Professional Making in Asia and American Midwest

Supported by NSF Grant #1513604

This study concerns the evolving collection of information technology practices that have been grouped under the umbrella of “making,” which includes end-user experimentation with emerging forms of hardware and software such as open hardware, digital fabrication, Internet of Things, and more. “Making” has been widely envisioned to enable a transition from tinkering to prototyping and entrepreneurship and, finally, to help revive manufacturing industries in the United States. Making in the US remains largely a hobbyist practice, and the transition from making-as-hobby to a new wave of economy-building technology innovation is not easy. Yet it can be done and indeed is already being done in other parts of the world, including the cities of Shenzhen, China and Taipei, Taiwan. Through empirical research, hands-on design workshops and international comparison, this project will examine and document successful pathways from making as hobby to socioeconomic driver, and how they are supported by technological, policy, economic, and pedagogical infrastructures.

Broadly, this research will provide a contribution to studies of technology innovation in regions beyond more familiar technology hubs like Silicon Valley: Asia and the American Midwest. It will contribute to discussions that place models of technology innovation and design in relationship to local histories, cultures, and sociopolitical contexts. This includes debates around non-linear stories of technological progress, creativity, and design. This research will also contribute to a growing body of research focused on investigating the tools, techniques, and social organization of maker collectives, hackerspaces, and repair practices by providing both an ethnographic foundation and technological insights for emerging issues concerning making’s transition into production and entrepreneurialism. Making provides the means, tools, and educational culture for developing novel and multidisciplinary approaches in STEM learning. Computation when taught through hands-on making has the potential to open up STEM fields and careers to underrepresented groups and minorities. Prior research has documented, however, that challenges remain; for instance the number of women in makerspaces remains low and professional maker communities are only indirectly brought into STEM education. This project will contribute to a broader national interest in transforming hands-on making into a sustainable model by facilitating interdisciplinary and international collaborations and engaged learning inclusive of the sciences, technology, engineering, arts and design as well as industry and expert amateurs.

Social Computing

Supported by Intel ISTC-Social Computing

CRIT is participating in the Intel Science and Technology Center on Social Computing, the goal of which is to create the new paradigm of social, rather than personal, computing. The CRIT team is playing to its strengths in theory and methodology, with projects including the following: excavating and developing the relationships among pragmatist philosophy, feminist methodology, and design theory to rethink social computing design; redefining critical design and improving its theoretical and methodological accessibility for researchers and practitioners alike; and developing new analytic strategies for critically interrogating information systems and devices as constituents of meaningful material environments in specific times and places.

Feminist HCI

The feminist HCI research agenda presently has several components. In bringing feminist theory into HCI, we are seeking to contribute to the theorization of feminist HCI. We are also eager to contribute to feminist HCI methodologies, by introducing feminist social science methodology to HCI methodologies in systematic ways. Finally, we are exploring interaction design projects that are influenced by and/or contribute to the theorization of feminist design and feminist HCI.

Aesthetic Interaction and Interaction Criticism

Aesthetics, as defined within the 2,500 year old Western philosophical tradition, is the study of art and beauty. We define aesthetic interaction as interaction with qualities of beauty and/or art, and we seek to contribute to HCI’s understanding of these topics by theorizing interaction criticism, that is, a professional practice of criticism informed by film criticism, literary theory, and art and design history, updated and applied specifically to interaction.

Sexuality, Intimacy, and HCI

HCI’s turn towards experience, culture, and domestic and everyday life has largely neglected the role of human sexuality in each of these areas. Though a trickle of sexuality in HCI papers has come out in the past decade, it has been all too intermittent. The CRIT research group is seeking to provide a sustained and ongoing series of studies on sexuality in HCI (which we call SHCI and pronounce as “shy”) in the hopes of legitimating human sexuality as an area of HCI research; clarifying and defining what HCI’s sexuality research agenda might look like; and contributing to critical and empirical understandings of technologically mediated forms of intimacy and sexuality in everyday life.

Domesticity and HCI

Supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

CRIT is very interested in ways that interactive technologies contribute to and participate in domestic life. Relevant research includes an investigation of divorce, and the ways that families going through or post-divorce use (and don’t use) technologies to maintain closeness, schedule events, and otherwise manage sensitive yet potentially conflict-laden communications. We are also investigating the role of interactive technology design for cross-cultural situations, e.g., wearable computing technologies for stay-at-home women in India and China.