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Critical making and the digital humanities

Research project The project deals with the question if and to what extent can we understand and relate to ubiquitous digital information.

The project is aiming toward an understanding of how we can relate to ubiquitous information technology which increasingly surrounds us in our every day life. Various forms of information technology are built in to our life through games, household equipment, cars and so on. How can we interpret and interact with this development in an conscious way? Are there similarities and differences compared to how we deal with analogous information?

Project overview

Project period:

2007-12-15 2008-05-31


Finansår , 2007, 2008

huvudman: , finansiar: Kempestiftelserna, y2007: 100, y2008: 100,

Participating departments and units at Umeå University


Project description

Within the project Ratto have continued his work on his previous book manuscript, focusing in more explicitly on how decontextualized information (about ourselves as individuals, our culture, and the world-as-lived,) is reconnected to individual experience through practices that blend symbolic and material work. I have changed the book title from the original title “Recontextualizing Information” to “Critical Making” in order to emphasize the links between “critical thinking” and “making”. The main issue I am addressing (from conceptual, pedagogical, and methodological perspectives) is how ‘critical making”, understood as both constructive and reflexive practice, can help information scholars, designers, and, ultimately, citizens and other subjects, better address the potentials and the problems with non-screen based (e.g. ambient or ubiquitous) information technology.

Within the framework of the project Ratto have taken advantage of the growing relationship between the Umea Institute of Design and the HUMlab to do some ethnographic observations of design students and teachers. Over a time period of 10 weeks, (Nov -Jan, 2008) he is observing the 2nd year Interaction Design MA students as they work to create projects based on a design brief given them by senior designers from Nokia. Of special interest is in particular how the designers express opinions about social life, the environment, and technology through both technical and linguistic forms – by making projects and by describing those projects. Some wonderful conversations with MA students, but also with teachers and researchers have taken place. There are strong similarities between new design school goals (in particular their development of a design studies PhD,) and the digital humanities (e.g. the HUMlab) which he hopes to address in his forthcoming work.