• The NWO funded research project ‘Bridging art, design and technology through Critical Making’ aims to interrogate Critical Making by experimentally applying it to a broad range of artistic practices. The project will investigate to what extent Critical Making can serve as a comprehensive concept for design, technology, education and activism intersecting with critical contemporary art practices and artistic research.

  • 11 November 2020

    Making Matters Symposium 19/20/21 November 2020: Collective Material Practices in Critical Times

    MAKING MATTERS Symposium 19/20/21 November 2020

    Collective Material Practices in Critical Times

    Ticket reservation is online now!
    We invite you to join us for three days of livestreams and online workshops. The livestream presentations are free upon registration. For workshops you can buy a ticket for 2,50 euro. We look forward to your participation.

    Reserve your ticket here

    More information about the programme you can find here


    You are cordially invited to join us at the second edition of the Making Matters symposium, which will take place online on Thursday 19, Friday 20 and Saturday 21 November 2020 in collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.

    This online symposium brings together international representatives of collective material practices who experiment with their material manifestations to critique and reimagine the world(s) we inhabit.

    Confirmed participants:

    Aliens in Green, a.pass, Display Distribute, Ensad Lab, Feral Atlas, Garnet Hertz, Jatiwangi Art Factory, Eleni Kamma, The Otolith Group, Olu Taiwo, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Kate Rich and the work group Material Practices (Leiden University, Willem de Kooning Academy, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Waag Society, West Den Haag and associated researchers Anja Groten, Pia Louwerens and Dani Ploeger)


    Photo: ‘Bar di Radda in Chianti 14 agosto 1988’ by Cesare Pietroiusti, part of the exhibition ‘A Variable Number of Things’ at West Den Haag until 22.02.2020.


    The three day conference Making Matters, is organized by the workgroup Material Practices (formerly known as Critical Making). Recent years have seen the emergence of a new kind of collective material practices that transgress the classical opposition between theory and practice, or thinking and making. These practices actively engage with our catastrophic times and yield collaborations that connect cultural, technological and more-than-human concerns. They show a potential to develop a comprehensive approach to art, science and technologies, driven by the necessity to fundamentally reimagine the relationship of humans to the world.

    The conference brings together practitioners from various backgrounds and disciplines such as artistic research, experimental publishing, visual art, business and performance. These practitioners will share their work in which thinking and making are entangled, and will discuss the critical potential that this entanglement entails.

    Through online workshops and presentations, the contributors invite a broad audience of artists, activists, teachers, theorists, students, designers, etherpads and other non-humans, to engage with diverse subjects such as alternative economies, feral ecologies, shared authorship, xeno-biologies, pedagogies, publishing infrastructures and radical collectivities.



  • 15 March 2020

    Save the date! Making Matters Symposium 2020: Collective Material Practices in Critical Times

    You are cordially invited to join us at the second edition of the Making Matters symposium, which will take place on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 November 2020 at Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam and online.

    Collective material practices are now emerging that transgress the classical opposition between theory and practice, or thinking and making. These practices actively engage with our catastrophic times and generate collaborations that connect social, technological and cultural concerns. They show a potential to develop a comprehensive approach to art, science and technology, driven by the necessity to fundamentally reimagine the relationship of humans to the world.

    Confirmed participants:

    Aliens in Green, Display Distribute, a.pass, Feral Atlas Group, Jatiwangi Art Factory, The Otolith Group, Olu Taiwo, Kate Rich, Garnet Hertz, Jeanne van Heeswijk, Clara Lobregat Balaguer, the work group Material Practices (Leiden University, Willem de Kooning Academy, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Waag Society, West Den Haag and associated researchers)


    More information coming soon.

  • 8 July 2020

    Conference – Research Futures

    8-10 July 2020

    Project researcher involved: Pia Louwerens

    Location: a.pass advanced performance and scenography studies, Delaunoystraat 58/17
    1080 Brussels (Sint-Jans-Molenbeek), Belgium

    As a publicly funded educational platform, a.pass is reviewed by the ministry of education in regular five-year intervals. With the next review process underway, a.pass took the opportunity to propose a collaborative process of self-evaluation to four other educational institutions – DAI – Dutch Art Institute, NL; Jan Van Eyck Academy, NL; Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerpen, BE and Uniarts Helsinki, FI in the field of artistic research. This process is motivated by a desire to establish a platform for mutual criticality where institutions of artistic research are not pushed to compete against each other, but can meet as partners sharing many of the same stakes. This critical intra-vision is also a balancing measure to the tendencies of such evaluations to produce an equalizing standard in a respective field of cultural production. Instead we aim to understand, compare and strengthen our differences, in order to create greater specificity and add complexity to the developing field of artistic research.

    The upcoming conference “Research Futures” will bring representatives from five institutions of artistic research together with professionals working in the field of education, arts, culture, artistic research, curation and activism to engage with a series of questions emerging from this comparative (self)-study. We want to understand better what is the range of educational and institutional strategies and practices operating in the field of artistic research today. Where do we see common struggles, pitfalls and current problematics with respect to our concerns with inclusivity, sustainable support structures, institutionalization of artistic research and politics of publication. And finally we would like to compare ourselves to the future: what are possible scenarios for artistic research to continue its contribution to the field of artistic production, and how can these contributions respond to the changing social realities of a challenging future?

    List of participants (tbc):
    KASK – Heike Langsdorf, Frederique Le Roy; Adva Zakai; RITS – Geert Opsomer, Klaas Tindemans, Action Plan Europe – Tere Badia; PARTS – Bojana Cveijc, Charlotte Vandevyver; ROYAL ACADEMY FINE ARTS ANTWERP – Els De Bruyn, ERG – Laurence Rassel; CAVEAT – Ronny Heiremans, Kathleen Vermeir; KAAITHEATRE – Agnes Quackles; KANAL – Centre Pompidou – Guy Gypens; BUDA Kortrijk – Mathilde Villeneuve; LA LOGE- Laura Herman; WIELS Eva Gorsse; INDEPENDANT RESEARCHERS: Philippine Hoegen , Sebastian Hendrickx, Kristien Van den Brande, Sina Seifee and the Post-Graduate and Associated Researchers of a.pass; Benchmark participating institutions: Hicham Khalidi (Jan Van Eyck Academy), Elo Mika (Uniarts Helsinki), Gabriëlle Schleijpen (DAI), Nico Docks and Els De Bruyn (Royal Academy Fine Arts Antwerp); Moderator – Delphine Hesters

  • 20 July 2020

    H&D Summer Academy 2020 ‘Network Imaginaries’

    Hackers & Designers Distributed Summer Academy 2020: ‘Network Imaginaries’

    Project researcher involved: Anja Groten

    When? 20-25 July, 2020
    Where? The Internet
    Deadline open call for participation: 15.06.2020

    Are you interested in exploring the possibilties and boundaries of network infrastructures, inter-social and technical communication protocols, material implications of connectivity? You want to lift the fog off cloud concepts? Are you thinking through making? Are you looking for new challenges and cross-disciplinary collaboration? Join the H&D Summer Academy 2020!https://hackersanddesigners.nl/s/Activities/p/Open_Call_for_participation_HDSA2020:_Network_Imaginaries

  • 15 July 2020

    Workshop – Writing subtext

    Project researcher involved: Pia Louwerens

    15th of July 2020 / 14h
    Location: ZSenne Art Lab

    During this workshop Pia Louwerens will test scattered yet corroborating ideas and exercises linked to her research, grouped into two sessions. The first part of the workshop will revolve around the notion of being “embedded” and ways of becoming embedded on the one hand, and on the other hand the workshop as a superstructure, an exoskeleton, which adapts itself to its participants. Would it be possible to rewrite the workshop during the event itself, and what kind of structure could serve this soft workshop? For the second part of the workshop Louwerens will introduce new elements; attempts to evoke events which occured during her research trajectory in collaboration with several institutions in the Netherlands. We will become a loosely organized speaking-reading-writing-machine to collectively document these instances and provide them with an embedded subtext.

    To participate in this workshop, please send an email to pia.louwerens1@gmail.com

  • 30 June 2020

    ‘Platforming as Practice’ – Online Talk by Anja Groten – The Dynamic Archive:

    The Technical and Collaborative Workings of the Hackers & Designers Collective


    Project researcher involved: Anja Groten


    The notion of the platform has become a common expression – a default term used to describe technical infrastructures designed for interaction, specifically for sharing, aggregating and archiving of information. Despite referring to technical projects, the notion of the platform is also used figuratively, addressing social and organizational structure of collectives. The platform – as an abstract yet spatial image functions as a point of reference for organisational work, allowing to address ephemeral aspects of that work.

    Being affected by an organising body, attuning to it, resisting it and representing other forms of organisational realities often goes hand in hand. In these different modes the platform becomes a way of structuring and orienting. In order to further expand on the relationship of platform and organisation this talk will pay attention to instances of Hackers & Designer’s collaborative practice in which a technical object referred to as platform was imagined, planned, designed and used. By doing that I intend to problematise positive and enabling tropes such as ‘support’, which suppose the role of platforms (technical and non-technical) as acting in service of those who use them.

  • 15 June 2020

    Open call for particpation: Hackers & Designers Summer Academy 2020 “Network Imaginaries”

    Deadline for submissions: 15 June 2020



    In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic Hackers & Designers acknowledges the importance of continuity and solidary action, thus proposes an alternative format for the 6th edition of the H&D Summer Academy (HDSA2020). Without rendering the current events as an ‘opportunity’ we restructured our annual H&D Summer Academy into a distributed workshop programme—taking place in one dedicated week in July! The outcome and highlights will be shared during a public program in autumn.

    We have received a large number of incredible workshop proposals, which enable us to start new collaborations with initiatives in different places in the world, develop and facilitate remote learning formats that will be presented and shared online, with a bigger group of participants. In the week of 20-25 July we will be all hacking and designing in our own local communities or at home while being connected with the larger H&D network. We are therefore happy to open the call for participation:

    We invite creative practitioners whose interest lie in critically and practically engaging with technology, to join us in reflecting and reimagining distributed practices. Whether it be fashion designers, system administrators, or disobedient citizens—we invite the H&D community and the wider public to learn together about network technologies in experimental and hands-on ways. Under the overarching title ‘Network Imaginaries’ we challenge and activate participants to use and push the boundaries of existing technology and programming platforms (webware, hardware, software), online/offline networks, high and low tech (internet, IPFS, darknet, peer2peer, blockchain, bot networks), and user experience, all in a practical manner—and while addressing the ethical implications of the proposed technologies and processes.

    The workshop program is organized in a distributed manner. Workshop proposals were submitted and selected through an Open Call. The final program will be published by the end of June 2020 on the H&D website.

    We are looking for artists, thinkers, coders and other makers to delve with us into ‘Network Imaginaries’


  • 24 June 2020

    Livestream ‘BodyBuilding’: A Platform in Transition

    Project researcher involved: Anja Groten

    Where: The Internet –> live.hackersanddesigners.nl
    When: 24.06.2020, 19.30
    With: Hackers & Designers, The Underground Division, Femke Snelting, Jara Rocha, Helen Pritchard


    On 24th of June 2020 Hackers & Designers (H&D) will launch their online platform — a website dedicated to publishing works from the BodyBuilding exhibition. BodyBuilding was a process-driven exhibition curated by H&D, with the aim to investigate the intersection of technology and the agency of the (human, post-human, trans-human, non-human) body from a maker’s perspective. The physical and interactive structure, through which visitors were able to move, view, experience, and interact with the different artworks was on view only for a short duration due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

    Join us at 19.30 on our self-built streaming platform: live.hackersanddesigners.nl for a conversation together with The Underground Division (Helen Pritchard, Femke Snelting, and Jara Rocha) about the ROCK REPO — questioning inhuman materialities and how they matter [in] the world, the crushing exploitations and extractions of normative 3D processes of geocomputation, and the act of translating between the ‘physical’ and the ‘digital’. In addition to our conversations, we’ll also listen together to a new sound recording of ‘Ultrasonic dreams of aclinical renderings’ by The Underground Division, made in collaboration with Katrina Burch. And finally, we’ll end with a talk by Anja Groten on the notion of the platform and platformization.

    The audience will be able to join in the conversation via the chat.

    With this website launch, and accompanying online event, H&D aims to translate the physical installation at Tetem into a digital space — taking the occasion to discuss digital platforms and hosting initiatives that currently gain a lot of attention. The event will pay attention to self-hosted video streaming and live video chat possibilities, as well as less conventional formats for online encounter, and invites the audience to join the discussion about the importance of challenging proprietary, commercial platforms such as Zoom, Teams and Google Hangouts that exploit users’ reliances on communication infrastructures in times of crisis.


