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.