Research Theme » The Maker Movement
How can hands-on practices of tinkering and material inquiry support STEAM learning? What are the opportunities for critical making (or “a simultaneously conceptual and material critique of technologies and information systems in society” (Ratto,2015)) to engage issues surrounding emerging technologies?
Making is a mainstay of my research and instructional practice. To this end, I have used my classroom as an environment to conduct research and explore how making can be supported. For example, through my own courses, I developed, deployed and evaluated the Gallery as a tool to support project documentation and peer critique in maker-based learning. It was piloted with 80+ students over 3 years. Outcomes demonstrate that it helped students prepare documentation that increased their ability to evidence and reflect on their learning. Analysis is still ongoing. The work was recognized by a CMU Teaching Innovation Award in 2017, and was a springboard for my current NSF project.
While ‘making’ is often viewed as reinforcing STEAM education, it can equally foster a critical technical practice (Agre, 1997; Sergers et al, 2006.) My approach is discussed in Cardoso Llach, Byrne & Ozkar (2019); a co-authored paper reflecting on a graduate research program that values building critically informed systems and emphasizes socio-cultural lens on emerging technology. Using this approach, graduate student Jen Liu developed ‘Tools for Collaborative Survival’, a series of wearable tools for mushroom foraging that explores how technology can help humans forge and sustain livable collaborations with other species (Liu, Byrne, Devendorf, 2019.) This received a best paper award at CHI 2018.
Most recently, I partnered with Bricolage Productions, an immersive theatre company in Pittsburgh, on Project Amelia. This production explored questions of AI, ethics and responsibility. Through my course ‘Responsive Mobile Environments’ students used critical making to develop a series of interactive prototypes. Each prototype centered on a specific issue of ethics and responsibility (for example one explored conversational agents mediating personal relationships, while another unpacked issues of AI in the classroom). They also support a larger research effort between a multidisciplinary group of CMU faculty interested in investigating how experiential futures can influence public behavior and understanding of emerging technology. Focus groups and longitudinal surveys will examine changes in use, adoption or understanding of AI, data and privacy.
- Ratto, M. (2011). Critical making: Conceptual and material studies in technology and social life. The Information Society, 27(4), 252-260.
- Agre, P. 1997, Toward a Critical Technical Practice: Lessons Learned in Trying to Reform AI. In G Bowker, L Gasser, L Star, and B Turner (eds) Bridging the Great Divide: Social Science, Technical Systems, and Cooperative Work. Erlbaum
- Sengers, P., McCarthy, J., & Dourish, P. (2006, April). Reflective HCI: articulating an agenda for critical practice. In CHI’06 extended abstracts on Human factors in computing systems (pp. 1683-1686). ACM.