  • 6 June 2020

    Workshop – Also-Class

    Project researcher involved: Pia Louwerens

    9 & 16 June 2020, 17 – 19h
    Location: Also-Class, Willem de Kooning Academy on Jitsi

    In collaboration with Slow Reading Club (Brussels).

    The Also-Class is a class without a curriculum which open to all participants, student or not. The activities of the class are constituted by its participants as well as the teacher of the class, Reinaart Vanhoe. On 9 & 16 June Embedded Artistic Researcher Pia Louwerens will give a workshop in the class. The group will become a reading-writing machine, using the technology of Jitsi, etherpads and our immediate bodies and surroundings. Where there 9th of June will be used to rewrite the script of the workshop itself, the 16th will be led by Louwerens in collaboration with Slow Reading Club and will revolve around the choreography of reading.

  • 15 May 2020

    Hackers & Designers Summer Academy – Open Call for Workshops: Network Imaginaries

    Project researcher involved: Anja Groten

    Deadline: 15 May 2020

    Are you a collective or a group of people interested in workshopping topics, technologies and practices revolving around ‘Network Imaginaries’? This call is for you!

    We are looking for artists, thinkers, coders and other makers to delve with us into three thematic angles:

    Objects: Concrete networks

    Taking the materiality of network infrastructures as a departure point, we are interested in lifting the fog off cloud concepts, and investigating material implications, such as emissions, the built environment, co-habitation of humans and non-humans, socio-economic and environmental implications of information architecture.

    How can we learn from and speculate on concrete digital objects?

    Practice: Networked collectivity

    The H&D collective could be described as a host as well as a network. We therefore see the importance in constantly reflecting on our own practice, interdependence, relations, movements. How can we, as a collective, help to build relations in sustainable, reliable and responsible ways, while simultaneously challenging dominant technological infrastructures?

    Preservation: Weaving Webs

    Taking into account the constant dataflows that surround us, what are flexible yet secure and accessible means of disseminating information self-consciously? What are inter-social and technical protocols that accomodate and allow for critical reflections about the ways we distribute information?

    How does the distributed HDSA work?

    • We will select 6 workshop initiatives.
    • You have one month time to develop a ‘workshop script’ that is accessible for anyone to join. This could be a translation of an already existing workshop (developed for a physical space) or an entirely new workshop script developed for this exceptional circumstance. That means a clear outline of the workshop, a video tutorial if needed, or a well documented readme file, and a list of the necessary equipment.
    • We offer a fee of 500€ for each workshop development including 100€ of material costs.
    • The 6 scripts will be made available to all participants on the week of the summer academy July 20-25
    • Workshop facilitators should be available for occasional questions from participants during the workshop week July 20-25.
    • You will be welcome to also join any of the other proposed workshops during that week, either as a collective or individual!

    More information: https://hackersanddesigners.nl/s/Activities/p/Open_Call!_HDSA2020:_Network_Imaginaries


  • 9 May 2019

    Making Matters Symposium 2019

    Location: West Den Haag, Lange Voorhout 102 in The Hague.
    Friday May 9 – Saturday May 10 2019

    Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making

    The partners and researchers of the Critical Making consortium are excited to announce the two-day symposium Making Matters. The symposium takes place from 9-10th of May at West Den Haag, Lange Voorhout 102 in The Hague.

    Making Matters invites makers, artists, students, activists, theorists, designers, humans and non-humans to think about making practices and their critical potential. By offering opportunity for exchange across disciplines, the symposium attempts to shift the discourse of making from maker culture to a wider set of creative practices, thereby proposing alternatives to the solutionism of contemporary techno-creative industries.

    The project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’ investigates how Critical Making — a notion originally developed in the context of social research, design and technology — can be adopted and developed in relation to artistic research and (post)critical theory.


    Thursday 9 May 2019

    9.30 Welcome (coffee & tea)
    10.00 Introduction Critical Making Consortium: Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (Het Nieuwe Instituut), Janneke Wesseling, Lucas Evers (Waag)
    10.30 Presentation: Florian Cramer
    11.15 Coffee break
    11.30 Presentations: Dyne.org, Constant (Femke Snelting) followed by a discussion
    12.45 Lunch break
    13.45 Presentations: Shailoh Phillips, Pia Louwerens
    14.45 Presentation: Dani Ploeger
    15.45 Coffee break
    16.00 Public discussion: ‘Challenges and Consequences of Critical Making Now’
    17.00 Drinks

    Friday 10 May 2019

    9.30 Welcome (coffee & tea)
    10.00 Introduction on Critical Making: Lucas Evers (Waag), Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (Het Nieuwe Instituut), Marie-José Sondeijker (West)
    10.30 Presentations: Frans-Willem Korsten & ginger coons
    11.30 Coffee break
    11.45 Presentation: Ramon Amaro
    12.15 Presentation: Anja Groten
    12.45 Lunch break
    13.45 Book presentation: Letizia Chiappini, Loes Bogers: The Critical Making Reader
    14.00 Workshops:

    • Hackers & Designers with dianaband
    • Ramon Amaro
    • Thalia Hoffman
    • Pia Louwerens

    16.00 Public discussion & wrap up
    17.00 Drinks

    Confirmed speakers include:

    Ramon Amaro, Constant (Femke Snelting), ginger coons, Florian Cramer, Dyne.org, Anja Groten, Thalia Hoffman, Frans-Willem Korsten, Pia Louwerens, Shailoh Phillips, Dani Ploeger, Janneke Wesseling


    PhDArts / ACPA
    Willem de Kooning Academy
    Het Nieuwe Instituut


  • 22 February 2020

    West / Grand Opening 2020

    Project researcher involved: Pia Louwerens

    Location: West Den Haag, Lange Voorhout 102 in The Hague.

    22 February 2020

    19:00 Doors open
    19:15 Openingsceremonie

    20:00: Exhibitions open
    1 MATTIA DENISSE (FR): Theodore’s Dream
    2 CESARE PIETROIUSTI (IT): A number of things
    3 FREE EMOJI: Alphabetum VI
    4 RETHINKING THE EMBASSY: Eindhoven University of Technology

    20:00: Performance: Pia Louwerens

    20:00 — 01:00 H.
    Party: Music program curated by Alex Andropoulos

  • Hacking & Designing 
Paradoxes of Collaborative Practice

    Hacking & Designing 
Paradoxes of Collaborative Practice

    Anja Groten
    Originally published in The Critical Makers Reader: (Un)learning Technology


    The concept of hacking is not discipline-specific; it is not exclusive to the field of computer programming. For this reason, designers and design educators freely use hacking terminology to describe design.1 The hacking approach implies a ‘critical and playful design practice inspired by historical and current hacker, net art, “do-it-yourself” and “re-mix” cultures and practices’.2 However, I will argue here that this appropriation of hacking terminology by designers misses out on addressing the sociality inherent in hacking practices. Hacking seems enticing, holding out appealing modes of self-determined making. Yet if we ‘critical’ designers flirt with these modes, we also need to interrogate why hacking communities are known to be inaccessible to ‘women, minorities, or other underrepresented groups’.3 We need to move beyond fetishizing the hacker mode of production, and instead investigate the convoluted social construct of hacking—including its frictions and dilemmas.

    The Practice of Hackers & Designers

    As a designer, educator and member of the Amsterdam-based workshop initiative Hackers & Designers (H&D), I have long identified with modes of hacking. One concrete example is ‘Levels of Autonomy’, a workshop centered on self-driving cars in which participants hack remote controlled toy cars.4 By repurposing the switches on the controls, and applying sensors and micro-controllers, the toys slowly transform into miniature self-driving cars, which can follow a line and stop in front of obstacles. The making process is accompanied by discussions about the sociotechnical implications of the self-driving car. Modes of hacking in the context of the self-driving car workshop describe foremost a mentality—a defiant yet playful attitude to making.

    H&D is not the only initiative advocating hacking approaches within art and design contexts. Hacking events fill the agendas of many cultural organizations. For these organizations, hacking is a way to emancipate users of technology from being passive consumers to becoming critical makers. However, the implications of hacking remain unexamined in initiatives such as Hack the Body,5 Hacking the News,6 or Hack Your Style.7

    The experiment below posits a conversation between two stereotypes: a hacker (H) and a designer (D). This imaginary discussion expresses my suspicions toward designerly approaches to hacking, and questions whether hacking could become a distinguishable and critical form of designing.8 The dialogue is based on conversations and personal experiences engaging with hackers,9 designers and artists. It also draws from anthropological studies of hacking culture and more recent debates on the hostility of hacking environments.

    D: In recent years, designers and design educators have started using hacking jargon to rethink design methods and come up with new approaches for design. H, you are a real hacker. Do you see problems in the appropriation of hacking jargon by designers?

    H: I doubt designers actually understand what hacking means. Hacking is not a method you can first learn and then apply. Neither can you conceptualize hacking by means of design. Designers need to learn how to write, read, and fix code. They need to get literate before they can call themselves hackers.

    D: So you think designers only look at those aspects of hacking they can relate to, but ignore the others? I would actually argue that designers’ ways of making are not alien to the practice of hacking. Most designers I know use hacking terminology as a way to describe a specific approach to making. Isn’t hacking a way of making?

    H: Hacking might be a way of making. But it could be also a way of breaking. A hacker—just like a designer I imagine—finds pleasure in creating. But hacking is more of an attitude than a practice.

    D: I can see that. Actually I think it is the attitude you are mentioning that is particularly interesting to us designers. Hackers seem to put forward a self-determined and sometimes unruly attitude to making.10 You can apply hacking modes to a huge variety of circumstances. That’s why designers freely use hacking terms to describe what they do. Hacking is not exclusive to one discipline, is it?

    H: Hacking might be an attitude towards making. But this attitude is tightly connected to the practice of writing software, debugging, running and maintaining systems, which is—and this is important to acknowledge—continuously frustrating! Hackers are exposed to things not working. The hacking attitude that is so interesting for you designers is a direct result of encountering resistance, over and over again. Hackers have developed a tremendous tolerance to frustration because we are constantly fighting code. It is the thin line between frustration and pleasure that is important to understand when describing a hacker’s mode of production.

    D: That hacking mode you are describing is in fact something I recognize in my own practice. As designers, we learned how to work skilfully and smoothly. We do things spontaneously, ‘without thinking’ so to speak, drawing on tacit knowledge. There are instances during design processes when this tacit knowledge is disrupted.11 The material or tool can behave differently than expected. That disruption might be pleasantly surprising, or unpleasantly disturbing—frustrating as you said before.

    H: There is what is called deep hack mode,12 which is a bit different than what you describe. Entering a deep hack mode is the ability to enter a state of high concentration. In any case, I object to the idea of chance within hacking. Code is either working or not working. If it’s not working it means someone made a mistake that needs to be fixed. I might fix the code in a straightforward way, or I fix it in ways nobody has thought of yet. The latter is called a good hack.

    D: So the fact that nobody has thought about it yet qualifies a line of code to be a good hack? Is it important to you that your code is recognized by others as a unique piece of work? Is there a social pressure involved in hacking?

    H: Hacking, as I experience it, is definitely a social activity. Although we might not often meet in person, there is a general understanding amongst hackers that the technologies we are building and using are created by a vast amount of other people. I wouldn’t want to call this social pressure. I want to come up with good hacks in order to contribute to projects greater than what I could produce on my own. By the way, documentation is crucial for code to be reusable by others. I always make sure my code is clean and beautiful before I publish it. If hackers like my code it means what I made is effective. It’s a compliment when someone uses my code.

    D: Interesting. So coding is a social practice, but also an aesthetic one?

    H: Certainly.

    D: So there might be another commonality between Hackers and Designers. Hackers too like to simplify and visually communicate through the work they produce.

    H: I get it. You are trying to find out if the hacking approach can be useful across disciplines. You want to gain hacking insights in order to obtain a better understanding of your own discipline. You know, I don’t even care about your so-called design methods. All I want to make clear is that there is more to hacking that needs to be considered. Hacking is not a method. If you dig a little deeper you will come across complex forms of interactions, which shape what hackers produce and how they produce it. You cannot learn hacking like you would learn a skill, a subject, or a method. Hacking derives from and contributes to an ecology. You need to be embedded in the ecology in order to understand its workings. You designers tend to glorify hacking and forget about a whole lot of dynamics that are at play in hacking culture. Hackers cannot be described as a homogeneous group. There are many tensions and contradictions within hacker communities. Some hackers make money, some are activists, some are criminals—yet they might all work together on the same project.

    D: I’m curious; the sociality you are addressing seems to relate to what people call the ‘hacker ethic’—a foundation for dealing critically and creatively with technology.1314 But what you are also saying is, while hackers share a common ethical ground and work together, they also disagree and fight?

    H: Yes, but they don’t fight about politics. They fight about code and its principles and I can assure you, they don’t care about politeness.

