” to use as one chooses “without the permission” it mean that by taking possession of an object, the object of the original designer, and disregarding the designer’s becomes particular to that person? If it does become intent. It is not to say that the designer forgot anything particular to that person, does this reflect a portion of said in the design, it is only to state that the user “understands 7 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/appropriate?db=luna 8 http://www.thefreedictionary.com/appropriate | 33
  30. 30. and is comfortable enough with the technology to use it in to another as an appendage. Obs. (6) To devote, their own way” (Dix). set apart, or assign to a special purpose or use. Const. to, for. (7) To assign or attribute as properly Merriam-Webster:9 (1) To take exclusive possession pertaining to; to attribute specially or exclusively. of: annex. (2) To set apart for or assign to arch. (8) To make, or select as, appropriate or a particular purpose or use. (3) To take or suitable to; to suit. arch. (9) To make proper, make use of without authority or right. to fashion suitably. (So Fr. approprier.) Obs. Merriam-Webster’s definition marks the importance of The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) begins to repeat redefining an object by “adapting” the “technology in some of the aforementioned definitions, primarily because ways never envisaged by the designers, or even deliberately the OED goes into the etymology and multiple definitions subverting the designer’s intentions” (Dix). of the word. It is the one of the most thorough resources in terms of word definitions. Therefore, it helps solidify Oxford English Dictionary 10: (1) To make (a thing) the idea that appropriation is about making the object the private property of any one, to make it over particular to a person, that it includes taking possession, to him as his own; to set apart. (2) Const. to and that it requires making the object suitable to a person. oneself: = next. (3) Hence ellipt. To take possession of for one’s own, to take to oneself. (4) Eccl. To Wikipedia11: Appropriation is the act of taking annex (a benefice) to some religious corporation, as possession of or assigning purpose to properties its property. (5) To allot, annex, or attach a thing or ideas and is important in many topics. Again, we have a definition where appropriation means 9 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/appropriate 10 http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/50010959?query_type=word&que 11 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appropriation ryword=appropriate&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&result_ place=2&search_id=YR1Y-4QkcEy-10313&hilite=50010959 Conceptualizing the Maker
  31. 31. assigning (or reassigning) the purpose of an object as it design: appropriation as temporal experience, and suits the owner. appropriation as adaptability. Wiktionary12: v (1) To make suitable; to suit. Appropriation as Temporal Experience — William Paley. (2) To take to one’s self in Based on readings from Adhe, McCarthy and Wright, and exclusion of others; to claim or use as by an Wakkary and Maestri, one can think of appropriation as exclusive right. (3) To set apart for, or assign the amount of time spent with an object. All three papers to, a particular person or use, in exclusion of all suggest there must be some sort of meaningful interaction others. (4) To annex, as a benefice, to a spiritual or experience with the object. corporation, as its property. –Blackstone. Adhe suggests the interaction/experience needs to Wiktionary’s definition is an excellent clarification be positive, whereas the other two papers make no because it refers to the “exclusive” right one has to take distinction. Indeed, not only does “the process of an object in a way that “suits” one’s needs. I would like to appropriation require pleasurable experiences,” the paper extrapolate this to more than how one needs, but also how also asserts that the “appropriation process is part of a one wants, and how one chooses to see and interact with biography of goods. It is part of the biography of the the world. products from the moment of purchase” (Ahde). McCarthy and Wright seem to have a similar definition, Human-computer Interaction Definitions saying that appropriation means “making an experience our own by relating it to our sense of self, our personal There are two major ideas of appropriation that I have history, and our anticipated future.” found within the field of human-computer interaction Wakkary and Maestri reference McCarthy and Wright by 12 http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/appropriate | 35
