Makers Lab: Making as Research
Makerspaces and toolshops are popping up in schools, libraries and universities around the world, promoting the idea that opening up access to comprehensive set of industry-standard tools, (almost) anyone can make (almost) anything. But how do we know when making almost anything is both productive and meaningful? How might we use our makerly skills to make a positive impact on the world? This course provides students with the hands-on skills and critical conceptual framework to engage in making as form of knowledge production, and explore its potential value and limitations in a broader societal context.
Making as research can be understood as generating insights by doing stuff, by making, remaking (and breaking) things, by prototyping speculative alternatives and reflecting on that process together. The ability to peel away the layers of a problem and communicate interesting perspectives that can be shared in compelling ways is more important here than immediately solving that problem. We will practice researching societal issues, and their relationship with design and technology through reflective experimentation with various high-tech and low-tech techniques, tools and materials. We address the norms and values that inform existing product designs, branding strategies and technologies: who benefits from a given design? Who doesn't? Could it be different? By asking these questions we aim to open a design space with room for difference and alternatives, on a conceptual level as well as product level. Students are invited interrogate the unintended consequences of human-made things, by making the invisible visible, the intangible tangible and the unthinkable imaginable in the form of evocative and innovative design objects that spark discussion.
The program combines an intensive training in digital fabrication (tools and techniques like laser cutting, 3D printing, electronics production), an introduction to practice-based creative inquiry (making as research), and a reflective exercise in interdisciplinary collaboration. Together with peers, coaches, researchers and guests from the fields of design, arts and technology, students explore, inquire, think-through-making, and develop ways to package and present that process as a valuable result in and of itself. Depending on the students’ background, their learning goals and the projects proposed that year, research output may take the shape of networked objects, wearables, toys, interfaces or other prototypes, experiences, conversation starters, toolkits, exhibitions, (interactive) video, publications, games and/or installations.
In the second trimester (week 11-22) students work on a team project in partnership with researchers from the university’s research groups. The course culminates in a class expo.
At the end of this minor the student is an all-round investigative maker who is able to map out and critically examine various perspectives on a problem area, and can apply different strategies to materialize these insights in ways that spark discussion.
After this course, you:
know all core digital fabrication techniques to produce tangible 2D and 3D designs as well as the fundamentals of electronics design;
are a self-directed learner that is able to acquire new skills independently and with the help of others;
have knowledge of the context and history of makerspaces and open design principles;
are able to work collaboratively in an interdisciplinary creative environment;
are able to document and share your insights and learning progress;
are familiar with a number of research methods and are able to apply them to a specific research context;
can share the output of your research aesthetically, in a way that invites discussion.
Additionally, you specify your personal learning objectives. The students and mentors will collaboratively cultivate a generous and flexible learning environment with room for additional learning activities required to meet students’ skills level, needs, and interests.
Costs: Consider material costs of about € 150 on account of the student for materials, excursions and printing fees.
Applications will be processed in the order of receipt of signed learning agreements.
Candidates submit a motivation letter and portfolio and participate in an intake prior to enrollment. Students may come from a design background, engineering, arts or other provided they have demonstrable affinity with making. As the entire program is taught in English, participants are required to speak English well and are able to read and understand English texts.
Maker Skills & Attitude – 10 EC
Design Research Skills – 10 EC
Collaborative Learning - 10 EC
Portfolio assessment in week 10 (formative) and approx. week 21 (summative).
Resit: additional assignment(s) to be submitted (approx.) in week 22
If a student fails to successfully complete the minor in the period in which she took the minor it is possible to finalize the minor in a following period in which the minor is given.
If a minor is no longer offered or in case the minor is rewritten, the degree programme will offer students a further two opportunities to finalize this minor in the following year.
A selection of articles and excerpts from the following and complemented with professional literature supporting the semester theme:
Bell, G., Blythe, M., & Sengers, P. (2005). Making by making strange: Defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 12(2), 149-173.
D’Ignazio, Catherine (2017) “What would feminist datavisualization look like?” VisionsCarto. 23 January. Retrieved at: https://visionscarto.net/feminist-data-visualization
DiSalvo, C. (2012). Adversarial design. The MIT Press.
Gaver, W. W., Boucher, A., Pennington, S., & Walker, B. (2004). “Cultural probes and the value of uncertainty”. Interactions, 11(5), 53-56.
Hertz, G. (ed.) (2012) Critical Making. Telharmonium Press. Retrieved at: http://conceptlab.com/criticalmaking/
Pater, R. (2016) The Politics of Design: A (Not So) Global Manual for Visual Communication. BIS Publishers.
Somerson, R. & Hermano, M. The Art of Critical Making. Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice. Wiley.
Van Abel, B., Evers, L., Troxler, P., & Klaassen, R. (2014). Open design now: Why design cannot remain exclusive. BIS Publishers.
To be announced
10-16 hours a week (plus collaborative self-study in the lab, note that this is a fulltime program