    D: What would you say are the consequences of the diverse intentions and motivations inherent in hacking practices? Do you think that the plurality of different personalities and beliefs enables a productive form of friction?

    H: Well that depends on what you consider to be productive, and what is included and excluded when you refer to ‘different personalities’. Friction might actually be a core characteristic of the hacker mode of production. But if you ask under which conditions these practices produce code, you might find that these practices are productive only for those who are resilient enough to expose themselves to direct confrontation. To some people, hacking environments can come across as insensitive, judgmental, and hostile. There are people who are either not used to such environments or who are not willing to work within them. By only looking only at the bright side of hacking culture, there is a danger of overlooking certain characteristics of a strand of makers who—besides their many positive achievements—have also produced alt-right deviations and non-inclusive spaces. Some say that these hostile environments make non-male and non-white makers, or makers above the age of 30, feel unwelcome.15 ‘There are many examples that demonstrate the hostility women face while working in online hacking environments. In a hate-mail entitled “Death to Women’s Rights” on the [Debian-women] mailing list, a man expressed how much he despised women because they complain there is no[t] enough women in male-dominated but successful fields’.16

    D: Right. I also heard about the recent controversy with the aggressive rhetoric used by Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds.17

    H: Torvalds is notorious for his political incorrectness.

    D: He’s been called out on verbal abuse and personal intimidation in his online communication.18

    H: After being publicly confronted by a female Linux developer, Torvalds was forced to revise his ‘code of conflict’,19 which promoted ‘no-filter feedback and bluntness as the natural and more successful state of open source software development’.20

    D: Apart from the ethical dimensions, hacking culture encompasses peculiar pedagogical facets. Hackers promote open access to information, unlimited possibilities for exchanging knowledge, and the right to learn. On the other hand, confrontational rhetorics—I’m thinking for instance of ‘RTFM’ (read the fucking manual)—mark another pedagogical dimension of hacker culture: the importance of technical self-cultivation.

    H: The confrontational nature of hackers’ ways of communicating with each other is essential to their modes of co-producing. Only by practicing a radical transparency and directness are hackers able to express—through their work—their positions and along with it, their partiality and omissions. They sustain space for others to confront them.

    D: So would you say that the ability to work collectivity is so crucial that hackers will open up the work they produce? How is this openness put into practice?

    H: The constant state of exposure—and along with it, a sustained vulnerability—is enabled only through constant and meticulous practices of documentation. Far from covering up our bugs, we openly acknowledge and even explain them. We don’t hide problems.21 The virtue of transparency is that it makes actions accountable. The community is built upon social dynamics that are informed by frictional interaction. Those frictions mark hacker culture. Through constant exposure to the possibility of potential disagreement and dispute, hackers are constantly ‘making and remaking themselves’.22

    D: I think I get your point. We can’t talk about hacking without also talking about community, infrastructures, and inevitable cultural codes. The paradoxes you described bring about important frictions within hacker communities, and are crucial to an understanding of the hacker way of working. These frictions don’t seem incidental. No, they’re actively made, widely publicized, and openly negotiated. Instead of idealizing a hacker archetype, designers could learn more from the dilemmas of this maker culture. This, in turn, might help them reflect on the missed opportunities and weak points of their own practices. Designers should disseminate their work in ways that force still-vulnerable processes to be exposed and possibly contested. If we stop clutching so tightly to the paradigm of making ‘convincing work’, and instead embrace the limits of our practices, designers could create our own ecology of frictions.


    1 WdKA Minor Programmes / Presentations 2018, https://www.wdka.nl/news-events/minor-programmes-presentations-2018.

    2 Anne Galloway, Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Lalya Gaye, Elizabeth Goodman and Dan Hill, ‘Design for hackability’, Designing Interactive Systems: Processes, Practices, Methods, and Techniques, (2004): 363-366. Also available from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/221441240_Design_for_hackability.

    3 Lint Finley, ‘Linus Creator is Sorry. But Will He Change?’, 17 August 2018, https://www.wired.com/story/linuxs-creator-is-sorry-but-will-he-change/.

    4 Hackers & Designers, https://hackersanddesigners.nl/s/Projects/p/Levels_of_Autonomy.

    5 ‘Hack The Body’, Baltan Laboratories, http://hackthebody.nl/.

    6 ‘Hacking the News’, MU, http://www.mu.nl/en/about/agenda/hacking-the-news.

    7 ‘Hack je stijl!’, Het Nieuwe Instituut, https://hetnieuweinstituut.nl/hack-je-stijl.

    8 For instance, H&D claims to engage participants in developing critical standpoints through modes of hacking—by getting your hands dirty rather than a distanced critique of analyzing and reflecting on technological products.

    9 Referring to hackers I describe mostly—but not exclusively—software developers within my proximity who use and contribute to Free/Libre Open Source Software (F/OSS). While such hackers are not explicitly political, they are idealistic about the code they write. They gather and build communities mostly on the basis of skills rather than ideologies.

    10 Graham, Paul. ‘The Word Hacker’, April 2004, http://www.paulgraham.com/gba.html.

    11 Donald Schön, Educating the Reflective Practitioner, San Francisco, London: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1988.

    12 Jargonfile, http://catb.org/jargon/html/D/deep-hack-mode.html.

    13 Paraphrasing Frank Rieger’s quote ‘Die Hackerethik ist die Grundlage für den Umgang mit den diversen ethischen Problemen, die sich beim schöpferisch-kritischen Umgang mit Technologie (auch “hacking” genannt) stellen’. in Frank Rieger, ‘Hackerethik—eine Einführung Verantwortung und Ethik beim schöpferisch-kritischen Umgang mit Technologie’, Chaos Computer Congress, 27 December 2018, https://media.ccc.de/v/35c3-10011-hackerethik_-_eine_einfuhrung/.

    14 The term hacker ethic, when used by hacker communities such as the Chaos Computer Club, refers back to Steven Levy’s notion of hacker ethic as ‘an ethic seldom codified, but embodied in the behavior of hackers themselves’. Levy, Steven. Hackers. Heroes of the Computer Revolution, London: Penguin Books, 1994 (1984).

    15 Ali Spivak, ‘Inclusion Includes You Let’s talk about How Inclusion Benefits All of Us’, Mozilla devroom, Fosdem 2019, 2 February 2019, https://fosdem.org/2019/schedule/event/inclusion_includes_you/.

    16 Paraphrasing from: Yuwei Lin, ‘A Techno-Feminist Perspective on the Free/Libre Open Source Software Development’ in: Gender and IT Encyclopedia, Idea Groups, 2006.

    17 Jon Brodkin, ‘Linus Torvalds Defends his Right to Shame Linux Kernel Developers. “My Culture is Cursing”: Linux Kernel World is a Hostile Place—By Design’, Ars Technica, 16 June 2013, https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/07/linus-torvalds-defends-his-right-to-shame-linux-kernel-developers/.

    18 Linus Torvalds, ‘Linux 4.19-rc4 released, an apology, and a maintainership note’, posting to the Linux Kernel Mailing List, 16 September 2018, https://lkml.org/lkml/2018/9/16/167/.

    19 Steven Vaughan-Nichols, ‘Revised Linux Code of Conduct is now officially part of Linux. With the release of the Linux kernel 4.19 came not just new features and bug fixes, but the new Linux Code of Conduct as well’, ZDNet, 22 October 2018, https://www.zdnet.com/article/revised-linux-code-of-conduct-is-now-officially-part-of-linux/.

    20 Nick Statt, ‘Linus Torvalds returns to Linux development with new code of conduct in place: Torvalds took a self-imposed break to rethink his controversial treatment of others’, The Verge, 22 October 2018, https://www.theverge.com/2018/10/22/18011854/linus-torvalds-linux-kernel-development-return-code-of-conduct/.

    21 See also: Debian-Gesellschaftsvertrag: 3. ‘Wir werden Probleme nicht verbergen Wir werden unsere Fehlerdatenbank für alle Zeiten öffentlich betreiben. Fehlermeldungen, die von Personen online abgeschickt werden, werden unverzüglich für andere sichtbar’, Debian.org, https://www.debian.org/social_contract.

    22 Gabriella Coleman, Coding Freedom. The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking, New Jersey, Oxfordshire: Princeton University Press, 1973, pp. 27.

  • The Workshop and Cultural Production

    The Workshop and Cultural Production

    Anja Groten
    Orignially published at Open!


    The workshop is a popular framework in cultural production that brings together groups of people from different fields in order to (co-)produce knowledge. Situated between work and leisure, workshops are organized within extra-curricular activities, such as symposia, incubator programmes, and innovation labs. Those activities emerge from public cultural institutions, for-profit festivals and congresses, academic conferences, and small non-profit initiatives. Buzzwords like ‘rapid prototyping’ or ‘agility’ promote high-velocity technological development and imply that the workshop format is a highly productive one. From the perspective of design practice and more specifically, by looking at collaborative approaches to technology design,1 this paper explores the workshop’s capacity, or lack thereof, to create critical, constructive conditions for designing technology.

    Introduction: Workshop-Pop. The Workshop Phenomenon

    I was asked by one of my design students: ‘Why does everything have to be a workshop these days?’ The question most probably arose out of a certain workshop fatigue after having gone through a whole semester of weekly hands-on workshops during a practice seminar I taught on collaborative making from 2017–18 in the design department at Sandberg Instituut, Amsterdam.2 However, the question also addressed a certain exhaustion of the ‘workshop market’, a workshopization of cultural production, and a general disappointment in what workshops are actually capable of. The format of the workshop offers a framework for social gatherings, producing, and sharing knowledge. However, there seems to be little specificity in articulating its premises, characteristics, and objectives.

    Together with the Amsterdam-based collective Hackers & Designers (H&D) I co-founded with artist Selby Gildemacher and software developer James Bryan Graves in 2013, I make critical inquiries into the complexity of technological constructions and their societal implications through collective processes of designing technology. H&D currently has seven members and is only one of many workshop initiatives in the Netherlands that have started organizing extra-curricular bottom-up educational activities outside of the institutional context since 2010 – each of those initiatives having another angle and focus.3 H&D aims to bring artists, designers, and technologists together by means of hands-on workshops. The most common participant is a freelancer, in between jobs, or having just graduated. H&D has since dealt with web and network technology, computational automation processes, and ‘smart’ technology, in brief and practical encounters.

    Although the workshop as understood today does not directly refer to the artisanal workshop,4 a sense of competency is still shared with or is to be acquired among participants. This cross-disciplinary making approach was practised at the Bauhaus where the workshop was the place that brought ‘art and technology together as a “new unity” to meet the design challenges of the period’.5

    H&D has emphasized technology as human-made and inhabiting social orders in its workshops. According to Lilly Irani, Associate Professor of Communication, Science Studies, Critical Gender Studies, Design Lab, Data Science Institute, University of California San Diego, ‘subjects and social orders [are] reproduced and valorized in practices of […] technological production. These forms of technologically productive social life emerge at the intersection of systems of gender, economy, and politics.’6 At H&D, situations of collaborative making turn into sites for exercising and challenging positions: opposing, contradicting, and confronting. The hands-on aspect and collaborative modes of production are important. Touching, soldering, breaking apart, deploying code, are means of acquiring new knowledge and skills, but also confronting assumptions of dominant technological constructions in a temporary social context.

    Workshop Branches and Deviations

    The workshop here refers to a site and situation that hosts groups of like-minded people to meet and work intensively on a specific technological topic in a defined timeframe.7 Workshops usually take place outside of the daily work routine. Even if in the workplace workshops are usually positioned as a ‘fun’ disruption to the daily employment obligations.

    One branch of the workshop is the hackathon, a ‘hybrid of work and leisure’,8 drawing on hands-on iterative prototyping and usually focusing on a specific technology or programming language. Participants are unpaid and work towards concrete solutions in a short amount of time in a competitive setup. At the end a jury selects the most innovative project, which receives a prize. Hackathons have been criticized for exploiting the willingness of participants to perform free labour.

    In the cultural and artistic domain, hackathon-like workshops have become popular. In March 2018, I participated in one during a two-day intensive workshop run by a design and technology lab.9 Four participants were invited via a personal, informal email emphasizing the experimental character of the workshop and the opportunity to collaborate with a unique group of makers – a writer, software programmer, and a creative coder. I was asked to join due to my expertise as a designer and involvement with H&D. Upon arrival all participants were asked to engage in an introduction game to get to know each other, which required physical exercise. One participant refused, and although everyone had met before in other circumstances, the others went along with it. What followed were two days of intensive brainstorming. The challenge: ‘Create an interactive story that is set in the future. And use code.’ Nothing else was specified. The workshop space was well-equipped: markers, sticky notes, and walls covered with paper to sketch, draft. Throughout it became clear we were expected to produce a functioning prototype – a demo of an interactive installation, which would be presented and tested in public at the end. One hundred people were already invited. Posters and flyers were printed and distributed. The pressure was high. We even received a workshop facilitator, who mediated the ‘idea finding’ process. Drinks and snacks were offered in high frequency. A videographer came to interview every participant about the qualities and challenges of collaborating.10 The video interviews were published on social media platforms, and the project website.11 The tension grew towards the end of the second day. It became clear we would not be able to produce a functioning prototype in the given time frame. To be able to present a convincing demo to the audience meant that some of the participants would have to continue working on the project after the workshop was completed.

