Research Critique: Critical Making

Coined by Matt Ratto in 2008, he uses the word to describe the activities processes in his workshop, specifically about how he combines conceptual reflection and technical making. In other words, it is a combination of critical social thinking and technical making. His concept mainly explores how the learning is affected by the hands on participation of the learner, in a technical making context. He focuses on the constructive process rather than the final product. Dissecting social issues through the process of critical making can further enhance solutions by exploring cultural and social context while engaging in technological exploration. Critical Making design develops a  perspective on the current institutions, practices and norms of society, reconnecting material and morality.

In 2012, Garnet Hertz used the term Critical Making in respects to “experimental media art, engaged industrial design and computer science interaction research that take cultural production and humanities-oriented inquiry seriously within the context of building functional technology”. She takes a more humanistic approach to her designs, operating in a more philosophical and intellectual level.

In today’s culture, the standard methods of technical design, whether for public consumption or industrial usage, usually lack cultural richness, emotion or human oriented values. Standard methods of design and research are mostly driven by the desire to invent the next killer app or profitable design, hence lacking any technical, artistic, cultural or social values. The designs although may provide convenience, comfort, joy and entertainment, they may only be temporary and only effective on the surface value. Some designs may even be causing or aggravating societal and environmental issues.

However by exploring alternative methods through critical making, we might be able to uncover skills, techniques and materials that have been uncharted, undervalued, or decisively left out of popular demand. Critical making allows designers to step out of the trend and start thinking and re-evaluating designs and products from a different perspective. Designs embedded with “values” can bring about introspection in personal and social impacts from technology and maybe can bring about new perspectives and ideas, improving technology then society.


Presentation Slides For Knitted Radio here.

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One thought on “Research Critique: Critical Making”

  1. Good consolidation of the difference and distinction between products using critical making and products that do not! 🙂 I got to understand the benefits of incorporating critical making into artworks through your short essay.

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