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From theory to
making, and
back again …
or, approaches to thinking critically and
sustainably with digital things.
kat bra...
— Chris Csikszentmihályi, director
MIT Centre for Future Civic Media
“All over what is called the Global South there
are m...
3
4
5
6
7
8Image Sources: Kramer, Kenneth,
Dedrick, Jason; Sharma, Prakul;
Say Chan, Anita.
FIRST, how can we better correlate the making of
objects with critical reflection about their effects?
SECOND, how can we en...
From reflecting on hacker
cultures with hackers…
11
and recording their
experiences of
making things…
to making things
with them…
and from bringing
makers together…
14
to publishing things
about making…
15
to reflecting
with networks…
and making things
with teachers.
How can we explain the disjuncture between making
things and critically understanding their effects --
especially the envir...
APPROACH #1: Providing freedom
to make objects without criticality.
From Silicon Valley…
To the upper echelons of global policy.
-- Dr Hamadoun Touré,
Secretary-General of the International
Telecommunication Uni...
So what, exactly, is wrong here?
-- Judy Wajcman
“Such depictions of a proximate sociotechnical
future are far from innocent. We are in fact
being mobilize...
corporations rewriting actual
community histories…
like these ones in 1970s London.
— Chris Csikszentmihályi, director
MIT Centre for Future Civic Media
“All over what is called the Global South there
are m...
jugaad: an innovative fix or simple work-around,
building solutions that bend rules through making.
— Richard Stallman
…versus “a hacker, someone who
explores the limits of what is possible
in a spirit of playful clevernes...
jugaad in practice…
Source: Critical
Making, Garnet Hertz.
and who is not invited to the
West’s making revolution?
35
37
Source: Mark Graham, OII.
38
39
— Mark Graham, Stefano De Sabbata and Matthew A. Zook,
Oxford Internet Institute and University of Kentucky.
”We find few s...
Meanwhile, an elephant…
Source: Maxwell, Richard and Toby Miller.
“E-Waste: The Elephant in the Living Room”.
Critical Mak...
Source: ifixit.
APPROACH #2: Critical study of the social
constructions of objects, and their effects.
APPROACH #1: Providing the freedom t...
Science and Technology Studies:
Digital objects as inherently social.
Judy Wacjman, Bruno Latour, John
Law, Donna Haraway,...
— Donna Haraway
“If technology, like language, is a form of life,
we cannot afford to believe there is neutrality
in its co...
Actor Network Theory (ANT): All subjects act
through webs of sociotechnical interaction,
from humans to lobsters to machin...
-- John Law, "Actor Network Theory
and Material Semiotics", 2009.
…”all actants in a social interaction can express
power ...
challenging the assumptions underlying
deterministic narratives of human-
centered interactions with technology…
Criticality through art: Psychogeography,
Situationism and Relational Aesthetics. Source: Adam Barr
Source: Ward Shelley
Source: Superstudio
Superstudio: “Cubic spaces
built for city wanders”
Source: Guy Debord
Situationism: “Creating
places of play and pleasure”
Sources: Berlin Biennale, Claire
Bishop, Jacques Ranciere
Relational Aesthetics: “Sociable
encounters for new kinds of int...
APPROACH #3: Criticality through making.
APPROACH #2: Critical study of the social
constructions of objects, and their effe...
56
Critical Design: Challenging the
materialistic and the commercial.
Source: Luiza Prado
57
“Critical design is related to haute couture,
concept cars, design propaganda, and visions
of the future, but its purpo...
58
Source: Citris Invention
Lab
Critical Making: Integrating theory
with hands-on technologies.
59
60
Source:
mozfestartofweb.tumblr.
61
Source: Tate Digital
Studio
Are conditions of learning, power and access changed in a
machine “space within a space” at...
62
63
"When we maintain, resell and make
together, we create local value in a
throw-away economy where many
things are manufa...
APPROACH #3: Criticality through making.
APPROACH #2: Critical study of the social
constructions of objects, and their effe...
65
Thank you for listening!
Let’s talk more @codekat.
Sketching activity! Think of the last
object you either a) used, or ...
RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustai...
RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustai...
RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustai...
RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustai...
RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustai...
RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustai...
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RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustainably with things.

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Guest Lecture // Royal College of Art's Design Products MFA series "Exploring Emergent Futures":

“What is called ‘making’ in North America and Europe,” he said, “is, frankly, a luxurious pastime of wealthy people... all over what is called the Global South there are makers everywhere, only they are not called makers. There are fab labs everywhere, only they are not called fab labs.”

— Chris Csikszentmihályi, director MIT Centre for Future Civic Media

What’s happening here? And how can we fix this? This presentation is a call for new perspectives on making that are critical, hands-on and research-based – helping us think both *through* and *with* objects to bring about fundamental + sustainable lifestyle alternatives. It looks at different theoretical approaches to machine materiality, from hacking to social science and "jugaad" to psychogeography, and from Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics, to Situationism and Relational Aesthetics, to Critical Making and Critical Design.

It also asks two big questions that have been nagging at me from my own experiences with community making + fabrication.

First, how can we better correlate the making of objects with critical reflection about their effects?

Second, how can we engage in sustainable making (both environmental and social) without producing material excesses or disempowering lesser-served communities?

*** Note: This version does not include full lecture notes or further sources for reading. If you'd like either, feel free to get in touch @codekat as I'm happy to share these. ****

Published in: Technology
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RCA Design Products Guest Lecture: From theory to making and back again – or, approaches to thinking critically and sustainably with things.