  32. 32. saying “we mean the remaking of something through a use know that technology has become the users’ own, that becomes personal, framed within our understanding not simply what the designer gave to them.” of our situation and our anticipated future.” March, Jacobs, and Salvador say that their focus for appropriation is on “openness, transparency and Appropriation as Adaptability adaptability.” Similarly, Salovaara says appropriation is Appropriation as adaptability and appropriation as when “users invent ways to use technology for purposes temporal experience are inextricably intertwined, therefore that they had not been considered before.” I do not want to say that the following quotations on adaptability are in contrast to temporal experience. With these two definitions in place, I have to first say that I do not believe one must have a positive experience in At the same time, however, their motivations are slightly order to appropriate an object. While a positive experience different. One cannot learn to adapt an object without helps, I feel one can appropriate something even under spending time with it, and without having an experience negative circumstances. which suggests adaptation is an option. For instance, how many of us hold on to our ‘lemon’ cars, As mentioned before, Dix has a definition which relates to perhaps, because of memorable road trips with family/ some of the everyday definitions of appropriation. friends, etc? Perhaps it was the first car we ever learned to “These improvisations and adaptations around drive, even though the bottom is rusted out. It does not technology are not a sign of failure, things the matter if the car is decrepit. In our mind, it is still that designer forgot, but show that the technology has shiny car our parents gave to us, or the first car we could been domesticated, that the users understand afford to buy with our own money. and are comfortable enough with the technology In that way, I agree with McCarthy and Wright in saying to use it in their own ways. At this point we that appropriation is when we “relate [the object] to our sense of self, our personal history.” In order to appropriate, Conceptualizing the Maker
  33. 33. | 37
  34. 34. the object must become a part of one’s personal narrative. As mentioned in my approach and methods section, I recognize that one can appropriate material (physical) and And how does one do that, exactly? Because it is not immaterial (digital) artifacts, yet, I choose to focus on the enough to simply bring the object into one’s life. That is physical because of the interesting and interactive dynamic not appropriation. That is possession. that occurs through creative appropriation. Appropriation, then, is when one uses the object “in their own way,” as according to Dix. It is when one “adapts,” as per March, Jacobs, and Salvador, the object to one’s life/ Overview task/style/etc. I especially like Salovaara’s appropriation, I began my research by reviewing existing literature. I i.e. using the object for something it hadn’t been read articles on appropriation, creativity, do-it-yourself, “considered before.” hacking, modification, enjoyment, and identity. It seems this is a fairly new trend in the interaction design Working Definition of Appropriation field, as many of these papers, especially in terms of creativity, do-it-yourself, hacking, and modification, were Therefore, by pulling keywords and phrases from the published in and around the 2009 SIGCHI conference. everyday and ACM definitions, I posit: I looked at multiple styles, methods, and mediums of Appropriation is the act of adapting an object to appropriation to understand the creative process behind oneself in a way that not only redefines the object, the act. I allowed anything from body tattoos to the re- but also relates the object to one’s sense of self. imagining of computer keyboards to inspire and inform The previous page is a representation of this definition. my understanding of how and why people appropriate. In order to understand how do-it-yourselfers and creative persons perceive themselves, the artifacts in their lives, Conceptualizing the Maker
  35. 35. and the relationship between the two, I utilized direct and resource for the actual creatives and do-it-yourselfers, indirect user research. as they gave me the opportunity to study the artifacts created, and how the creator introduced the artifact to In terms of direct user research, I performed potential customers. autoethnography, as I am a member of the creative, do-it-yourself population with an interest in historical Essentially every conversation I had about this project artifacts and modern technology. I appropriated safety turned into a design session, especially if it occurred goggles, bead containers, super glue and acrylic paint to in my bedroom where my whiteboard was available for create my own set of (fake) Steampunk-styled goggles. frenzied writing. I learned a lot from the questions people I collected clothing, keys, wrenches, brooches, etc, to asked me, as they revealed my own assumptions and create a Halloween costume where I adopted a Steampunk understanding of the world. Aside from conversations, researcher-scientist-explorer-extraordinaire persona. I utilized card sorting and affinity diagramming to help scope the opportunity space of this project, and my I utilized my elective ceramics course to explore the visual literature review, down to a manageable arena. aesthetic of Steampunk by reimagining a sewing machine in the style, and by creating an imaginary machine, The Although more literature could be read, more exemplars Lazarus, whose purpose was to transform Jell-O into found, and more user research conducted, what I have Jell-O cupcakes. accomplished helps frame the opportunity space for a theory about appropriation, identity, and artifacts. The For indirect research, I scoured online blogs, forums, hope is that this theory will lead to designs that exemplify Etsy merchant websites, and the independent Steampunk the theory, and provide a framework for fellow designers. Magazine for articles. The blogs, forums, and magazine articles proved to be a wonderful introduction to the Steampunk movement, as well as how the self-described Steampunks commented on themselves and the artifacts in their lives. The Etsy merchant websites were a great | 39
