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Computational Craft: Lessons from Playful Experiences at the Intersection of HCI, Textiles, and Games


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Traditional handcrafts provide a rich domain for exploring new kinds of playable and computational experience. There is significant shared history and conceptual overlap between computer science and fiber-based crafts such as quilting and embroidery. This talk presents three projects that sit at the intersection of games, textiles, and computer science: 1) Threadsteading is a game designed and played on computerized quilting and embroidery machines; 2) eBee is a collaborative strategy game that merges electronics and quilts; 3) Hoopla is an interactive, procedural embroidery generator. These projects share common threads such as bridging the digital and the physical, questioning authorship and creativity, exploring new modes of interaction, and disrupting the gendered assumptions associated with computation and craft.

Published in: Technology
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Computational Craft: Lessons from Playful Experiences at the Intersection of HCI, Textiles, and Games

  1. 1. Computational Craft
 Lessons from Playful Experiences at the Intersection of HCI, Textiles, and Games Gillian Smith Northeastern University @gillianmsmith
  2. 2. background ➤ computer science ➤ artificial intelligence ➤ human-computer interaction ➤ beyond computer science ➤ fiber arts ➤ jewelry ➤ history ➤ language ➤ play ➤ music
  3. 3. why craft? ➤ tangible, tactile ➤ rooted in old traditions ➤ feminine and feminist practice ➤ intergenerational ➤ storytelling ➤ aesthetic importance
  4. 4. craft as play
  5. 5. craft as play
  6. 6. craft and gender
  7. 7. craft and computation
  8. 8. example projects textiles computationplay threadsteading hooplaeBee
  9. 9. eBee 2016 Most Innovative Tabletop Game Award
  10. 10. ebee game ➤ connect patches ➤ build circuits ➤ light up LEDs ➤ team-based play ➤ collaborative and co-operative modes
  11. 11. value-driven design ➤ social ➤ collaborative ➤ creative ➤ intergenerational
  12. 12. affordance-driven design ➤ tactile ➤ simple ➤ borrowing motifs ➤ aesthetics
  13. 13. bridging crafting and making ➤ laser cut pieces ➤ soft circuits ➤ traditional quilting techniques ➤ hand- and machine-sewing
  14. 14. design accidents ➤ from workshop design to board game ➤ educational game
  15. 15. lessons learned
  16. 16. hoopla
  17. 17. human-computer authorship ➤ quotes pulled from online source ➤ keyword-driven color palette ➤ build keyword set ➤ generate collections ➤ human stitching
  18. 18. craft as computation ➤ algorithmic ➤ rendering process ➤ symbolic ➤ formal
  19. 19. computation as craft ➤ labor-intensive ➤ aesthetically-oriented decisions ➤ reflective ➤ shared authorship
  20. 20. generative design as formalism ➤ what is an embroidery sampler? ➤ curation of sets
  21. 21. public-facing ➤ what do individuals find compelling ➤ ephemeral nature of generated art
  22. 22. threadsteading
  23. 23. game for embroidery machines?! ➤ …and also for quilting machines ➤ strategy-based play ➤ machine stitches play-trace
  24. 24. affordance-driven design: machine ➤ slow play ➤ unknown score ➤ limit sewing back over spaces ➤ single unbroken line
  25. 25. affordance-driven design: medium ➤ even density ➤ hexagon motif ➤ storytelling
  26. 26. permanent traces of gameplay ➤ visualize the “story” of play ➤ commitment to making a move
  27. 27. play as generative design ➤ mechanics chosen for desired aesthetics ➤ players as enactors of rules ➤ many emergent maps ➤ player-executed procedural content generation
  28. 28. gender and computing ➤ computing in unexpected locations ➤ automation of highly gendered activity ➤ software for embroidery/quilting ➤ what else can we make?
  29. 29. craft, computation, and play
  30. 30. finding new audiences…
  31. 31. …and broadening horizons
  32. 32. adopting new technologies…
  33. 33. …and respecting old ones
  34. 34. Acknowledgments ebee team: Celia Pearce, Isabella Carlsson, Jeanie Choi threadsteading team: Jim McCann, Lea Albaugh, April Grow, Chenxi Liu computational craft: Anne Sullivan, Josh Tanenbaum, Karen Tanenbaum funding: Science Gallery Dublin, Disney Research Pittsburgh, Northeastern University College of Arts, Media, and Design @gillianmsmith