    This description of the hackathon-like workshop scenario exemplifies a few dilemmas I have come across. The workshop is generally considered a highly productive space. However, it is often only considered successful if a tangible result is produced: a product or prototype that can be presented to a wider audience. By organizing a public event as concluding moment for the workshop, the organization clearly intended to introduce pressure. The team had no choice besides producing something that a broad audience would understand. Over-facilitation is another pitfall. By introducing mediation, exercises, a wide range of workshop equipment, dominant means of documentation, the – probably well-intended – workshop host establishes a highly controlled environment, diminishing any possibility for contingency. Erasing chance from the collaborative process obstructs other unanticipated forms of value, such as longer term collaboration. The arbitrariness of the assignment (‘Create an interactive story that is set in the future.’) combined with an imposed hackathon-like setup of the workshop (‘And use code.’) implied that there was a challenge that needed to be solved, without the time and space to investigate commonalities and urgencies for producing something together. The workshop was as an end in itself.

    Although the term workshop is common both to English and non-English speaking contexts, there is no standardized definition. Conceptions and expectations about what a workshop should produce diverge. Yet distinctions can be made by looking at those branches and deviations – the previously mentioned hackathon being one example. Another is the participatory design workshop, a secret weapon of socially engaged designers working in urban planning, architectural design, and software development.12 Participatory designers counter the detached design approach by letting end-users and citizens take part in the design process rather than approaching them as consumers. The workshop offers the participatory designer the opportunity to strategically involve all stakeholders in the design process, which enables the designer to take control over decision-making processes. The facilitating designer usually distinguishes ‘between “experts” with technical and managerial skills, and “lay people” with informal or contextual knowledge. In most cases, designers’ status as experts confers relatively greater authority in decision-making than lay persons.’13 Some participatory and user-centred design workshops democratize the design processes, empowering individuals to exercise control over their environment. Those workshops, however, run the risk of limiting layperson participation to ‘passive roles’, including filling out surveys and joining focus groups.14

    Workshop Knowledge

    H&D workshops pull from ideas of participatory design in the sense that they open up processes of design and computer programming. They are based on the underlying claim that being limited to one’s own subjectivities, own disciplines, the individual maker won’t be able to incorporate the multiple facets of technology design. By working together with (or against) a cross-disciplinary group of makers on practical matters relating to technology design, the constraints of disciplinary thinking are confronted.

    In his book Educating the Reflective Practitioner, influential thinker Donald A. Schön who is working on ‘reflective learning’ discusses the sequences of skilful judgements, decisions and actions that a maker undertakes spontaneously without conscious deliberation, a process he terms ‘knowing-in-action’. Makers have learned how to do something skilfully and smoothly. They do things spontaneously, ‘without thinking’ so to speak, based on their tacit knowledge.15 In workshops those skills are public. In my observation, the premise for collaborative design processes, of partaking in each other’s ways of doing, is that habitual methods and skills are the subject of attention and questioning. By exposing the making process to others, tacit knowledge might be disrupted and called into question. A making process that is familiar to one person might fail to meet somebody else’s expectation of how ‘things are done’. That disruption might be pleasantly surprising, or unpleasantly disturbing. Schön calls the surprise effect of errors and disruption while executing a skill ‘reflection-in-action’. When this reflection happens during the collaborative making process the makers involved do not reflect on something that happened in the past. Instead reflection happens while something is being produced, and therefore has immediate consequences for the action. Similar to collective interaction, the thing that is being made (the thing could be a conversation or a piece of technology), is shaped and reshaped by these contingent disruptions. The friction results from an interplay of people’s interaction during a collective making situation, alongside their interactions with the technology being made and that used to make it.

    To give an example: H&D developed an instant publishing software with the title Momentary Zine, which was used in different workshop situations and triggers reflection-through-action quite literally.16 I A zine is a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images. The Momentary Zine could be described as a publishing-karaoke machine. It uses speech input to instantly produce printed output. By speaking into a microphone, participants can produce a printed publication containing image and text. The user of the zine station goes into direct conversation with the tool, which simultaneously produces the publication. The experience of producing a zine is informed by the immediacy of speaking and instantly creating printed output as well as the confrontation with the shortcomings of the technology. Not every word will be recognized accurately by the software, and the result of the image search might be unexpected. The surprise effect of unexpected texts and images changes the zine output without much deliberation in an improvisational manner.

    Workshop Commonalities and Differences

    H&D workshops and the hackathon format have the subject of technology design in common as well as the ad-hoc collaborative modes of production and the ambition to create something new. In the context of H&D this might be a new experience, new knowledge, or a new social or material prototype. Different from a hackathon, the aim is not to set up a problem that needs fixing. There is no imposed competitive element, and the focus of the making process does not lie in producing finalized outputs. On the contrary, the artefacts produced during the workshops have the characteristics of disposals rather than proposals – they are side products of a process. In his talk at the 2018 AIGA Design Educators Conference: MAKE in Indianapolis, Matt Ratto, Associate Professor who directs the Semaphore Research cluster on Inclusive Design, Mobile and Pervasive Computing and, as part of Semaphore, Critical Making Lab in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto,17 talked about one of his critical making seminars,18 in which his students knew from the beginning that they would have to destroy their prototypes after the seminar. Thus it became immediately clear that whatever was made, would not be regarded as precious. The students could therefore let go of the pressure to produce functional and aesthetically pleasing artefacts. Instead they were able to consider potentialities and boundaries of the collaborative making process.

    Shifting the focus away from designed objects towards prototyping allows for the development of an understanding of the inner workings of the proposed technology, its conditions and implications. As Thomas James Lodato and Carl DiSalvo write: ‘[…] a distinction needs to be made between the prototype and prototyping, as an activity. … The object is crucial, but it is a product of the social process of conceptualizing and expressing the wants and needs. The activity of prototyping, then, is dialogic in that its structure is one of exchange and its purpose is the discovery and elucidation of the conditions or factors of a design.’19

    The potential of the workshop as a space for experimenting with new forms of social and technological interaction lies in its being an iterative process, constantly in flux. This makes it a difficult format, maybe impossible to fully control or reproduce as a model. If seen as social prototypes that require attention and iteration, workshops can create conditions for work to be produced, processed, disassembled, and possibly disregarded.

    Frictional Encounters in Collaborative Making

    At the moment of encounter with technology and with each other, the collaborating makers share their understandings as well as misconceptions about the many facets that come into being while using, designing, and building technology. Working together with (or against) a cross-disciplinary group of makers, constraints of disciplinary thinking are confronted, dissonance triggered, and uncertainties released. The temporary publics (of collaborators) potentially question the design process while it is happening and might counteract assumptions made during otherwise isolated, individualized design processes.

    The H&D workshops – but also those of similar workshop initiatives such as Re-learn or Open Set – are organized without an imperative of consensus, which distinguishes them from more common forms of participatory design workshops.20 21 Discussions and disagreement about the implications of the examined technology are common and welcome during H&D workshops, as with Momentary Zine. H&D submitted a workshop proposing the publishing device to the annual Libre Graphics Meeting (LGM)22 The proposed workshop tool incorporated proprietary web APIs. In computer programming, application programming interfaces (API) are closed and controlled systems, a set of definitions, protocols, and tools for building software. For the Momentary Zine project H&D used different APIs, one for the translation of speech to text, and one to fetch images from the internet, using the web API provided by Google, which caused some controversy. Although the LGM’s code of conduct states the conference exclusively promotes the development and use of free and open source software graphics applications, H&D decided to put forward the Momentary Zine and passed the preceding review process.23 At the workshop’s outset it was apparent that we had implemented Google APIs in the software, which caused an immediate conflict. Our choice for using the Google API technology was seen as provocative and unacceptable in the open source community. Two participants left the workshop site after clearly and openly opposing and disregarding our contribution to the conference. Around fifteen participants remained – a sufficient amount to continue. The Momentary Zine became centre point and documentation tool of the discussion about proprietary software being unacceptable in the context of an open source conference. Less disruptive voices were able to contribute to the debate. Yet the two adversaries should be credited for their disruption, an instance of productive confrontation that allowed everyone present to reflect on their position as makers within the open source community. The microphone became a moderating device, facilitating and documenting the discussion and zine production.

    This workshop illustrates friction that changed the conditions for workshop production. Although we had planned another path, we were commonly pleased with the course and outcome. The dissonance and resistance of the two workshop participants who decided to leave, had made an important impact on the workshop, and informed the zine production. The zine was not produced – as we expected – in togetherness, and did not follow the editorial path we had designed beforehand. Neither did we expect the workshop to become a platform for unheard voices, expressing frustrations about the dogmas of their community. The success of the workshop could not be measured by the accomplishment of consensus nor by completeness of the output that was generated. However, the discrepancy of the presence of the Momentary Zine as much as the articulated opposition enabled a productive conversation about the ‘elephant in the room’: the inclusion and exclusion mechanisms of idealized technology, such as open source software.

    In answer to the question of whether the workshop is productive, it does not guarantee a marketable product, nor a resolution to a problem. The likelihood of a tangible outcome is not increased with more props, competition, or time pressure. The unique situation of the workshop is the possibility for makers to encounter each other and confront their own and other makers’ ways of making. As Lilly Irani states: ‘Hackathons sometimes produce technologies, […] they always, however, produce subjects.’ 24 While publicly exposing making processes, workshops that focus on collaborative and cross-disciplinary technology design can bring about aspects of technology, such as social orders, positions, and frictions. A makers’ tool will be exposed. Witnessing a maker work with open source as opposed to proprietary software, for instance, makes apparent that a tool is not only an idealistic choice, but that it has consequences for work routines and collaborations.

    The workshop’s capacity to produce critical and constructive conditions for designing technology lies in the tacit and reflective knowledge that is made public and therefore accessible to participating makers. The potential for disruption of the making process paired with contingency and the possibility of dissension provokes socio-technological literacy. If understood as sites where differences between makers and their ways of making might unfold, workshops can facilitate temporary critical publics, which potentially disrupt the otherwise isolated and individualized design process, and challenge the maker’s assumptions about how things should be made.

    • 1 Technology design is a term used to describe the design of technology as well as the engineering process. In Adversarial Design, Carl DiSalvo uses the term in examining the ways that ‘technology design can provoke and engage the political’. Carl DiSalvo, Adversarial Design (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2012).
    • 2 I use the terms maker and making in referring to workshop participants who have different practices and educational backgrounds mostly in the fields of design, art, and computer engineering. When I refer to the maker as workshop participant or participating maker I refer to a maker as part of a specific workshop situation.
    • 3 Amid ‘the current direction of academic institutions, and the attempt to rethink the structures and spaces of learning on a fundamental level’, Tom van der Putte and Tim Ivison assembled and analyzed extra-curricular initiatives exploring education as political engagement. See Tim Ivision and Tom van der Putte, ed., Contestations: Learning from Critical Experiments in Education (London: Bedford Press, 2013).
    • 4 According to Dictionary.com the word ‘workshop’ [work (noun) and shop (noun)] dates back to 1555–65 and refers to the space in which things are crafted or repaired. As a seminar or discussion group emphasizing exchange of ideas and demonstration and application of techniques, skills, etc., origin dates differ; the same dictionary cites the first use as 1937. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/workshop.
    • 5 Christina Volkmann and Christian de Cock, ‘Consuming the Bauhaus’, Consumption, Markets and Culture 9, no. 2 (June 2006):130.
    • 6 Lilly Irani, ‘Hackathons and the Making of Entrepreneurial Citizenship’, Science, Technology, & Human Values 40, no. 5 (April 2015):800–01.
    • 7 Ibid.
    • 8 Thomas James Lodato and Carl DiSalvo, ‘Issue-oriented hackathons as material participation’, New Media & Society 18, no. 4 (April 2016): 544.
    • 9 The foundation Lava Lab, which profiled itself as a design and technology lab, was founded by the Amsterdam-based commercial design company Lava and dissolved in 2017.
    • 10 See video documentation, if then / what now: the making of, June 2018, https://vimeo.com/273102715.
    • 11 See workshop website, If Then What Now, April 2018, http://www.ifthenwhatnow.nl/.
    • 12 ‘Participatory design’ – or cooperative design – is a term and practice originating in 1970s Norway, where user-centred research ‘introduced the notion of worker participation in decisions about technology’ within their work environments. Susanne Bødker, Kaj Grønbæk, and Morten Kyng, ‘Cooperative Design: Techniques and Experiences From the Scandinavian Scene’, in Participatory Design: Principles and Practices, ed. Aki Namioka and Doug Schuler (New Jersey, NY: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1995), 4.
    • 13 Tad Hirsch, ‘Contestational Design. Innovation for Political Activism’, PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 2008, 23.
    • 14 Ibid.
    • 15 Donald A. Schön, Educating the Reflective Practitioner (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1988).
    • 16 The code for Momentary Zine is available at: https://github.com/hackersanddesigners/momentary-zine.
    • 17 See 2018 AIGA Designer Educators Conference: Make, http://make2018.aigadecconference.org/.
    • 18 ‘Critical making’ was coined by Matt Ratto in 2007 to describe work that combines humanities insights and engineering practices, https://criticalmaking.com/matt-ratto/.
    • 19 Ibid.
    • 20 See Realearn, http://relearn.be/2017/ and Open Set, http://www.openset.nl/.
    • 21 ‘These projects [participatory design projects] blur distinctions between technical and nontechnical considerations, and emphasize deliberation and consensus-based decision making.’ Tad Hirsch, ‘Contestational Design. Innovation for Political Activism’, PhD dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2008, 24.
    • 22 See Libre Graphics Meeting 2016, https://libregraphicsmeeting.org/2016.
    • 23 See ‘Code of Conduct’, Libre Graphics Meeting, https://libregraphicsmeeting.org/lgm/public-documentation/code-of-conduct/.
    • 24 Ibid.
  • Critical Making Position Paper