  36. 36. 3 Triangulating the Maker Conceptualizing the Maker
  37. 37. To begin my user research, I used an indirect approach Utilizing Google Alerts to scour the internet for any by looking at blogs and the independent, volunteer-run, article relating to the term “Steampunk,” I found potential Steampunk Magazine, for two reasons. interview subjects from the following websites: First, because this community of Steampunks is prolific • http://brassgoggles.co.uk/blog/ online; they write how-to articles, discuss how they • http://www.crabfu.com/ found Steampunk, what it means to them, encourage • http://www.drupagliassotti.com/ others to join the fold, and to spread the word of the newest creative venture that has taken everyone by storm, • http://www.ericfreitas.com/ among others. The persons involved in the blogs and • http://www.exoskeletoncabaret.com/ magazine tend to be a mixture of Steampunks from expert • http://herrdoktors.blogspot.com/ technicians to novice do-it-yourselfers. Due to the cosplay • http://steampunkscholar.blogspot.com/ nature of Steampunk, there is a level of semi-anonymity from either the Steampunk’s costume name, or associated • http://www.steampunkmagazine.com/ online identity. • http://www.steampunkworkshop.com/ From my indirect user research, I determined the Second, due to the open nature of the blog posts, blog Steampunks I wanted to speak to and observe belonged to comments, and magazine articles, I felt that scouring the following categories: these sources would give me a meaty understanding of the Steampunk community and movement, which would help • Artist: Skilled in imaginative, non-functioning me situate my role in the community, as a do-it-yourselfer art meant for personal satisfaction and as a researcher. It provided a solid foundation to • Cosplayer: Skilled in creating imaginative fashion, inform my primary research, by providing information assuming a fictional identity while dressing the part that helped me determine the type of questions I wanted to ask the Steampunks who would allow me to interview • Commentator: Interested in reporting trends, new and observe them. projects; the “town criers” of the community | 41
  38. 38. • Inventor: Skilled in imaginative, ringing a bell? How about Casper? Phillip Pullman’s His potentially functioning art meant for Dark Materials trilogy? The Prestige?” experimentation and/or exploration There is no one “true” definition of Steampunk, so it • Merchant: Interested in receiving is not surprising that when I speak of it, no one knows payment for services and/or products exactly what I am talking about. There is a general • Scholar: Interested in studying the consensus of when and how the term was created, phenomenon of Steampunk itself however. It began, firstly, as a literary movement in the My holistic understanding of the Steampunk community 1980s. K.W. Jeter, a “pioneer Cyberpunk author,” wrote in helped inform my autoethnography studies and direct user 1987 that, research, consisting of interviews. Personally, I think Victorian fantasies are going to be the next big thing, as long as we can come up with a fitting collective term Case Study: Steampunk for Powers, Blaylock, and myself. Something When mentioning Steampunk to someone who has never based on the appropriate technology of the era; heard of it, I tend to receive blank looks. “Stream-punk?” like ‘steampunks,’ perhaps… (Gross, C). they ask, their brows furrowed. After a brief explanation which generally includes some mention of brass goggles, According to Cory Gross, Steampunk is an “antiquated mad scientists, dirigibles, and corsets, I sometimes receive re-imagining of Cyberpunk set 100 years in the past rather a dawning expression as the other half of the conversation than 100 years in the future.” This is the literary tradition, exclaims, “Oh, you mean Victorian Punk.” perhaps, but what about the burgeoning movement that is “only chartable through mid-2006?” (Poeter). According “No,” I sigh, “Steampunk. Think… um… League of to the Steampunk Magazine, it is a “non-luddite critique Extraordinary Gentlemen, or Wild Wild West. No? Not of technology” (Catastrophone). Conceptualizing the Maker
