Critical Making, Luker, and Learning Through Play?

Hi I’m Jessica, and I’m a first year MI in LIS, who’s toying with the idea of also getting into KMIM. So far, I’ve only had the pleasure of reading and commenting everyone else’s posts, so this is my first official post!

I enjoyed Matt Ratto’s article on critical making, I’ve never actually taken a class with him, so everything I know of critical making is second hand (sometimes garbled) information. This weeks readings definitely gave me a much better idea of what it actually is.

I have to admit I was quite skeptical for the first few pages, reading some of the descriptions for concepts behind critical making. Particularly, “Rather than being purposive or fully functional devices, prototype development is used to extend knowledge and skills in relevant technical areas as well as to provide the means for conceptual exploration” (Ratto, 2011, p. 253). So…building something that doesn’t need to have a purpose or even work, yet it’s supposed to teach you something? Right. Interesting.

I don’t think I was able to wrap my head around the idea/purpose of critical making until the section on the Flwr Pwr workshop. It was pretty compelling to read about how technology was used to facilitate discussion on human interaction, when technology is so often seen as a threat to human interaction. I immediately tied this back to Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences. One of the goals Kristin Luker (2010) outlines for her book is to demonstrate that research methods used for social and applied sciences don’t have to be in opposition, she aims to reconcile qualitative and quantitative research methods (p. 5). I think that this is something critical making does effectively. As someone who has worked with kids for years, the Flwr Pwr workshop made me consider how critical making might be like an extension or a grown up version of learning through play.

Anyway, I’m pretty excited for Matt Ratto’s guest lecture today and I’m interested in hearing everyone else’s thoughts on critical making.

Jessica S.


Luker, K. (2010). Salsa dancing into the social sciences. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Ratto, M. (2011). Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life. The Information Society: An International Journal, 27(4), 252-260.


Knight’s Thoughts and Luker’s Daisy

Hello there, fellow researchers,

I’m playing catch-up in terms of writing about our readings.  I’d prefer not to skip to the present straight away because I’m really into some of the concepts from the first week.  Bear with me while I take you back.


Two of the concepts that have stuck in my mind these last few weeks are Knight’s concept of writing-as-thinking and Luker’s Bedraggled Daisy method.  I am aware that there are acute differences between the two methods, but I find that both of them are based off of the same action: putting pen to paper.  

I find brainstorming most effective when I am combining writing, drawing and swearwords (which belong in their own category).  I tend to use the two methods interchangeably but I haven’t found one to be better than the other.  As a matter of fact, I have found that since the act of writing requires a pause after each thought so that I can actually capture it in a comprehensive form, my hand has never quite been able to catch up to my brain.  Even at my best, I still lose track of at least one idea.  

At least, I did – until now.  

Richard’s post about Channel 16 (and an errant re-run of Mad Men that I saw two weeks ago) inspired me to start thinking about methods of communication and I realized that I had completely neglected what I suspect used to be an amazing brainstorming tool.  I’d like to announce that I’ve started using voice note recorders on all my various devices to capture my thoughts before they fly out of my brain.  And yes, this does mean that I’ve become one of those tools who talks into their cell phone like it’s a mic.

In my opinion, the best way to put thoughts in order is if they’re all there.  Listing my potential research interests into a recorder requires less self-consciousness and I don’t stop after each one to question whether or not it might be a suitable topic.  I just talk until I’m done and then transcribe them.  After I see them all laid out on paper, it becomes easier to draw connections and overlaps between ideas.  It’s also reassuring to know that I can play the sound clip back if I need to.

Now, if only I could pay someone to do the transcribing for me…

Yours in research,


Late to the Cocktail Party

Hello everyone,

My name’s Laura and I’m a first-year MI student with a concentration in LIS.  I’m aware that I’m pretty late to the party at the moment, and I have no real excuse for that except that the last two weeks have been jam-packed with extra-curricular organization.  As a result, all of my blog entries are currently scribbled on bits of paper and I’m just getting them together now.  In order to make life easier for the people reading this, I’ll be writing out several of my overdue blog entries, rather than forcing you all to read four weeks’ worth of thoughts in one go.

Let’s start with potential research interests.  My BA is in English Literature, and I have an extra-curricular background in arts administration, with a sprinkling of sex-positive advocacy.  I’ve always been heavily involved with the latter, whether it’s operational volunteer work or self-started projects.  I also have a general interest in how people perceive themselves and their surroundings (self-described extroverts/introverts, etc).

Worryingly, I don’t really recognize any of my interests as being instantly researchable and that’s one of my main concerns for this class.  I feel as though what I do, what I study and what I want to know more about don’t mesh together as well they should (or as well as I want).

Since coming into the program, I’ve only just started to realize the potential for research in LIS, but I have no idea if my topic will have anything to do with it.  Introverts in the library?  The existence of reading addictions? (my thoughts: false) Only time will tell.

