The power of: words – making – being digital – being human
Conference Acitvity:Keynote Presentation Fri 11th July
Keywords: Sense-making, Propositional Objects, Co-Creation
Image Caption: Reading by Starlight: Light source connected to data from Kepler telescope. By James Thomas, Jayne Wallace, Jon Rogers, David McGloin, Michael Shorter and Alicia Llewellyn
Does it matter what we call ourselves? It does in some ways – the battle to assert the difference between craft practice and crafting in a hobbyist sense prevails… and less in others – hybrid disciplinary teams, shared skills and inclusive participatory design processes mean a blurring of roles. How can we commodify or distil what being a craft practitioner who works with digital technologies means and is defined as? For me I could only see elements of this clearly through working in hybrid teams of predominately research technologists (computer scientists and electronic engineers). Our differences and similarities were the lenses onto my understanding of how to communicate across our different, but not so disparate making practices and of my own sensibilities developed through a crafts education and experience as a maker. As crafts practitioners are we right to be too precious about this? I’m fascinated by the power of making – perhaps most by how the process of making can make someone feel, or how it acts as a form of communication for them – whatever this means for an individual. I’ve seen how making can enable people who often feel voiceless to make sense of complex life situations and articulate profound personal meanings. There’s something fundamental to us as humans in making. Digital technologies give us an extended palette as makers, enabling us to make artefacts that can enchant, that can connect us to each other and our wider worlds in new ways and that can potentially enhance the experiential and communicative potential of making. There is often a tension for me between this casting and the digital artefacts that inhabit our lives however. The language of consumer digital devices feels limited in comparison to the ways in which craft practitioners have ‘articulated’ the digital through the pieces they make. How this divide is negotiated feels like the next grand challenge for craft. For many craft practitioners (I include myself here and those I work closely with – Jon Rogers, Mike Shorter, Justin Marshall and Tommy Dykes) the digital artefacts we make are Propositional Objects; they are made often for specific contexts, but offer a series of qualities that present a wider, alternate vision for how we encounter the digital in our daily lives.
A question that arises from your project: How can craft translate more human-analogous qualities into digital design?