makers

A Researcher’s Perspective on People Who Build with AI

by ELLEN KOLSTO, IBM Two years ago, I arrived at IBM Design’s Studio in Austin to work on Watson. I didn’t know how to code, thought mastering the set up of my iPhone was a technical achievement and had never researched the world of the developer. Yet here I was, venturing into the very technical realm of artificial intelligence (AI). AI is generally defined by IBM as systems (machines) that can deeply understand a domain, reason towards specific goals, learn continuously from experience and interact naturally with humans. The focus of this definition is on the machine itself. What I have discovered about AI is that while it is certainly about machines, the building of AI is very much about humans. And for my research, it’s about the humans building the machine…the makers. These makers are learning and inventing what it means to actually create a machine that deeply understands a domain or can interact naturally with humans. The definition of these activities is being discovered and reworked everyday. As a researcher...

Radicals in Cubicles

by ANNE MCCLARD, Intel “A radical approach specifically aims to uncover root causes and original sources, as opposed to surface level explanations.” —Thomas Wendt Thomas Wendt is one of many eloquent voices urging designers and ethnographers to take responsibility for the social roots and implications of our work. This might mean using participatory approaches, or expanding the scope of our research to understand the larger social implications of a project more fully. It might even mean refusing to work on certain projects all together. Any choice we make about how we work and what we work on will depend on our own beliefs and political commitments, as well as the constraints or freedoms of our workplaces. Those of us working within corporations may have fewer liberties when it comes to choosing and directing the work that we do day-to-day. These are struggles I have had in trying to make a meaningful difference as an ethnographic researcher from within the confines of the various large technology companies in which I have...

Critical Jugaad

DEEPA BUTOLIYA Carnegie Mellon University Download PDF PechaKucha—This Inquiry explains how people use ingenious making practices like Jugaad as a tool for existence, subversion and criticality against colonial powers of oppression. Jugaad like practices form cultural binders and empower people to find a collective force to fight oppression while practicing creative self-expression. This practice is a nonviolent critique that provokes and questions the technoutopian imaginaries in future of such practices. Criticality is manifested through critique and criticism of the social, cultural, economic and political issues engulfing a nation, through ingenious sociomaterial practices. This research inquiry is about tapping into potential of such sociomaterial practices and the epistemology of the critical practices that happen outside the preconceived assumptions of criticality. Being critical about the functioning of states and industry is not bound by a niche design practice but a democratic right of every individual. Keywords: Jugaad,...

Manufacturing Expertise for the People: The Open-Source Hardware Movement in Japan

MATT KREBS Manufacturing itself is changing as open-source sentiment grows with the “maker” movement, especially in FabLabs around the world. “Makers” are open-source hardware enthusiasts who want anyone to be able to make almost anything. This ethnographic research, conducted in 2013, centers on the “makers” in FabLabs in Japan. The research addresses cultural coherence among actors – human and machine – in these FabLabs, and changing notions of expertise enabled by open-source, DIY manufacturing practices. Are modern machines like 3D printers changing manufacturing? Will they change the world?...

Making Change: Can Ethnographic Research about Women Makers Change the Future of Computing?

SUSAN FAULKNER and ANNE MCCLARD Two ethnographers from different parts of the same technology company set out to explore the role of women and girls in the worldwide maker movement. We wanted to know who is currently participating in the maker phenomenon, how they became makers, what motivates them to continue making, what kinds of things they make, and what their hopes are for the future. Most importantly, we investigated why women are underrepresented in the realm of tech making with the explicit goal of being change agents and triggers of transformation both within our company and in the broader technology landscape....

Researchers @ hackathon

by JEFF DAVISON, Microsoft I spent 44 hours with hackers to learn that everything I thought I knew about hacking was wrong. In the process, I learned that events like hackathons represent a similar social hub to those Jan Chipchase identifies in his book Hidden in Plain Sight. These hubs help researchers find their feet quickly in new cultures. As a research community, we can help one another by sharing details of these hubs and some of the reasons we have for choosing them. Hackathons attract lead users, which makes them useful to people tasked with delivering formative research. If you work in the tech field, they should be on a list of essential events to attend together with Maker Faires and the various gatherings of the ever growing Meet Up culture. They represent a strategic starting point for field inquiry. My own journey went something like this… Misconceptions Hacking culture has a special place in the hearts of the West’s techno-literati, and carries with it all the cultural relevance and formative...