    As a result of globalization, social and technological developments, we increasingly witness practices that cross the disciplinary boundaries of art, design, engineering and technological making and (artistic) social intervention. Sometimes these practices unfold within established contexts of art spaces, design culture, technology labs and activist projects. [Explain the urgency of contemporary socio-/technological/cultural/political developments that makes artists/activists redefine their practice/leave the confines of their traditional disciplines.] Increasingly, however, they leave their respective boundaries; for example, when contemporary art spaces are used for political assemblies and Internet anonymization services, when social design and community art becomes neighborhood activism, when a media design grows into a technological development project for empowering contemporary artists. Often, the positioning of these projects as “art”, “design”,“technology”,“activism” is merely tactical (or even opportunistic), tailored to the now-existing institutions and discourses which are still acting within the categories of the Western 19th and 20th century arts.

    Position Paper Critical Making[1]

    Florian Cramer, Lucas Evers, Akiem Helmling, Klaas Kuitenbrouwer, Marie-José Sondeijker, Janneke Wesseling with comments by Roland van Dierendonck, Shailoh Phillips, Ana María Gómez López, Shirley Niemans, Loes Bogers, mthom057, Yuri Westplat

    1. Why “Critical Making[a]”?

    As a result of globalization, social and technological developments, we increasingly witness practices that cross the disciplinary boundaries of art, design, engineering and technological making[b][c] and (artistic) social intervention. Sometimes these practices unfold within established contexts of art spaces, design culture, technology labs and activist projects. [Explain the urgency of contemporary socio-/​technological/​cultural/​political developments that makes artists/activists redefine their practice/​​leave the confines of their traditional disciplines.] Increasingly, however, they leave their respective boundaries[d][e]; for example, when contemporary art spaces are used for political assemblies[f][g][2] and Internet anonymization services,[3] when social design and community art becomes neighborhood activism[h][i],[4] when a media design grows into a technological development project for empowering contemporary artists[j][k].[5] Often, the positioning of these projects as “art”, “design”, “technology”, “activism” is merely tactical (or even opportunistic), tailored to the now-existing institutions and discourses[l][m] [n]which are still acting within the categories of the Western 19th and 20th century arts. ‘Critical Making[o][p]‘ has the potential[q][r] of giving these practices a common name. [s]Originally coined in the context of design culture and do-it-yourself technology,[6] it gathers (a) practices that are defined by a common characteristic of criticality[t][u][v][w] rather than a common disciplinary and institutional context[7] and (b) work approaches and attitudes of thinking-through-practice.[8]

    Through the latter, Critical Making does not only cut through the disciplinary divides of art, design, activism and technology.[9] In Critical Making, there is no longer a divide between critical theory and artistic practice, but the practice itself is critical and philosophical.[x][y] In this regard, Critical Making corresponds with contemporary philosophies that question the divide between idea and matter[z][aa].[10] But where this thinking still manifests itself in the classical format of written theory, Critical Making negates the dichotomy between making and thinking[ab][ac].

    2. Where does Critical Making take place?

    To date, Critical Making – as coined by Matt Ratto and Garnet Hertz – refers to design practices that critically engage with technology.[ad][ae] Open Source cultural production therefore is a general characteristic of Critical Making. This may entail alternative forms of authorship and copyright, as well as a reconfiguration of traditional linear design workflows of conceptualization, construction and distribution. [af][ag]Distribution, in this context, includes multiplication and archiving. In networked Critical Making processes, all these efforts can take place simultaneously and anywhere[ah][ai].

    Critical Making in this sense is not confined [aj][ak][al]to particular sites. While Critical Making, in Ratto’s and Hertz’ original perspective, had the Maker[am][an] movement and its Maker spaces (i.e. FabLabs, hacklabs[ao][ap] and other public workshop facilities for distributed, personal digital fabrication) as its points of departure, their concept has become highly inclusive and therefore emancipated itself from this specific context[aq][ar].

    In our project, we experimentally take the concept of Critical Making outside the Maker movement and Maker spaces into the larger, general field of contemporary art and design practices. The question is: Can Critical Making reinvigorate the concept of criticality[as][at] in art and design theory and practice, in a technologically informed cultural field? Can existing art and design practices conversely radicalize the criticality of Critical Making? And how can this be made constructive?[au][av][aw][ax]

    3. Why an arts perspective on Critical Making?

    The notion of Critical Making is not specific to art and design, but potentially encompasses any practice that combines making with criticality. This inclusivity – which many art and design movements fought for in the previous century[ay][az] – is without doubt an asset of Critical Making. Still, we think that a more specific arts perspective might not constrain, but will enrich the Critical Making discourse with two specific qualities: artistic research and criticality of discourse.

    The liaison between thinking and making characterizes Critical Making as well as artistic research as it was established as a new academic discipline at the end of the 20th century. Artistic research typically involves practices in which textual and artistic approaches are closely interrelated. In artistic research, the researcher produces writing that critically reflects on the making, while conversely the practice informs and feeds into the writing.[ba][bb] How artistic research may expand the vocabulary of Critical Making will be subject of further investigation.

    Traditionally, contemporary art has had an edge over design in regards to the rigor of its critical discourse. Drawing on critical theory, conceptual art and institutional critique have radically addressed issues of gender, class, ethnicity and even questioned art as such, in its aesthetics, ethics, economics and politics. There needs to be research on the extent to which this radicality can inform expanded notions of Critical Making.

    Conversely, the Open Source and DIY practices of Critical Making can be constructively used to question under-reflected and under-criticized modes of production and distribution in contemporary art: authorship, intellectual property, ownership, privileges of participation. [bc][bd]

    4. Where our project aims to make a difference

    In our research project, we will address the following new questions[be][bf]:

    • How can art, design and technology fulfill a critical and reflexive role in society[bg], including “the possibility of revealing and challenging power relations” (Mouffe, Agonistics, Thinking the World Politically, 2013, 81)?[bh]
    • How can aesthetics still play a role[bi][bj], other than as surface aesthetics of consumer culture and of commodification based on advertisement?
    • We observe that the 21st century creative industries[bk][bl] as a hybrid of art, design and technology have largely subsumed 20th century art and culture under economic terms. Critical Making offers an alternative logic of including creative disciplines into an overarching concept that is not economically, but socially and artistically driven. [bm][bn] Can Critical Making be truly critical by overcoming the industry logic[bo][bp] of techno-optimistic makeability?

    Concluding questions to be addressed, partly taken from visitor feedback:

    • How do we position making?
    • How do we understand criticality? (See related text in full project description)
    • Can Critical Making be a pedagogy?
    • To which degree are our points descriptive or prescriptive?
    • Who needs a new concept?
    • Which difference do we make to existing concepts of Critical Making?
    • How far can histories of Critical Making be extended into the past?

