Harvard 2013

Over the course of two days, June 27-28, 2013, and under the leadership of Yanni Loukissas (Harvard METAlab) and Laura Forlano (Illinois Institute of Technology), participants used design methods to explore new hybrid forms of materiality in technoscience. This workshop presented STS’ers with an opportunity to learn new skills or lead others in making visualizations, maps, models, and data documentaries.

Across domains of science and technology studies, increased attention is being focused on the material dimensions of digital media. Indeed, scholars convened around social studies of materiality are seeking out new methods to study the stuff of “big data,” “information infrastructures,” and the “internet of things.” Moreover, these new phenomena are understood as hybrids, merging digital and non-digital practices that resist simple analysis. We see productive means of engaging with hybrid forms of materiality in the interpretive, collaborative, and interventionist approaches pioneered by designers including codesign, participatory design, design fiction, speculative design, and critical making. Design is particularly relevant to digital studies; through making, it is possible to become a participant in the otherwise opaque technical work of constructing data and other digital artifacts.

The workshop was staged at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum, one of the most comprehensive and best-documented living collections of trees, shrubs, and vines in the world. The Arboretum is equal parts urban forest, museum, and open laboratory. It is a venerable and sprawling site for the public display of scientific objects and knowledge. Workshop participants will take part in hands-on, team-based design projects that leverage the collection’s digital data as well as their woody referents in the landscape.

More information following this workshop, including reports from the individual design groups, is available at the workshop Tumblr: http://stsdesignworkshop.tumblr.com/

This workshop was hosted in cooperation with metaLAB(at)Harvard and the Arnold Arboretum, and supported by funds and in-kind contributions from metaLAB, the Arboretum, NSF’s Office for Cyberinfrastructure, and Microsoft Research.

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