  39. 39. The Steampunk Magazine, an Steampunk machines are real, breathing, independent, volunteer-run magazine coughing, struggling and rumbling parts of the highlighting fiction, how-to articles, music and movie reviews, etc, world. …Too much of what passes as Steampunk identifies with the “punk” as much as denies the punk, in all of its guises. with the “steam” technology. Punk—the fuse for lighting cannons. Some claim that Steampunk is a way of “creating sublime awe within an Punk—the downtrodden and dirty. Punk— apathetic, overly connected, jaded the aggressive, do-it-yourself ethic. culture” (Hell). Still others say that Catastrophone, 2007 it is “popular now because people are unconsciously realizing that the way we live has already died. We The Arts and Crafts Movement of Morris wished, to create “a thing of are sleepwalking” and too reliant on the 19th Century was a rebuttal beauty and a joy forever” (Verbeek). technology (Sterling). to the dangers of “standardization Luckily for Steampunks, they are and mechanization,” from both an “equipped with a number of creative In this way, Steampunk is, in “aesthetic and social” standpoint tools and approaches” that the Arts fact, a “non-luddite critique of (Verbeek). The point of the and Crafts movers and shakers never technology.” It is, for the crafters, do- movement was to “produce artifacts could have imagined, such as “design it-yourselfers, and inventors drawn that were both useful and beautiful” software, fabricators, Instructables to the aesthetic, a “counterculture (Verbeek). In this way, the crafters, videos, websites, wikis, cellphones, Arts and Crafts Movement in a 21st do-it-yourselfers, and inventors who search engines and Etsy.com” Century guise” (Sterling). utilize the Steampunk aesthetics (Sterling). to redefine modern computing technology are doing just as William | 43
  40. 40. I look at the crafting aspects of Steampunk because to Steampunk. This is why Steampunk is fascinating. It “learning, creativity, practical problem-solving, perception, is a “physical, hands-on subculture,” which, as I said in and action are central” to understanding the process of my Prior Work section, is highly important to me as a appropriation, and all these concepts are necessary to tactile person. Is the fact that these creative appropriations accomplish a Steampunk technological appropriation. occur on physical artifacts an important insight? I am not (Salovaara). sure. But I do know that I love the fact that the “lifestyle encourages people to think creatively” (Bulloff ). Appropriation, from a completely aesthetic Steampunk standpoint, critiques the current designs of technology because it uses “a shiny, polished chromium surface” that Autoethnography looks “worn out with the first scratch,” as opposed to a material that may “become more beautiful when it has In terms of doing primary design research, I utilized been used for some time,” like “leather” (Verbeek). my sketch book to work through my thoughts in the form of sketchnotes, as found in the appendix. I also By appropriating artifacts, i.e. by making these artifacts performed autoethnography, which, as described by Spry, personal, we are less likely to throw them away in search is a “self-narrative that critiques the situatedness of self of something newer and better. This is what draws me with others in social contexts.” This fits in with my social “Steampunk’s key lessons are not about the past. They are about the instability and obsolescence of our own times. A host of artifacts and services that we see each day all around us are not sustainable.” Sterling, 2009 Conceptualizing the Maker
  41. 41. constructivist understanding of the world, for, as Duncan said, there is “no one right form of knowledge, and multiple viewpoints are acknowledged and valued.” This autoethnography was performed during my third semester as a graduate student in the Human Computer Interaction Design program at Indiana University. I was taking my first ceramics course, a design theory course, I was an assistant instructor and a mentor for the first year students. I wanted to dive into the Steampunk culture, and, taking my own advice to the first year students, spent much of my time photo-documenting my process and blogging my thoughts. I chose to do autoethnography because I am already involved in the crafting and DIY movements that also define a large portion of the Steampunk population. By adapting my interest in historical fashion, science fiction, and DIY crafting, I hoped to gain additional insights into the overlap between the act of appropriation and identity through my experiences. I read every available Steampunk Magazine issue, which is the independent, self-proclaimed magazine of the Steampunk culture. This was familiarize myself with the “big names” in the culture, the vernacular, interests, | 45
  42. 42. From doing this activity, I realized that I relied on the knowledge I had in order to create the goggles. That is to say, I gathered materials I was familiar with, and utilized my previous knowledge of crafting in order to create me goggles. Therefore, it seems that what a person brings to the object that is to be appropriated (safety goggles and bead containers in this instance) is paramount. Creative appropriation and concerns of the individuals and gathered the following materials and utilizes existing knowledge. community. Funnily enough, it turns transformed them into a set of fake out I had far more in common than Steampunk goggles. It also seems to me as though with the Steampunks than I thought. • Safety goggles • Bead containers Do-it-yourself • Super glue To situate myself in the Steampunk • Acrylic paint do-it-yourself creative movement, I • Time Conceptualizing the Maker
