Critical Making

I am not sure whether it was specifically the content of the article, or the fact that it was what I chose to first read that made it so appealing to me, but I really enjoyed Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life.

Critical making emphasizes the shared acts of making rather than the evocative object. The final prototypes are not intended to be displayed and to speak for themselves. Instead, they are considered a means to an end, and achieve value though the act of shared construction, joint conversation, and reflection. Therefore, while critical making organizes its efforts around the making of material objects, devices themselves are not the ultimate goal. Instead, through the sharing of results and an ongoing critical analysis of materials, designs, constraints, and outcomes, participants in critical making exercises together perform a practice-based engagement with pragmatic and theoretical issues (253).

Under the broad theme of Energy Futures, I participated in a Semester in Dialogue, where we had to learn about how to facilitate and mediate dialogue situations regarding the aforementioned topic. One practice that we undertook was making – in our case, unlike the examples provided by the authors we did not create active objects, but did provide and use materials to help our participants engage with the concepts we were discussing (—without the same amount of thought and practice as the author illustrates – we were playing with methods of engagement).

Like many I find that application and practice aid in my ability to learn and “see” what I am trying to understand. Ratto emphasizes this stating, “…my goal is to make concepts more apprehendable, to bring them in ways to the body, not only the brain, and to leverage student and researchers personal experiences to make new connections between the lived space of the body and the conceptual space of scholarly knowledge” (254). As such, ” the act of shared construction itself as an activity and a site for enhancing and extending conceptual understandings of critical sociotechnical issues”(254).

The article aided me in digesting the CTMS text because it spoke to the concepts discussed. For example in Chapter 5 – Body, it emphasizes how the body is always our most fundamental medium of experience (34) but also discusses the process of naturalization (21) that occurs or can occur culturally in our perception of body as object or in naturalizing ones own embodiment so that it is unrecognized, or in Chapter  7- Time and Space,  where the differentiation is described as,  “Space is the intuitive framework for “outer” experiences while time is the dimension of “inner experiences (103).  In Ratto’s article,  as the author goes through examples of what worked and what didn’t work (Distance education and the drawbot vs. FlwrPwr and network/social organization),  and material/conceptual engagement,  it helped me with the dualisms of  cognition/sensation, technology/society, mind/body, active/passive, time/space, that are present this week. In regards to the making activity of the Flwr Pwr , he states, “The ways that the flwrs “pushed back” and did not always do exactly what their authors intended, rather than being an issue, gave added weight to the relationship between person and technology”, and the transition of that relationship, “… [F]rom a “matter of fact” into a “matter of concern” (259).

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