Critical Making as a Research and Teaching Method for Critical Digital Studies (2017- ongoing)
The contemporary media landscape is marked by the pervasiveness of digital mediations and ubiquitous data collection and processing. Personal physiological data is collected, for example, through wearable devices, shared over social media networks and mediated by algorithmic intelligence which defines how information is distributed on users’ feeds, generates a consumer profile for customized advertising and, on a larger scale, generates predictive decision-making models for public policy and regulation. Given the opacity of these mediations, it is urgent to apply research and teaching methodologies that demonstrate how these “black-boxed” technical mediations are put into practice and develop critical skills to analyze and propose new approaches to sociotechnical issues in digital studies.

This project investigates the potential of “Critical Making”, developed by authors such as Garnet Hertz and Matt Ratto, for research and teaching in the field of Communication and Digital Media. The project methodology consisted of the following steps: theoretical survey on “Critical Making” and its application to Critical Digital Studies; mapping of pedagogical practices associated with “Critical Making”; development of experiments to be applied as pedagogical practices in an undergraduate course in Communication.

Results: The theoretical survey on “Critical Making” revealed the following principles of application for Critical Digital Studies: reconciliation between the conceptual analysis and material engagement with technologies with emphasis on the metalinguistic dimension of technology appropriation; drive for student autonomy during teaching-learning process, and emphasis on collaborative creative practices. I developed a series of pedagogical “Critical Making” experiments based on existing practices mapped in courses offered in Humanities, Social Science, Design and Art programs, and original experiments designed around central issues of digital literacy, (counter)surveillance, modes of subjectification in gender, race and sexuality bias. This project also resulted in a course design of the elective COM354 – Laboratory for Tactical Media and Disobedient Technologies.