  43. 43. appropriation is very much the role of Lady Almyra Gunn, for some semblance of truth. I am something that can be taught. I grew Steampunk Researcher, Scientist, and an explorer, because I do not know up in a household where we built Explorer Extraordinaire. where this capstone project is taking anything we absolutely could not buy, me. So, even though I was playing a in order to save money. This included This exercise was to determine character, that character was still very office furniture, kitchen tables, media what it felt like to play the role of a much me. centers, etc. Having grown up in Steampunk. The majority of clothing a firmly established do-it-yourself for the costume was pulled from Role-playing allows for household, I have been unafraid my closet, as I tend to own a lot of creative freedom because to try new things by using familiar military-style jackets, vests, etc. As it bypasses social norms. patterns from previous projects. I such, I felt comfortable even though I was playing a role. I did buy some In addition to the above insight, recognize this same trait in my three vintage lockets and old keys to cosplay is just plain fun. And who younger siblings. dangle from my costume, and used doesn’t like to have fun? Creative appropriation is a childhood gift from my father, not intrinsic to a certain a Nigerian purse, to solidify my personality, it can be taught. explorer role. Creative Aesthetic Modification Why did I choose the role of a I used my elective ceramics course researcher, scientist, and explorer? I to explore the Steampunk visual Costume Play (Cosplay) chose that multi-faceted role because aesthetic by imagining how a sewing Another facet of the Steampunk that is who I am. I am a researcher machine would look. While painting movement is costume-play, also on the hunt of Steampunks because the machine, I imagined where it known as cosplay. I put my fake they creatively appropriate. I am would rust due to water exposure, Steampunk goggles to use for my a scientist, because I like to find where the pipes would have to run in Halloween costume, where I assumed patterns and be rigorous in my hunt order to keep the steam moving, etc. | 47
  44. 44. Conceptualizing the Maker
  45. 45. Obviously, this machine does not actually work, since it is ceramic, i.e. glass. That said, it was fun pushing my imagination to see what I could come up with while maintaining a recognizable shape and function. It is a rewarding challenge to create something that retains a recognizable aspect. There is a lot of care, struggle, frustration, and patience that goes into creative works. It is because of the struggle that it means something in the long-run. I have memories of my sewing machine cracking straight down the middle, the terror and panic that ensued, and the resulting relief and pride that came from solving the problem. Problems are tolerable if there is a perceived solution. | 49
  46. 46. Picture on page 49 is my non-functioning machine I • It is a rewarding challenge to create something dubbed The Lazarus, whose sole purpose is to transform that retains a recognizable shape and function. Jell-O into Jell-O cupcakes, a dessert my mother and I • Problems are tolerable if there make for any and every celebratory occasion. While this is a perceived solution. machine does not work and is not based off any existing • Creative appropriation puts oneself into the object. machine, it has significant meaning to me. • It is the first ceramics project that went as planned. Steampunk Interviews • It is meant to serve the dessert that makes me think of my mother. I wanted a nice mix of persons who could give me their individual thoughts and opinions in order to get the • It is a very Binaebi-distinct design, because heartbeat of the Steampunk culture. I attempted to the handles, “pipes,” lettering, etc, are motifs contact each of the following Steampunk categories: found in my other artwork pieces. • Creative appropriation puts oneself into the object. • Artist: Skilled in imaginative, non-functioning The insights I gathered, therefore, from my art meant for personal satisfaction autoethnographic exercises, as listed. • Cosplayer: Skilled in creating imaginative fashion, assuming a fictional identity while dressing the part • Creative appropriation utilizes existing • Commentator: Interested in reporting trends, new knowledge from the creative appropriator. projects; the “town criers” of the community • Creative appropriation is not intrinsic to • Inventor: Skilled in imaginative, a certain personality, it can be taught. potentially functioning art meant for • Role-playing allows for creative freedom experimentation and/or exploration because it rejects social norms. • Merchant: Interested in receiving payment for services and/or products Conceptualizing the Maker
