CRIT, along with its sponsors from the National Science Foundation and the Intel Science and Technology Center for Social Computing, is hosting a conference, Making Subjects. The conference web site can be found here, and a description of the conference follows:
Over the course of its 30+ year history, human-computer interaction (HCI) and the related fields of interaction design, experience design, and, increasingly, science and technology studies, have proposed many formulations of “the user.” Beginning with the user as an individual instantiation of near-universal human perceptual, cognitive, and motor capabilities engaging in a structured dialogue with a computer, the user has subsequently been formulated as early and late adopters, carriers of mental models, social actors, quantified selves, gamers, misbehaving but persuadable individuals, and postcolonial subjects, among others. Alluding to subjectivity theory, we refer to such formulations as “subjectivities of information,” reflecting the dual facts that individuals are subjected to and subjects of their roles as certain kinds of users.
The conference approaches the maker identity from a perspective that is informed by subjectivity theory and its key implication that any identity, including the maker identity, is a malleable construct. We consider ways that a range of material and sociological structures contribute to the constitution of the maker subject. These structures include the following:
- Sociological categories, such as gender, race, social class, and nationality
- Historical and genealogical issues, including the history of handwork, tool use, and making do
- Educational practices, including those that inculcate individuals into this subjectivity
- Ecology, referencing the physical spaces and material, device, and/or tool ecologies in which making is situated
Such perspectives can help analytically to reveal the formation of the maker identity, and by doing so to reveal opportunities to intervene and to give it shape. For example, we might talk about ways to make this subjectivity more inclusive, creative, and/or fulfilling, as well as to provide legitimation and institutional support for that subset of maker practices that best support values such as participation, creativity, innovation, inquiry, self-expression, and personal growth.
The conference is designed to highly interactive and participatory. Its two full-day sessions will include morning panels with short, provocative presentations and discussions and afternoon make sessions, in which participants, working in small teams with a range of materials, will engage in more embodied forms of knowledge production.