Workshop Abstract

Craft practices such as needlework, ceramics, and woodworking have long informed and broadened the scope of HCI research. Whether through sewable microcontrollers or programs of small-scale production, they have helped widen the range of people and work recognised as technological and innovative. However, despite this promise, few organisational resources have successfully drawn together the disparate threads of scholarship and practice attending to HCI craft. In this workshop, we propose to gather a globally distributed group of craft contributors whose work reflects crucial but under-valued HCI positions, practices, and pedagogies. Through historically and politically engaged work, we seek to build community across boundaries and meaningfully broaden what constitutes innovation in HCI to date.

Workshop Goals

The workshop is dedicated to gather and help define the field of scholarship and practice around craft and HCI. We aim to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion of emerging interests and concerns across the thematic categories of artefacts, tools, and environments. This work includes diverse approaches to the development of computational technologies around craft as well as deep empirical and theoretical investigations of craft legacies. The workshop connects an international and interdisciplinary group of researchers, craftspeople, artists, designers, and theorists from within and beyond academia.
In particular, we aim to:

Gather a community of scholars and practitioners examining the entanglement of craft and computation with the hope of scaffolding intellectual development and community.
Create a road-map for future scholarship and practice.
Produce an exhibition and online repository of our work for the CHI 2019 audience and beyond.

The output of the workshop will be a point of reference for new research endeavours connected to crafts and HCI. Its multidisciplinary foundation builds on a rich existing HCI tradition around electronic-textiles, making, and digital fabrication to impact a broad array of connected practices and disciplines.

Workshop Themes and Addressed Issues

In the sections that follow, we describe the organisation of our workshop across three central themes: artefacts, tools, and environments. The themes serve to focus our workshop discussion across different scales of craft and computing entanglements. At each stage, we attend to the roles that craft plays alongside the wider transnational flows, colonial heritages, and forms of industrialisation on which they rely. We use the phrase “HCI craft” as a shorthand to refer to the spectrum of computing projects (tools, systems, infrastructures) that explicitly engage, extend, or rework craft techniques.

Artefacts: The Objects of HCI Craft. With this first set of questions, we examine the material, cultural, and geopolitical status of the HCI craft object. Such artefacts render a host of historical commitments, lived values, and future imaginings visible or invisible[2]. Attending to both their material form and their surrounding social worlds, we explore their capacity to inform and disrupt existing bodies of knowledge. For example, we ask:

What form does the computational take in and around HCI craft objects?
What characterises the material flows producing and produced by HCI craft objects?
Whose legacies get silenced/ recovered through the circulation of HCI craft objects?

Tools: The Implements, Devices, and Machines of HCI Craft. With this second set of questions, we consider the particular configurations of technique, collaboration, and imagination enabled by new computational apparatuses around craft. In this work, we explore not only what types of technological work is made possible but also how craft tools shape the gendered, classed, and racialized dimensions of computational labor [18, 25]. For example, we ask:

What specific tools enable and facilitate HCI craft?
How do the tools reinforce stereotypes about who is considered innovative/ noninnovative?
How do the tools challenge or rework those stereotypes?

Environments: The Sites of Craft and Computation. With this set of questions, we examine the particular sites in and through which HCI craft unfolds. In mapping these sites, we aim to think within and beyond the studio, lab, or makerspace to the wider trasnational and industrial relationships on which such spaces depend. For example, we ask:

What environments legitimate craft practices within spaces of computation and innovation?
How do HCI craft environments configure labour and what labour gets seen and valued?
How do different environments open or foreclose opportunities for HCI craft?

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