  47. 47. • Scholar: Interested in studying the interview took anywhere from half an hour to two phenomenon of Steampunk itself hours, depending on the interview subject’s interest and Unfortunately, due to the limited time period of the study, availability. I had hoped to get some observations, but I was only able to get in contact with artists, cosplayers, it wasn’t possible given my location, and my interview inventors, and merchants. subjects’ availability. Information was gathered using interviews. Interviews I engaged in semi-structured interviews, meaning there took place over Gtalk, Skype, phone, or in-person, was a list of questions available, but the structure was whichever was most convenient for the subject. The primarily conversational. Each interview began with | 51
  48. 48. general questions about the subject’s understanding and interpretation of Steampunk, how they came to that conclusion, etc. From there, I asked about the subject’s role in the Steampunk culture. Since the subject was an artist, cosplayer, inventor, and/ or merchant, then the interview discussed tools, projects, materials, etc, how it related to the subject’s understanding and interpretation of Steampunk, and how it helped the subject define their personal identity, if it did. I recorded the interviews using audio recording tools, and/or video recording software. I also took sketchnotes and asked for copies of any documentation the subject collected about their creative process. When I had completed the nine interviews, I applied grounded theory to the information. I used grounded theory because I didn’t want to label the information as I thought they should be, rather, I wanted the information to speak for itself. I pulled out the relevant quotations, one quote per index card. I then sorted the cards according to the perceived topic, creating a large affinity diagram to determine the emergent topics. I didn’t trust my first round, however, Conceptualizing the Maker
  49. 49. | 53
  50. 50. because I went to abstract too quickly. This was worrisome topics pulled from these affinity diagram exercises are how because I didn’t want to miss an important emergent I have organized the direct quotes from the interviews. topic because of my bias in knowing too much about the Steampunk culture, the theory of personal identity, and Each interview subject had a slant on Steampunk, making, the HCI understanding of appropriation. personal identity, etc, specific to their personal history. I didn’t want to discount any topics that would come from To combat this bias, I did another affinity diagram looking at the overall interview, and not just the words exercise with the same cards, this time having my younger that were spoken. With the quotes organized, I went back brother read each card and sort it according to topic. to my original notes from the interviews and asked the Because he didn’t have the bias I had, the topics were more holistic question, “What is this about?” varied, more comprehensive, and more inclusive. The Conceptualizing the Maker
  51. 51. I sketched out the holistic emergent topics from each With all this said, I’d like to analyze the intertextuality of interview onto an 18” by 24” piece of paper. The topics what the interview subjects said. The categories for the were interrelated, as represented by the arrows. Each topic quotes were as follows, listed from most-to-least discussed: was coded with a number, the number representing the number of arrows pointing to/from the topic. Community; learning/sharing/problem-solving; unique/individual (story); drawn to unique With each topic so coded, I typed them into a spreadsheet. things; creative tools; mechanical comprehension; The spreadsheet was organized with the rows being the craft vs. art vs. …?; inspirational source; what topics, and the columns being the numbers corresponding is Steampunk?; material knowledge; creativity; to each interview subject. the importance of DOING; discovery; creative process; negative use of “punk”. I totaled the numbers per topic. The top 25 topics were chosen as being the most relevant to this study. I The names have been changed to preserve anonymity. put each topic onto a sticky note, and created another affinity diagram of the top 25 topics, only to discover that the central theme of the interviews came down to the question, “What if?” This seems like an obvious question, something not worth “The thread that connects us noting, right? I argue that this is a different kind of what is that we didn’t discover what if, because its topic of interest is modern computing technology. What if I didn’t have to leave the computer to be interested in, we just as it was when I bought it? What if I wanted to have a got a name for our interest.” computer as imagined by the Victorians? What if I like velvets and hardwood detailing? Walt W. | 55
