Theme 1: Materiality and Aesthetics

Lost in translation?
Craft practitioners have long established and well recognised expertise in the inter-relationships of material, technology and aesthetics, i.e. in making meaningful and beautiful physical objects through the skilled use of tools. Within this conference theme we would like to explore the impact of the new industrial revolution on the aesthetics and materiality of 21st century production and specifically the role that craft values and craftsmanship have to play in a culture of digital making. We invite papers and provocative objects that describe, explore, explode and critique the following:

  • The opportunities arising for developing new aesthetic qualities through the use of digital tools.
  • The significance of materiality, physicality and aesthetics in digital production.
  • The opportunities for craft practitioners to contribute to developing technologies and/or to make their own digital tools.
  • The role of craft practitioners in interdisciplinary teams and collaborative research projects.
  • The opportunities and limitations for meaningful interactions and new forms of aesthetic through combining web-based interaction and digital production.
  • The capabilities of code and generative systems to enable material aesthetic output.
  • The value of craft skills and material understanding in developing human computer interfaces and understanding human relationships with physical objects.
  • The poetics and craftsmanship of object making in the realm of pervasive media and the Internet of Things.

Theme 2: Enhancing the Object

Bells and whistles?
Interactive technologies and digital resources provide unique opportunities to enhance material objects and create new forms of audience interpretation and engagement. The curatorial, interpretive and interactive potential of digitally networked objects is currently a source of significant innovation and experimentation in craft, art, design and heritage.

This theme explores the potential of new technologies and digital resources to enhance and transform material objects in diverse ways. We are particularly interested in how objects can be designed, enriched or re-assessed through networked digital technologies and associated online content, enabling interaction, participation, cooperation and collaboration in a variety of contexts. Combining objects with the capabilities of digital connectivity presents a range of exciting design challenges including developing understanding of the sophistication and digital literacy of audiences, and opportunities for innovative creative responses that allow users to create their own experiences and perhaps even their own objects.

We are interested in work that explores the development of digitally enhanced objects in the contexts of museums, archives and heritage; healthcare, wellbeing and sustainability; and more generally in extending and developing user experience and value in crafted objects. This includes, for example, crafted pieces with an interactive element, exhibits linked to interpretive resources, and tools that support the conservation of objects and collections. The authenticity of the object and resilience through digital conservation are among the issues raised.

We invite contributions that describe, explore and critique activities and issues in the following areas of interest:

  • Opportunities for crafted objects and installations that extend participation and interaction, and develop new value through digital means.
  • The evaluation of audience participation and conduct developed by and through digitally networked objects.
  • The impact of digitally enhancing artefacts on the audiences’ direct experience and relationship with the object as the primary focus of their attention.
  • Examples of interdisciplinary collaborative practices that have enabled successful outcomes.
  • The opportunities arising from increasingly affordable and accessible technologies that provide low cost, flexible solutions for users, curators, artists, designers and crafts practitioners.
  • Audiences creating their own interpretive responses, constructing stories and reconfiguring content.

Theme 3: Democratising Technology

All together now?
The world of making is changing. A loose collection of individuals, groups and communities including, hackers, tinkerers, fabbers, and crafters, are emerging as something that can be identified as the ‘Maker Movement’, reflecting an increasing number of people’s desire to be defined through being creatively productive. Electronics and embroidery, ceramics and computing, printing and programming have become unexpected bedfellows.

Increasingly accessible and affordable digital technologies are central to a resurgence in making, opening up new opportunities for people to design, make, share, test, learn and sell in a global community. Fab Labs, Makerspaces and Hackerspaces and other types of open workshops bring different approaches to providing access and support in using a flexible and powerful digital toolset. Through this open provision of production capabilities that until recently were only accessible through industry or university research units, the Maker Movement claim to be lowering barriers and side-stepping gatekeepers, enabling people to ‘make almost anything’.

This theme will raise questions about the activities, aspirations and claims of the Maker Movement and the wider community of innovators and practitioners, with particular emphasis on the role of digital production and digital media technologies in empowering people.

We invite contributions that describe, explore and critique activities and issues within this area. Particular areas of interest could include, but are certainly not restricted to:

  • Challenges to traditional modes of production and consumption.
  • Tensions between autonomy and/or individual self-reliance and opportunities for collaboration and co-production.
  • The potential for digital tools and resources to enable business innovation and enterprise through individual or group engagement.
  • Projects that explore how maker communities can connect with and benefit individuals and groups with explicit needs.
  • Historical parallels and economic perspectives on current developments, e.g. the DIY movement, pre-industrial workshops, the Arts and Crafts movement.
  • Theoretical perspectives, e.g. flexible specialisation, prosuming, disruptive technologies.
  • The relationship between new making spaces and communities, and established craft guilds, studios and groups.
  • Sustainable business models for community production labs and their users.

Call for Contributions:

The conference is now open for the submission of extended abstracts for peer review. Alongside standard papers, we welcome submissions in which an object or series of objects are the main focus, supported by a critical commentary of relevance to conference themes. Submissions should reflect recent developments in research and practice.

Submissions (1000 words maximum) with illustrations should be emailed in PDF format to: info@autonomatic.org.ukSubmissions should clearly indicate if an object is being offered for the exhibition.

Deadline for submissions: Monday 9.00am, 31st March 2014