    • [1] http://pad.riseup.net/p/critical_making
    • [2] Jonas Staal, New World Summit (2012-2017), Occupy movement presence at Berlin Biennial 2014
    • [3] Trevor Paglen/Jacob Appelbaum, Autonomy Cube, 2014; !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Random Darknet Shopper (2014-2016)
    • [4] Jeanne van Heeswijk, Freehouse (1998-2017); Black Quantum Futurism, Community Futures Lab (2015-2017)
    • [5] Danja Vasiliev/Gottfried Haider/WORM, Hotglue & Superglue (2009-2017)
    • [6] Matt Ratto, DIY Citizenship, MIT Press, 2014
    • [7] Garnet Hertz, Critical Making zines (2012)
    • [8] Matt Ratto in We Make Things, documentary by Ryan Varga, 2011 (9:30-10:53). In a paper, he defines Critical Making as ”a mode of materially productive engagement that is intended to bridge the gap between creative physical and conceptual exploration” (Ratto, Matt, Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life, in: The Information Society, vol. 27, issue 5, 2011, 252).
    • [9] But also through the divide between practice as the “base” and theory as the “superstructure” that has shaped Western thinking and culture from Platonism to Marxism
    • [10] including pragmatism, actor-network theory, object-oriented ontology and New Materialism
    • [a]Anon: How do we position ‘making’? What is motivating people to act critically?
      Genealogy of Critical Making.
      Moments of intersection between art and science, pre-net collectives, anonymous collectives.
    • [b]Roland van Dierendonck: No, SCIENCE. It’s more about CONTEXTUALISING  that what is MADE in terms of criticality/within feasibility, the scientific knowledge.
    • [c]legitimate concern, but outside the scope of our particular project. This question is, with a focus on technology, addressed in the original Critical Making research of Matt Ratto and Garnet Hertz.
    • [d]Shailoh Phillips: What’s the scope? What’s the problem?
    • [e]Explain the urgency of contemporary socio-/technological/cultural/political developments that makes artists/activists redefine their practice/leave the confines of their traditional disciplines.
    • [f]Ana María Gómez López:
      – Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, Forex, for different takes on activism
      – Think Tania Bruguera, for ex. if you want other examples of working with immigrant communities in the United States and elsewhere
      – Again, for even earlier examples of artistic forms of activisim using technology and design, think of collective initiatives such as Peter Fend and others in Ocean Earth, or even Group Materialś actions around AIDS (including critiques of government funding and pharmaceutical industry.)
    • [g]Great examples, will be included in final version of the document. We will leave them out for now to keep the discource of the project more open for applicants to the researcher positions.
    • [h]Ana María Gómez López: Again, Group Material is an excellent example pre-Internet.
    • [i]Will be included in the final version.
    • [j]Roland van Dierendonck: You don’t mention the Critical Engineering Manifesto.
    • [k]Will be included in the final version.
    • [l]Shirley Niemans: This is quite problematic even when “critical making: in some form is part of the curriculum of – let’s say – a design school – hard to change the existing paradigm, and existing or ‘selected'(?) boundaries between disciplines (design vs. art, applied vs. autonomous).
    • [m]It is true that these boundaries exist and will not go away in the four years of our research project. However, the task of this research project is to look forward and develop radical visions that others may implement in curricula and institutions.
    • [n]Shailoh Phillips: This is the context, the launch point.
    • [o]Loes Bogers: The interpretation of “critical” isn’t specified, maybe clarify the tradition [of] Frankfurter Schule?
    • [p]Excellent remark. – We covered this in the original project description and may include this text here again. In the project description, we refer to Frankfurter Schule as well as to specific practices of critical art and design. The ambition of this research project is to treat both “criticality” and “making” as practices to be researched and potentially given new meanings.
    • [q]Shailoh Phillips: Why? What is the urgency?
    • [r]Will be answered above with the clarification of the social/political/technological developments that motivate Critical Making practices.
    • [s][Waag artist-in-residence]: If you are in the critical position you aim for.
    • [t]Ana María Gómez López: Against what? Take note of your own criticism towards creative industries.
    • [u]Indeed, this criticality chiefly marks an opposition towards creative industries and, by implication, neoliberalism at large. [We will add this in a later version of the paper.]
    • [v]Shailoh Phillips: Is criticality something that is conjunctive, connecting, umbrella? Also divisive!
    • [w]see remark above.
    • [x]mthom057: only?
    • [y]Not only, but this is an important observation to make.
    • [z]Shailoh Phillips: How does this relate to the rise of new materialism, imment philosophy (Barad, Deleuze, Haraway, Braidotti)?
    • [aa]Good point, these authors will be included as references.
    • [ab]Shailoh Phillips: Why was it installed in the first place? Why is it pervasive?
    • [ac]Complex question that concerns the whole history of Western thinking since Parmenidis (via Platon, the enlightenment etc.) Excellent question, we need to find a way of how to address it within the limited space of this paper.
    • [ad]Loes Bogers: For Ratto, it’s also a lot about learning, as a pedagogy of sorts. Is that a concern in the project?
    • [ae]Excellent question – learning processes are intrinsic to Critical Making processes (as we are experiencing right now in the open process of writing this paper). But since the focus of our research process is not on pedagogy, we cannot predict yet to which degree these learning processes will remain implicit or become more explicit (in the sense of a comprehensive meta reflection of the learning processes encountered in this project).
    • [af]Ana María Gómez López: There are examples of artistic production that offer new modes of intellectual production/authorship where artworks are made accessible by being instruction-based, circulate freely, and demystify artistic production. – Look at N55, a Danish group that exclusively produces manuals. – Also, it is worth noting that there is a DIY history already in the arts pre-maker culture which is diverse, be it in 60s conceptual art, activist subcultural zine production, (based on older technologies of Xerox reproduction), or even blue-chip recognition inititatives such as Hans Ulrich Obrist’s Do-It-Yourself Manual. (Applies also to page 1/bibliography in the beginning).
    • [ag]Excellent examples again that will be included in the footnotes and citation references of the final document. However, we do have discussions about the inclusion of Obrist as a Critical Maker (which for example concerns his method of text production where it is not clear to which degree a staff of editorial assistants is involved).
    • [ah]mthom057: What might a networked critical making process entail? i.e. in time, space, notions of community/public?
    • [ai]We will delete the sentence you refer to because it is too unspecific.
    • [aj]Shailoh Phillips: prescriptive? descriptive? Who needs a new concept?
    • [ak][needs longer thought process on our behalf.]
    • [al]There is a clear need for a new concept of criticality in contemporary art (if we just take the current Venice Biennial and Documenta as examples). The same is true for design and technology development.
    • [am]Shailoh Phillips: Overcoming schizophrenia: “makers” (Dutch, HBO) versus “thinkers” (university). Critical making as a way out of the pillarization of disciplines.
    • [an]Agreed. The position paper still needs to explicate the particular Dutch cultural context and connotation of making-vs-thinking.
    • [ao]Roland van Dierendonck: open bio labs
    • [ap](for us: included in the notion of the hacklabs)
    • [aq]Shailoh Phillips: By whom? How? Why?
    • [ar]Critical Making Zines by Garnet Hertz – will ad them as a footnote.
    • [as]Shailoh Phillips: What do you mean by criticality? [Irit] Rogoff?
    • [at]See the first question by Loes Bogers.
    • [au]mthom057: How does this differ from participatory art?
    • [av]Participatory art is neither critical by definition, nor in much of its practice.
    • [aw]Shirley Niemans: To what end?
    • [ax]”productive” has been replaced with “constructive” (following the suggestion of Shailoh Phillips)
    • [ay]Loes Bogers: Where are they in this paper? Should they be mentioned? (Situationism, Fluxus, [cyber]feminist art practices?) Which do you align with?
    • [az]Not included in this paper because it is meant to be a discussion paper, not a historically complete coverage of its subject. Related to the comments by Ana Maria.
    • [ba]Ana María Gómez López: This is the point where I would have the strongest criticism regarding the need to include more on art + science collaborative examples. Happy to share more if you find it relevant.
    • [bb]We refer to the specific concept of artistic research as an academic discipline (see the changed first sentence in the paragraph), not generally to research done by artists by themselves or in collaboration with scientists.
    • [bc]mthom057: Are there any thematic examples?
    • [bd]examples in footnotes (Situationist International, Telekommunisten, Assembly and others)
    • [be]Roland van Dierendonck: [Add bullet point] New history of art in context of ‘Critical Making’.
    • [bf]not the scope of this position paper.
    • [bg]Roland van Dierendonck: then also about how art is presented, for example outside of institutions altogether, check Norman White.
    • [bh]Shirley Niemans: “HOW can [….]?” – It seems a bit rhetorical. What is the kind of answer we/you want? Still a confirmation.
    • [bi]Shirley Niemans: Idem – “HOW can […]”?
    • [bj]agree
    • [bk]Shailoh Phillips: Creative industries is a neoliberal notion: one virtue – it doesn’t discriminate between disciplines. -> reclaiming CREATIVITY.
    • [bl]agree
    • [bm]mthom057: What activates members of society to engage in critical making?
    • [bn]Question is beyond the scope of this position paper.
    • [bo]Yuri Westplat: What if the answer is YES?
      (a) How do we take this further? Is it a METHOD we can LEARN and APPLY? And so change the industry?
      (b) How do “we” break out of the “art bubble” movement? [and into] -> business -> government -> science
    • [bp]Indeed this is not the right question with which to conclude this paper.
    • [bq]Ana María Gómez López: My main comment is first to offer praise to you for citing artworks bibliographically. – I find this to be quite positive. However, this is also where I would encourage you to look at much earlier examples of critical making in the arts, which would give this new concept deeper roots. Think of examples such as E.A.T. developed with Bell Labs (interestingly a corporate-sponsored program that encouraged collaboration between artists, scientists, and technology experts with no interest to prototype a product for the market, but only for unique art projects and events).
      I would also encourage other examples of artworks that make this bibliography more robust, which I have noted throughout this paper (in no particular order of importance and woefully incomplete).
      In general, contextualizing these project in braoder art-historical contexts that be broader than the artas of making you cite explicitly (Net Art, Land Art, Environmental Art, Bio Art).
    • [br]Roland van Dierendonck: Also add Paolo Cirio’s “Loophole 4 All” or Norman White.
  • Project description

    The project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’ aims to investigate (a) how the concept of Critical Making can be developed further within the context of critical theory and the discourse of artistic research and (b) how such a renewed notion of Critical Making can problematize and correct the narrow focus on systems and solutions in the contemporary techno-creative industries. Therefore, our main research question is:

    How can the concept of Critical Making be expanded into a general approach that ties the critical methodology of artistic research, and the established concepts of artistic autonomy, together with contemporary creative-technological development?

    (a) The concept of Critical Making, currently limited to Maker culture and product design, will be fundamentally and academically researched, deepened and applied to a wider set of creative disciplines;
    (b) The experience of criticality of contemporary art will be made available to design and technological making by introducing insights and methodological approaches from the academic discipline of artistic research;
    (c) Artistic Research will be brought into action in re-thinking the concept of Critical Making, which will enable the advancement of the discourse in both the field of art and in academia on design-issues relating to technological innovation and the impact of this discourse on society and on cultural values;
    (d) The project will propose a new theoretical and practical positioning of disciplinary codes in the field of art and design as well as in the field of academic research, to open up the discourses in visual art and design that are largely separated up until now;
    (e) In the context of Digital Humanities, this project will provide methodological insights for Digital Humanities scholars who feel stuck in traditional methodologies of computer-aided statistical analysis and visualization of data sets. The artistic research projects, symposia and workshops will use the competency of artists and designers to think up new ways of digital visual research;
    (f) In the context of practice-oriented polytechnical education (HBO), the project will introduce Critical Making as a reflective working method into Dutch art and design education and into the professional field of artists, designers and technological makers.

    A larger ambition of this project is to give humanities researchers insight into contemporary creative practices that transcend the classical disciplinary categorizations of fine art, design and technology, and often take place outside the established art system (i.e. outside contemporary art galleries, museums, biennials and art fairs). The publications to be created in this research project will therefore give hands-on insight into these new practices to art historians and cultural studies scholars. These traditional categorizations of the arts are also reflected in the current disciplinary divides within the humanities. Our research products will give researchers and policy makers concrete examples and discussion material for the disciplinary transformation of creative practices in the 21st century, and hence (by implication) for possible changes of humanities disciplines.

    The project will include four subprojects by a PhD researcher (Anja Groten), two junior researchers (Shailoh Phillips, TBA) and an embedded researcher (TBA). The researchers will contribute to different events and programmes of the consortium members from a combined practical and theoretical perspective. The consortium will organise a series of Critical Making workshops with art and design students and teachers in several Dutch art schools, including Willem de Kooning Academy Rotterdam and the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. Furthermore, various public presentations, a national and an international symposium will be organized. At the end of the project, the project outcomes will be disseminated through a peer-reviewed, open access, hybrid paper and electronic book.

  • History of the project

    In 2017, the Critical Making consortium received a grant for the four-year project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’ from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) as part of the research programme Smart Culture – Art and Culture. The project has its origin in a prolonged exchange between representatives of Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, Waag Society in Amsterdam, knowledge center Creating 010 at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam and PhDArts / Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) at Leiden University.

    In 2015, the private partners Het Nieuwe Instituut and Waag Society put the subject of Critical Making on the table and articulated a need to deepen and theoretically contextualize the subject and to connect practical research with academic research. Conversely, the academic researchers in this project recognized the urgency of overcoming the split between creative disciplines which they experience as increasingly problematic in their research, respectively art/design educational, practice. All partners agreed that today’s duality of an art and a creative industries system in The Netherlands has widened that gap instead of bridging it, thereby largely excluding fine art practices from creative industries. At the same time, the social impact of new technologies requires a new common discourse and language among practitioners in all disciplines.

    Therefore, the partners decided to initiate a research collaboration with an aim to further investigate Critical Making as an existing concept in the design and new media field with regards to its potential to provide this common language and practice. In June 2016, a one-year KIEM subsidy by NWO/Topsector Creatieve Industrie was granted for preliminary research and for a first position paper on this subject. The research proposal for the current project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’ was developed as part of this KIEM project. The contemporary art institute West Den Haag joined the consortium in July 2016 because it was interested, too, in researching new critical practices spanning art, design and technology. For the other consortium members, it was an important addition to involve a partner from the field of contemporary fine art.

  • Consortium

    In the project ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’, main applicant Prof. Dr. Janneke Wesseling (Leiden University) and co-applicant Dr. Florian Cramer (Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences) have joined forces with Klaas Kuitenbrouwer (Het Nieuwe Instituut), Lucas Evers (Waag Society) and Marie-José Sondeijker (West Den Haag). In November 2017, designer, researcher and Hackers & Designers co-founder Anja Groten and media artist, researcher and educator Shailoh Phillips joined the team as PhD candidate and junior researcher respectively. Candidates for the final two available positions have been recruited in early 2018. The Selected researchers Pia  Louwerens started in September 2018 and Dani Ploeger in January 2019 respectively.

    — Leiden University (with PhDArts) brings in its expertise on the area of artistic research and art and design theory. For Leiden University, Critical Making– with its implied convergence of art, design and technology – is a new field for which no humanities theory exists yet.
    — Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (with Creating 010 and Willem de Kooning Academy) brings in its expertise on practice-oriented research on new media, art and design. It provides the link between Critical Making and art/design education, with the ultimate objective of introducing and structurally integrating Critical Making into the art and design curriculum.
    — Het Nieuwe Instituut brings in its expertise on critical design practice that transgresses the traditional disciplines of design, architecture, new media and digital technology, and its network of Critical Making practitioners. It wishes to gain a stronger theoretical framework for Critical Making.
    — Waag Society brings in its expertise as the institute that first brought Critical Making to The Netherlands. Waag Society operates from a cross-disciplinary vision on design and technology, with a focus on bio art and bio design. It wants to gain new insights from university research and art and design education.
    — West Den Haag brings in collaborations with international experts in a range of different cultural backgrounds and disciplines, and an expertise in the discourse on the presentation of art and on the role of art in society. West wants to expand its collaborations in the field of artistic research.

  • Lucas Evers

    Lucas Evers joined Waag in April 2007 and is currently leading Waag’s Wetlab. He is actively involved in several projects that concern the interactions between the arts and sciences, arts and ethics and the arts in a contemporary makers culture. The Wetlab is a laboratory where arts, design, sciences, engineering and the public meet to research biotechnologies and their impact on society and ecology.

    Lucas Evers is trained in fine arts and teaching at Maastricht Academy of Fine Arts and Design and he studied politics at the University of Amsterdam. He worked De Balie Center for Culture and Politics and Melkweg in Amsterdam, programming cinema, new media and politics.

    He organized a retrospective of French cinematographer Chris Marker was involved in projects such as ‘net.congestion – international festival of streaming media’, Next 5 Minutes, e-culture fair, an Archeology of Imaginary Media and a number of programs related to the societal debate about the life sciences.

    From 2010 until 2013 he was advisor at DasArts, second phase theatre and performance education, mentoring students. He has been commission member at Mondriaan Foundation and is currently commission member at Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.