  52. 52. To give you some context to the selected quotations, I Community have listed the anonymous names with their self-selected There was an emphasis on the importance of sharing. categorization, which I happen to agree with, as well as According to Mary, it’s “rare to find someone with like how long they estimate being an explicit member of the interests,” especially when, as put by Margaret, “we live Steampunk community. isolated lives now.” The common thread among all the interviews was the fact that the Steampunks tended to I say explicit because it of the Steampunks I spoke to, feel disconnected from their neighbors and co-workers. they all felt they had been doing some sort of Steampunk With the shared Steampunk interest, there is a “feeling of variation for most of their creative lives, but now have a exploration,” a “point of discussion.” name to go with it. Name Category Duration Herman M. Merchant Three years Louisa A. Cosplayer Two years Lucy M. Cosplayer Eight months Edgar P. Inventor/Merchant Three years (unofficially Eighteen years) Mary S. Artist/Merchant Six months Harriet S. Cosplayer/Merchant One year Margaret F. Artist (digital) Three years Charlotte B. Cosplayer Two years Walt W. Inventor/Artist Three years (unofficially Thirty-Six years) *Those of you who have guessed at my naming structure get a cookie for being a fellow nerd. Conceptualizing the Maker
  53. 53. Edgar: “The Steampunk community is Edgar: “If the true Steampunk fans think open, friendly. You can’t have Steampunk you’re a poser, you’ve lost credibility.” without science fiction nerds, freaks, geeks, weirdos… all together, they’re cool.” Margaret: “I want to know what others are doing, and that they know what I’m doing. I like to Mary: “This is a rich culture of know that what I’m doing isn’t in a vacuum.” artists, actors, tinkerers.” “People are learning they have talent.” Edgar P. Margaret: “I don’t know my neighbors… Until searching for Steampunk online, many of my it would be weird to knock on their interview subjects were doing these modifications/ door and speak to them.” creations because these topics of science fiction, alternative histories, Victorian interpretations, modifications, etc, Walt: “If I could only keep one thing, it would were interesting, rather than trendy. be the friends I’ve made while doing this.” Margaret: “I just want to connect. You It was through their involvement with the online can get involved in Steampunk without Steampunk community that encouraged the Steampunks making your life more complicated.” to be “deliberate” rather than “casual” about their “modifications.” | 57
  54. 54. “[Today’s tech] is so boring-looking!” Lucy M. There are elitists within the community, but they were An interesting insight from all of this is that the internet dismissed by my interview subjects. brought these people together; they are from all over the Western world and tinker in their homes and garages. It Edgar: “There aren’t many Steampunk elitists. was made clear to me by almost every interview subject They take the fun out of Steampunk!” that without the internet, he or she never would have known about Steampunk. Why would they? It’s a spin-off My interview subjects also spoke about outside opinions of a niche literary genre that was popular in the 1980s. about the Steampunk community, and how it is more accepting of Steampunk than other communities and cultures perceived as “niche.” Learning/sharing/problem-solving This could be considered a sub-topic to the community Edgar: “When together, Steampunks topic. This topic is important because the Steampunk are cool to everyone; not a menace community is peopled with tinkerers, yes, but tinkerers the way society sees Goth.” who share their process. This is where we begin to see delineation between crafters, artists, and makers, which I Walt: “We’re loners. We like autonomy. We will go into a bit later in this paper. don’t want to be in charge, we just want to be.” Margaret: “My hobby is to read how-to articles Edgar: “Even if people don’t love online. ...Steampunk is full of people saying ‘hey, Steampunk, they tend not to shun it.” do this. See how I did this.’ ...I’m not the kind of person to make something and keep it to myself.” Conceptualizing the Maker
  55. 55. Harriet: “I’m always interested Charlotte: “I have a tendency to learn trades that to see what others make.” aren’t viable anymore. By teaching, I get to feed off the conversation of another’s creativity.” There is a feedback loop within the community that comes from sharing techniques. This loop is fostered and Margaret: “It wasn’t until I saw someone else encouraged by Steampunks, as is this pervasive mood of do it that I thought I could learn to do it.” exploration, innovation, and experimentation. This is why the blogs, forums, and websites are imperative to the Louisa: “You can tell what the good explosion and nurturing of Steampunk; it requires the ideas are because everyone does it.” interest of people who want to learn and do more. Edgar: “You are not evolving as an artist Walt: “Showing your technique comes from unless you are teaching someone else.” open source geek and maker culture.” Mary: “When you teach someone, you open their Harriet: “I like that, I’m gonna eyes creatively. …I make things to teach/publish try that, I’m gonna do it.” so others are excited to make, teach, create.” “It’s sad that the computer is this lump of beige plastic and metal. It should look like its importance.” Walt W. | 59

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