  1. 1. From theory to making, and back again … or, approaches to thinking critically and sustainably with digital things. kat braybrooke | @codekat
  2. 2. — Chris Csikszentmihályi, director MIT Centre for Future Civic Media “All over what is called the Global South there are makers everywhere, only they are not called makers. There are fab labs everywhere, only they are not called fab labs…”  
  3. 3. 3
  4. 4. 4
  5. 5. 5
  6. 6. 6
  7. 7. 7
  8. 8. 8Image Sources: Kramer, Kenneth, Dedrick, Jason; Sharma, Prakul; Say Chan, Anita.
  9. 9. FIRST, how can we better correlate the making of objects with critical reflection about their effects? SECOND, how can we engage in sustainable making (both environmental and social) without producing material excesses or disempowering lesser-served communities?
  10. 10. From reflecting on hacker cultures with hackers…
  11. 11. 11 and recording their experiences of making things…
  12. 12. to making things with them…
  13. 13. and from bringing makers together…
  14. 14. 14 to publishing things about making…
  15. 15. 15 to reflecting with networks…
  16. 16. and making things with teachers.
  17. 17. How can we explain the disjuncture between making things and critically understanding their effects -- especially the environmental and the social? Those questions again…
  18. 18. APPROACH #1: Providing freedom to make objects without criticality.
  19. 19. From Silicon Valley…
  20. 20. To the upper echelons of global policy. -- Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union “…all the world’s citizens will [now] have the potential to … contribute to and enjoy all the benefits of the knowledge society.”
  21. 21. So what, exactly, is wrong here?
  22. 22. -- Judy Wajcman “Such depictions of a proximate sociotechnical future are far from innocent. We are in fact being mobilized as a resource…”
  23. 23. corporations rewriting actual community histories…
  24. 24. like these ones in 1970s London.
  25. 25. — Chris Csikszentmihályi, director MIT Centre for Future Civic Media “All over what is called the Global South there are makers everywhere, only they are not called makers. There are fab labs everywhere, only they are not called fab labs…”  
  26. 26. jugaad: an innovative fix or simple work-around, building solutions that bend rules through making.
  27. 27. — Richard Stallman …versus “a hacker, someone who explores the limits of what is possible in a spirit of playful cleverness.”
  28. 28. jugaad in practice…
  29. 29. Source: Critical Making, Garnet Hertz.
  30. 30. and who is not invited to the West’s making revolution?
  31. 31. 35
  32. 32. 37 Source: Mark Graham, OII.
  33. 33. 38
  34. 34. 39
  35. 35. — Mark Graham, Stefano De Sabbata and Matthew A. Zook, Oxford Internet Institute and University of Kentucky. ”We find few signs of global information peripheries achieving comparable levels of participation with traditional information cores…”
  36. 36. Meanwhile, an elephant… Source: Maxwell, Richard and Toby Miller. “E-Waste: The Elephant in the Living Room”. Critical Making. Hollywood: Garnet Herz, 2012.
  37. 37. Source: ifixit.
  38. 38. APPROACH #2: Critical study of the social constructions of objects, and their effects. APPROACH #1: Providing the freedom to make objects, but no criticality… Source: Kai Loffelbein
  39. 39. Science and Technology Studies: Digital objects as inherently social. Judy Wacjman, Bruno Latour, John Law, Donna Haraway, Lucy Suchman, Susana Nascimento, Adrian Smith…
  40. 40. — Donna Haraway “If technology, like language, is a form of life, we cannot afford to believe there is neutrality in its constitution and sustenance…”
  41. 41. Actor Network Theory (ANT): All subjects act through webs of sociotechnical interaction, from humans to lobsters to machines.
  42. 42. -- John Law, "Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics", 2009. …”all actants in a social interaction can express power relations, symbolize social hierarchies, reinforce inequalities and objectify”.
  43. 43. challenging the assumptions underlying deterministic narratives of human- centered interactions with technology…
  44. 44. Criticality through art: Psychogeography, Situationism and Relational Aesthetics. Source: Adam Barr
  45. 45. Source: Ward Shelley
  46. 46. Source: Superstudio Superstudio: “Cubic spaces built for city wanders”
  47. 47. Source: Guy Debord Situationism: “Creating places of play and pleasure”
  48. 48. Sources: Berlin Biennale, Claire Bishop, Jacques Ranciere Relational Aesthetics: “Sociable encounters for new kinds of interaction”
  49. 49. APPROACH #3: Criticality through making. APPROACH #2: Critical study of the social constructions of objects, and their effects. APPROACH #1: Providing the freedom to make objects without criticality…
  50. 50. 56 Critical Design: Challenging the materialistic and the commercial. Source: Luiza Prado
  51. 51. 57 “Critical design is related to haute couture, concept cars, design propaganda, and visions of the future, but its purpose is not to present the dream of industry… its purpose is to stimulate discussion and debate.” Source: Berlin Biennale — Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, 2001
  52. 52. 58 Source: Citris Invention Lab Critical Making: Integrating theory with hands-on technologies.
  53. 53. 59
  54. 54. 60 Source: mozfestartofweb.tumblr.
  55. 55. 61 Source: Tate Digital Studio Are conditions of learning, power and access changed in a machine “space within a space” at a cultural institution?
  56. 56. 62
  57. 57. 63 "When we maintain, resell and make together, we create local value in a throw-away economy where many things are manufactured far away…” — Janet Gunter, Restart Project
  58. 58. APPROACH #3: Criticality through making. APPROACH #2: Critical study of the social constructions of objects, and their effects… APPROACH #1: Providing the freedom to make objects without criticality…
  59. 59. 65 Thank you for listening! Let’s talk more @codekat. Sketching activity! Think of the last object you either a) used, or b) designed…

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