Yours in research,


Critical Making & eHealth

The Matt Ratto reading was an exciting field trip from the Luker and Knight texts this week.

I am registered to take INF1006 with Matt in the second half of this semester and was a little nervous about the expectations and learning outcomes. Upon further perusal of the Critical Making Lab website as well as after reading Ratto’s article, I am excited by his hope to “make concepts more apprehendable, to bring them in ways to the body, not only the brain, and to leverage student and researchers personal experiences to make new connections between the lived space of the body and the conceptual space of scholarly knowledge.” (2011, 254)

I am specifically engaged by the notion of building upon constructivist pedagogy and applying constructionism to the area of humanities and social sciences. I am also eager to apply Matt’s notion of “body knowledge” to an area of research that I am quite interested in – mobile consumer health. The Centre for eHealth Innovation ( is a research institution devoted to eHealth, where a mobile app has been designed to aid in the self-management of adolescent Type 1 Diabetes ( as well as another app called Breathe which is an Asthma self-management application for consumers (

I would be interested in research and design surrounding the use of consumer health mobile applications to assist people with mental health disorders such as Anxiety and PTSD …

Another area that this week’s reading sparked interest for me in was robotics. If you have some time and/or simply need a little break, this TedTalk is quite interesting and an amazing instance of (at least what I believe is) Critical Making.

Thanks for reading!

–          Vanessa Kitchin

INF1240 Blogs vs. Kristen Luker & the Canadian Coast Guard’s VHF Radio Frequency Channel Structure

Hello internet and those surfing it,

I would like to thank you for allowing me the courtesy to briefly explain to you why I am here -rye in hand- looking to mingle.

Mingle you ask? …Yes, mingle.

You see, Kristine Luker (2010) has brought to my attention that research is somewhat akin to a cocktail party (65). Through this metaphor she describes scholarly research as an event to which one must cordially imbibe a drink of your choice and cruise the room for a few souls that are of a common mind. The tricky part being: showing up late and all the while shifting the conversation to your advantage (66-67).

While I am always up for a gala of wits, this blog structure we have been given does not allow for as she puts it “drifting around the room, hoping to strike up a conversation with some interesting people” (Luker 2010, 65). Now for those of you associated with this blog, please do not take offense, this has nothing to do with you, but rather the lack of choice we have in properly aligning ourselves with groups of similar interests. We may very well all share an incredible amount of interests. That said, if we look at Luker’s cocktail model, this blog is comparable to walking into a blind date. We have had no chance to walk around the room sampling the conversations before we butt in.

Thinking about this on the bus the other night, I thought back to my summers on Georgian Bay as a kid on my Dad’s 1981, 36 foot CS36 sailboat, and his instructions on using the VHF radio. Without going into too much detail, there are about 90 radio frequencies (or channels) used on (V)ery (H)igh (F)requency radios for communication out on the lakes and coastal waters in Canada. Some are strictly weather broadcasts, others are coast guard only and some can be used for a quick chat with another boater to boast about that 6 pound bass you just caught. (For a detailed description of user etiquette and channel uses see:

While most channel specifications will vary from region to region, Channel 16 is the go to channel to hear what others are talking about. This is the channel that most will send out their request(s) to either another boater, marina or the coast guard, after which point they will agree on another more suitable channel dedicated to their specific needs/conversation.

Channel 16 is to Luker what these blogs are lacking: the ability to browse broadly then communicate more precisely. The VHF channel structure, while much, much older than blogging, still allows for an organized and effective means of “drifting around the room” to know which group may be the most applicable to you. I guess what I am getting at is the a priori notion of groups structured around specific topics in a purposeful manner. The structure of the “blog group” as it is now in INF1240 does not allow for any cocktail party mingling or channel 16 surfing. I do believe these blogs are a great attempt to integrate technology and the ideas of sharing knowledge, but it stops short in helping us, the bloggers/hopeful scholars the chance to mingle meaningfully in the way Luker had in mind. (Granted, I could surf the other blogs and comment all I want, but as blogging on your assigned blog is a graded requirement in the course I probably will not.  If credit was given to any comments/posts on any approved course blog however, this post would gracefully slip into oblivion and become obsolete.)

For those of you who just scrolled down to this final paragraph without reading the rest, let me try and sum it up for you… and those patient souls who actually did. I believe we (INF1240) may have to look at our blog assignment and consider another format in the future. Lessons can be learned from Luker and the VHF radio communication structure described above. If as new scholars we are expected to try and find the group or conversation we are most adept at participating in, why box in the conversation? Why can we not find a way to enable a broad open line for communication (channel 16) from which we can take the conversation further on more appropriate channels/blogs once our interests are peaked? Is a blog group the best approach? In my humble opinion, it is not. But in the mean time, if you want to get in touch, I’ll be on Channel 16,

Richard Laurin

Works Cited
Luker, Kristen. 2010. Salsa Dancing into the Social Sciences: Research in an Age of Info-glut. Cambrigde, MA: Harvard University Press.