    At Waag he worked and works on projects such as Trust me I’m an Artist (ethics of art and science collaboration), Future Emerging Art and Technologies, Hack the Brain, Do It Not Yourself Biology, Critical Making and initiated Designers and Artists for Genomics Award (now Bio Art & Design Award).

    His interests lie in the way we can learn from the interactions, the differences and similarities, between artistic, scientific and other cultures of research.


  • Pia Louwerens

    Artistic researcher | performance artist
    Junior embedded artistic researcher in the Critical Making project.

    Pia Louwerens’s research methodology consists of texts, spoken-word performances and events in which she complicates the artistic subject: the “I” who speaks, writes, and makes. She does this by experimenting with the (re)writing of her own script as Pia Louwerens. Her texts are based on the institutional context they are or will be presented in. The institutional situation at hand informs the script, mimicking the weird entangled state of performance: the situation and the performance make each other, like the artist and the performance make each other, like the artist and the institution make each other.

    In order to think through these constructed and conditional aspects Louwerens uses the methodology of writing scripts. Like her performances are embedded in their context, also her scripts take place on the same level as that which they script: when she speaks about the event it is during the event, and when she speaks about parasitising she does so by stealing the words of others. This synchronisation of action and script, begin both in this moment and about this moment, is essential to her practice.

    Louwerens her scripts are filled with weird storytelling techniques. These are weird in the sense that they function as sliding mechanisms between planes or registers. Some examples are: the use of intertextual references and elaborate self-quotations as a means to time-travel, shifting between meta-narratives and first narratives, complicating (through splitting, analysing or doubling) the identity of the narrator, mimicking or copying a context, parasitising and/or sliding between registers of speech with different levels of intimacy.

    Through these contextual, conditional, situated, hyper-personal, embedded and messy works, Louwerens considers the fluidity of concepts like the event, the performance, the “I who speaks” and the institution. Some of her main questions are: How to make something which is (a)live? What strangenesses are there in proximity and the intimate? How to see difference without distance?

    In 2012 Louwerens earned her bachelor diploma fine arts at the KABK in The Hague. From 2017 – 2019 she was a participant in the post-master programme of the experimental artistic research institution a.pass (advanced performance and scenography studies) in Brussels. Next to her artistic practice she writes art reviews, for which she won the basisprijs Prijs voor de Jonge Kunstkritiek in 2018. Pia Louwerens works in Rotterdam and The Hague, and works and lives in Brussels.

  • Dani Ploeger

    Dani Ploeger is an artist and cultural critic who explores situations of conflict and crisis on the fringes of the world of high-tech consumerism. His objects, videos, and apps emphasize both the fragility and rawness of the materiality of everyday technologies, and question the sanitized, utopian marketing around innovation and its implications for local and global power dynamics. In this context, quasi-journalistic journeys often provide the starting point for the development of his works. He has made a VR installation while embedded with frontline troops in East-Ukraine, travelled to dump sites in Nigeria to collect electronic waste originating from Europe, and interviewed witnesses of US drone attacks in Pakistan for a project around sound and technologies of violence.

    Dani’s artwork has been shown at transmediale (Berlin), WRO Media Art Biennale (Wroclaw), Dutch Design Week (Eindhoven), Arse Elektronika – a festival of sex and technology (San Francisco), and he has received commissions from ZKM Karlsruhe, V2_Lab for unstable media (Rotterdam) and the Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris). His writing has been published in Leonardo, the International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media and the Oxford Handbook of Sound and Imagination, among others. Reviews and features of his artwork have appeared in VICE, The Wire, Times Higher Education Supplement, La Libération, and on ARTE television, Deutschland Radio, and Dutch national public radio. His VR installation The Grass Smells So Sweet was awarded the Vrhammy Award 2018, jury prize of the VRHAM! Festival for art and virtual reality in Hamburg, Germany. He holds a PhD in media, performance and cultural studies from the University of Sussex, UK. In addition to his position as researcher at Leiden University, he is a Research Fellow at The Royal Central School of Speech of Speech and Drama, University of London.

  • Florian Cramer

    Florian Cramer is a reader (Dutch: lector) in 21st Century Visual Culture/Autonomous Practices at Willem de Kooning Academy and Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, The Netherlands.


    • since 2008: Reader/research professor Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam University of Applied Science
    • 2011-2015: Director Research Center Creating 010, Rotterdam University of Applied Science
    • 2011-2015: public program developer at WORM, cultural venue in Rotterdam (part-time)
    • 2010-2011: Director Piet Zwart Institute
    • 2006-2010: Course Director of the Masters program Media Design and Communication, Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam University of Applied Science
    • 2005: Research fellow Piet Zwart Institute
    • 1999-2004 lecturer/junior faculty Comparative Literature, Peter Szondi Institut für Allgemeine und Vergleichende Literaturwissenschaft, Freie Universität Berlin


    • 2006 Dr. phil. Comparative Literature, Freie Universität Berlin, thesis: Exe.cut[up]able Statements: Poetische Kalküle und Phantasmen des selbstausführenden Texts, 2011, Wilhelm Fink, München
    • 1998 M.A. Comparative Literature, Art History and German Philology, Freie Universität Berlin
    • 1989-1998 studied Comparative Literature, Art History, German Philology and Philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin, Universität Konstanz and University of Massachusetts at Amherst


    For a list of selected publications relevant to this research project, see here.

    advisory boards


    • 2017 HBOAward for achievements in Open Access publishing, Stichting SURF, Netherlands
    • 2007 media.art.research.award Ludwig Boltzmann-Institut & ars electronica, Austria
    • 2005 Junggesellenpreis für Netzliteratur, Literaturhaus Stuttgart, Germany
    • 2002 with Sebastian Luetgert: honorary mention software award transmediale.02, Berlin, Germany
    • 1998 Pegasus electronic literature award, IBM/Die Zeit/Radio Bremen, Germany
  • Shailoh Phillips

    Polymash media artist | researcher | activist | educator
    Junior researcher in the Critical Making project
    PhD candidate at PhDArts, Leiden University

    Originally trained in Anthropology, Philosophy and Cultural Analysis (University of Amsterdam, Humboldt University), Phillips has spent the past decade working in the field of digital media and design education, as well as cultivating a collaborative studio practice of cross-media projects and tinkering with electronics. She works along the interstices between digital/analogue, making/thinking, art/engineering, theory/practice, building interdisciplinary bridges. Her practice revolves around fostering playful forms of resistance and seeking out pressure points to act in the face of social inequalities and unfolding ecological disasters. In 2017, Phillips graduated from the MA Education in Arts and Design (Piet Zwart Institute). She currently teaches Hacking and Digital Crafts at Willem de Kooning Academy, and in the Design, Curating and Writing Master at the Design Academy Eindhoven. In the context of the Critical Making project, she investigates the limits and potential of criticality through pedagogical experiments in the Fabulous School of Octopy.

    Previous jobs (selection)

    • 2016-2017: embedded researcher and trainer at Bouwkeet Makerspace (Rotterdam)
    • 2012-2014: coordinator of the Media Lab, Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam)
    • 2011-2012: manager game development at Vrede van Utrecht, with Fourcelabs)
    • 2010-2012: project manager new media and innovation at Kunstgebouw
    • 2008-present: digital media, research and education Studio Babel (Amsterdam)
    • 2004-2010: researcher, game designer and screenwriter, VPRO (Hilversum) and Submarine Channel (Amsterdam)


    • 2015-2017: Master of Education in Arts and Design (cum laude), Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy (Rotterdam). Thesis: Some Troubles with Making | Tentacular Pedagogy in the Age of Entanglement.
    • 2008-present :workshops in creative coding, electronics and instrument building (STEIM, Freakdays oF platform Amsterdam, Mediamatic, WORM, Media Technology Leiden)
    • 2008-present: PhD Theory Seminars Media and Performance Studies (Utrecht University); LUCAS Theory Seminars (Leiden University); Data Drive Research Seminars (University of Amsterdam)
    • 2001-2009: studied Philosophy, Cultural Analysis, Conflict Studies, Arabic Language and Culture (minor), Gender Studies, Physics, New Media at University of Amsterdam, Utrecht University, Humboldt Universität and
    • Freie Universität Berlin
    • 2004-2005: Media Academy VPRO Jong Talent training in Cross-Media production (Hilversum)
    • 2001: Conflict Mediation Masterclass, SCI Peace Corps, Baku, Azerbaijan
    • 2000-2004: BA Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Non-Western societies (cum laude), University of Amsterdam


    • Co-founder and secretary of Stichting Studio Yalla, Amsterdam
    • Member of the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis (NICA) and Research School for Media Studies (RMeS)
    • Member of Kostgewonnen autonomous collective
    • Book club coordinator at Feminist Club Amsterdam (FCA)
    • Working group sexual orientation and gender diversity, COC Amsterdam
    • Tools for Action: civil disobedience interventions with inflatable objects (Berlin)

    Awards and nominations

    • 2017: nominated for the Willem de Kooning Research Award for Graduation Project ‘Some Troubles with Making’
    • 2011: ‘Collapsus’ (Submarine Channel/VPRO) Dutch Spin award, Interactive Award (SWSX), nominated for Digital Emmy ‘Best Digital Fiction’

    Activities (selection)

    • 2017-2018: Open Set (St. Joost, Netherlands, moderator, workshop)
    • 2017: Radical pedagogy in technology education, HackOn (ADM, Amsterdam)
    • 2017: keynote lecture : Onderwijsspecial FabCity, Rotterdam
    • 2017: Shared Senses for Haptic Commons, with Lancel/Maat (CASCO, Utrecht)
    • 2017: Decolonizing the museum workshop at (MuseumNext, Rotterdam) with Imara Limon and Lina Issa
    • 2017: Impact workshops for community theater production ‘Eerst Zien, dan geloven’ (Nationaal Theater, Den Haag)
    • 2017: Rest In War – photography and the afterlife of images of war (workshop and moderator (Nacht van de Filosofie, Den Haag)
    • 2017: Some Troubles with Making: Critical Tools for Futurecrafting in the Age of Entanglement, Act Otherwise Graduation presentation (MEiA, V2, Rotterdam)
    • 2017: Symposium Agents in the Anthropocene (Netherlands, moderator)
    • 2016-2017: Het Vijfde Seizoen, art workshops for psychiatric professionals
    • 2014-2016: Hacking Healthcare co-teaching (UvA, Rietveld Academy)
    • 2014-2015: Amsterdam Coordinator of 3D printing curriculum at schools, ZB45 Makerspace
    • 2013 Research Project Augmenting Masterpieces. Rijksmuseum, CIRCA (Creative Industries Research Centre Amsterdam), ASCA (Institute for Cultural Analysis). With Johanna Barnbeck (embedded researcher) & Jan
    • Hein Hoogstad (ass. Prof Amsterdam School of Cultural Analysis)
    • 2013: Presentation Rijksstudio and Media Lab – Open collection and the creative commons (with Linda Volkers), Automne Numérique, French Ministry of Culture and Communication (Paris)
    • 2013-2014 Waanzien MOTI museum (Breda), war photography and image manipulation. Group exhibition.
    • 2010-2013: Interactive educational projects for Kunstgebouw, including SoundSpheres, MonsterMedia, Splatsj, Codex KIT, Hartslag (3D video mapping), Met andere ogen (UAR app).
    • 2011-2012: Cross-Media and Film workshops, Rio Content Market (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
    • Survival Kit Film and Philosophy (Arminius, Rotterdam)
    • 2009-2017: Q&A’s, IDFA, Movies that Matter Festival
    • 2009-2013: Go van Gogh, web-platform and symposium with Van Gogh Museum, Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam)
    • 2009: ‘Freezeframe’: video installation with live Studio 1826 soundtrack at Damoclash Festival and Helmsdale/Glasgow, with Chris Dooks.
    • 2008 – 2010 Troublemakers.nl, online platform and series of workshops and debates on feminism and art
    • 2008-2010: Writer, translator for Chronicles, Crossing Border Festival (Den Haag)
    • 2008-2009: Film, media and technology reviews, Radio Nederland Wereldomroep (Hilversum)
    • 2007: Ervaring en Armoede: Walter Benjamin kritisch herlezen (Perdu, Amsterdam)
    • 2007: Filosofie in Tijden van Oorlog, with Joost de Bloois and Tammy Castelein. (Drift Festival, Amsterdam)
    • 2004 – 2010: VPRO, Hilversum: Tegenlicht ‘Energy Risk’ (2010), ‘Wraak! ‘(2009), Tegenlicht ‘Insjallah’ (2008), ‘Het geluk van Nederland’ (2005), ‘De Kunst van Niemand’ (radio play, 17 min 2004).


    • Phillips, Shailoh “Tools and Technology for Museum Learning” pp. 223-242. King, Brad, and Barry Lord, eds. The Manual of Museum Learning. Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.
    • Phillips, Shailoh “Cyberkurds and Cyberkinetics: Pilgrimage in the Age of Virtual Mobility” In: Etnofoor. Vol. 20, No.1, Pilgramage pp. 7-29, 2007
    • Phillips, Shailoh “Overal Vincent: Van Gogh en massareproductie”, p.196-200, “Echt nep: 8 historische schandalen uit de oorlogsfotografie” p. 76-82. DUF Jongerentijdschrift, ‘Waanwijs’
    • Phillips, Shailoh “Nieuwe richtingen voor nieuwe media” p. 16-17, Kunstgebouw magazine oktober #1Nieuwe Media,2011
  • Marie-José Sondeijker

    Co-founder and artistic director West Den Haag

    West presents contemporary art in the historic environment of a city palace in the heart of The Hague museum district and in a seventeenth century townhouse. The art centre focuses on the most relevant international developments in the field of visual arts. West offers artists space and opportunities to develop new work, and places it through a broad dialogue, in a social context. West is researching new critical practices spanning design and technology from within the arts.

    Projects/productions (selection)


    • Gustav Metzger: Ethics Into Aesthetics
    • Feedback #1: Marshall Mcluhan and The Arts


    • Ulf Aminde: The School Of No Return
    • Douglas Park: Post-Terminal & Ex-Ultimate
    • Without Firm Ground: Vilém Flusser And The Arts


    • Patrick Bernatchez: Lost In Time
    • Encounters
    • Et Al.: For The Common Good


    • Autonomy Exchange Archive: Paul Branca and Lisa Hayes Williams,
    • This is not Africa
    • This is Us


    • Volkspaleis
    • Reynold Reynolds
    • Club Null
    • Volkspaleis: Julian Rosenfeldt
    • Public Access & Let Us Keep Our Own Noon: David Horvitz
    • Sound Spill 2011 Let’s Make Sense: Arin Rungjang 2010 Uitburgeren
    • Baby!: Simona Denicolai & Ivo Provoost.
  • Klaas Kuitenbrouwer

    Researcher and program maker in digital culture at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

    • Since 2012 Researcher at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam.
    • Since 2006 Teacher Media and interaction theory at DOGTime department Gerrit Rietveld Academy.
    • 2011 – 2012 Headmaster Games and Interaction Design, HKU, Utrecht.
    • 2009 – 2012 Program manager at Virtueel Platform
    • 1999 – 2008 Manager workshop program Mediamatic
    • 1989 – 1999 Art practice in radio, interactive media, -games, -performance, development of independent cultural projects and programs


    • 1984 – 1989 Study Contemporary History, University of Utrecht

    Advisory boards

    • 2017 member editorial board of ROBOT LOVE
    • Since 2014 board member Stichting PIPs:Lab, Amsterdam
    • Since 2013 board member Stichting Kulter, Amsterdam
    • 2004 – 2008 board member Bodies Anonymous
    • Various jury memberships

    Selection of recent projects

    • The zoöp project
    • Neuhaus Academy for more-then-human knowledge
    • Vertical Atlas
    • Gardening Mars / Terraforming Earth
    • Fellowship program at Het Nieuwe Instituut
    • Bot Club and other Thursday Night Live series at Het Nieuwe Instituut


    • Felix Hess, Witteveen & Bos publicatie
    • E-volver on Driessen & Verstappen
    • Social RFID, Open!
    • Open Culture and various other Virtueel Platform publications
    • Architecture of Interaction, with Yvonne Dröge, Lino Hellings
    • SDFWP with Tabo Goudzwaard, André Schaminee
  • Janneke Wesseling

    Prof. Dr. Art historian, art theorist, art critic. Main applicant of Critical Making Project, chair of consortium. Main task: supervision of two Critical Making PhD projects.


    • 2016 – present: Professor in Practice and Theory of Research in the Visual Arts, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University, The Netherlands
    • 2008 – present: Director of PhDArts, international doctorate programme in visual art and design, Academy of Creative and Performing Arts, Leiden University, The Netherlands
    • 2007 – present: Reader and Head of the Lectorate Art Theory & Practice at the University of the Arts, The Hague, The Netherlands
    • 1982 – present: Art critic at the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad


    • 2013 Dr.Phil in Art History, Leiden University, Leiden.
    • 1982 M.A. in Art History, Leiden University, Leiden
    • 1973-1982 studied Art History, Free University Amsterdam (B.A. 1977) and Leiden University, Leiden

    Recent Publications (selection)

    • The Perfect Spectator. The experience of the art work and reception-aesthetics. Thesis: 2017, Valiz, Amsterdam
    • Of Sponge, Stone and the Intertwinement with the Here and Now. Inaugural Lecture. 2016, Valiz, Amsterdam
    • See it Again, Say it Again. The Artist as Researcher. Ed. Janneke Wesseling. 2011, Valiz, Amsterdam.

    Recent lectures (selection)

    • Inaugural Lecture ‘Of sponge, stone and the intertwinement with the here and now. A methodology of artistic research.’ 19 September 2016, Leiden University
    • ‘Interdisciplinarity and artistic research: where is the “inter” located?’. At international expert meeting ‘Practising interdisciplinarity? States of the Art’, Swiss Institute. Rome, 10 and 1 ocotber 2016
    • ‘Art criticisim and reception esthetics’, in lecture series Art Now, Witte de With, Rotterdam 11 november 2015, De Appel, Amsterdam, 12 november 2015
    • 2012 – ‘Artistic Research: Research and Performativity’, lecture in “Real World” session of Artquest, Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, October 18.
    • 2012 – ‘The Artist as Researcher’, Ruby Tuesday Lecture in Schunck, Heerlen, January 17
    • 2011 – ‘The artist as researcher’, International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP), New York, November 5
    • 2011 – ‘Towards a reception aesthetics of contemporary art’, Dutch Association of Aesthetics Annual Conference, Ghent, Belgium, May 27/28
    • 2011 – ‘How do artists think?’ , at the conference Beauty and Science, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, March 11
  • Anja Groten

    Designer and PhD researcher.

    Anja Groten is an Amsterdam-based designer, educator and community organiser. In 2013 she co-founded the initiative Hackers & Designers, attempting to break down the barriers between the two fields by enforcing a common vocabulary through education, hacks and collaboration. Anja is a PhD candidate at PhD Arts, a practice-lead doctoral study at ACPA (Academy of Creative and Performing Arts) Leiden University, and works as an embedded researcher at the consortium Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making. From 2019 Anja heads the design department at the Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, Master of the Rietveld Academie.



    • since 2019: Department director, Design Department, Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam
    • since 2017: Artistic researcher, Consortium ‘Bridging Art, Design and Technology through Critical Making’
    • 2016-2020: Tutor, Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, Master of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie
    • 2017-2018: Tutor, Design Academy Eindhoven
    • 2013-2017: Tutor, Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam
    • since 2013: Founding member of Hackers & Designers


    • since 2017: Doctoral studies, PhDArts, Leiden University Academy of Creative and Performing Arts and the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague
    • 2011: MDes, Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, Master of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie
    • 2008: Diplom Kommunikationsdesign, Niederrhein University of Applied Science, Krefeld

    Workshops (selection)

    • 2017: “Emoji Babble. Coding with Emojis,” Hunan Normal University Changsha and CAFA Beijing (China)
    • 2017: “We/Me,” MAKE!, Willem de Kooning Academy, Rotterdam (Netherlands)
    • 2016: “The Momentary Zine,” FORMS Festival, Toronto (Canada)
    • 2016: “Encounters & Publishing,” cross-disciplinary workshop, Sandberg Instituut Amsterdam, De Punt, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
    • 2016: “Publish & Destroy,” Sandberg Instituut, De Punt, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
    • 2015: “The Momentary Zine,” Libre Graphics Meeting, University of Westminster, London (UK)
    • 2013: “Our Autonomous Life?,” with Casco Office for Art Design and Theory, City of Women Festival, Ljubljana (Slovenia)

    Scholarships & residencies

    • 2018: if then / what now? Interdisciplinary artist in Residence. Lava Lab,  Twins Ink, Amsterdam
    • 2017: Visiting artist, FREE. Design educators conference, Otis College of Arts and Design, Los Angeles
    • 2016: Travel scholarship, Traveling Dialogue, Creative Industries Funds NL
    • 2013: Artist in residence, MilesKm, Rood Noot, Utrecht
    • 2010: Designer in residence, Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles
    • 2010-2011: DAAD Stipendium, Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst
  • Unmaking Electronics in the Era of Unrepairability: Exploring the degradation of digital devices as critical practice

    Despite often utopian ambitions, maker and electronics repair initiatives mostly lack potential to pose broader, systemic challenges to consumerism, partly due to their widespread endorsement of key tropes of neoliberal economism: innovation, progress and entrepreneurship (see e.g. makerfaire, n.d.).

    Unmaking Electronics responds to this with an alternate approach to making. Drawing from Jean-Pierre Dupuy’s (2002, 2012) concept of ‘enlightened doomsaying’, artistic strategies will be developed that use the visual artefacts of technological decay, recycling, and destruction to mediate the catastrophic implications of contemporary techno-consumerism. While seemingly nihilistic, this will form the starting point for two constructive endeavours: establish practice-based pathways to enjoy the bare materiality of technology while disrupting ideologies of infinite growth; and introduce a radical vehicle to reflect on challenges to the utopian ambitions of maker culture.

    Rather than exploring brute destructive force, the project will focus on the effects on hardware and software of controlled processes of decay in stress test setups, long-term documentation of material deterioration, and artistic applications of informal electronic-waste recycling practices.

    As part of the project, a work space will be created. The Laboratory of Electronic Ageing (LEA) will be a space for artistic experimentation with electronic devices, equipped with industrial stress testing machines for consumer technology. The machines will be used to create controlled environments to induce material deterioration in mobile phones, tablet computers, and other everyday devices. The laboratory will facilitate both the appropriation of established, industrial grade stress testing procedures for artistic endeavours, and the development of alternative, unconventional uses for the testing equipment. Through electronics hacking, the machines may be modified to design new experimentation procedures with simulated and imaginary deterioration processes.

  • Who am I and how do I do?

    Researcher: Pia Louwerens

    In my research project called Who am I and how do I do I will explicitly inhabit my position as junior embedded artistic researcher within the institutional framework of the project itself. The performances and narrative that will be generated from that position will serve as a methodology towards the development of a fundamental institutional critique of proximity.

    The ontology from which I work is the agential realist theory of philosopher and theoretical physicist Karen Barad. She writes about apparatuses, which she describes as “material-discursive practices through which (ontic and semantic) boundaries are constituted”. According to Barad, distinctions or boundaries like human/nonhuman, object/subject are never already in place but constantly created and affirmed by these boundary-producing practices, which include habit and power. I think this (re)installment of boundaries could be described by the term “institutionalisation”, in the sense that institutions are shaped by repetition, habit and power. Barad emphasises that boundaries are never permanent, and always negotiable. I see the “renegotiation” of boundaries as a description for critique. I want to look into how Barad’s notion of apparatus and boundaries can be applied towards a contemporary institutional critique. The words critical and making together propose forms of critique which aren’t rooted in notions of inside/outside, and depart from proximity rather than distance. What is a position of criticality in relation to codependency, conditionality, institutions, politics and life?

    The philosophy of Barad is full of weird and uncanny phenomena: indeterminacy, entanglement, things constantly enfolding back into themselves, weird topologies and the flexible nature of causal relations. I have used terms like the weird and the uncanny, to describe the temporary destabilisation of frameworks that my performances produce. The weird performative strategies I use have a lot in common with the way that Barad describes the world. They draw lines through dichotomies like fiction/reality, now/history and object/subject, which creates weird effects.

    I am interested in the entanglement between the inside and the outside, not through rejection of these categories but by turning them inside out, inhabiting the zone where they become indistinguishable. It is in this uncertainty of boundaries where the weird or uncanny is situated. “It is the between which is tainted with strangeness.” – Hélène Cixous in her essay on das Unheimliche. While institutions are places where boundaries are being produced (a convergence of art-apparatuses), artworks have the possibility to undo them. As Thomas Schestag describes poets in his essay Poiein: “They undo their bonds with language, undoing language, the language of men, language in general. They don’t belong, neither to mankind nor to themselves. Poets are not poets. And a poem never coincides with what is called a poem.” I wonder how notions of the weird and the uncanny can help in defining the critical potential of both the artwork and the artistic position in my practice.

  • Distributing Criticality: The School of Octopy

    Researcher: Shailoh Phillips

    What are the limits and potential of ‘criticality’ in the context of Critical Making? My research aims to generate an updated notion of the ‘critical’ in Critical Making.

    What could ‘critique’ entail if it includes non-verbal and non-human modes of operation — can an object form an argument and embody critique? I investigate this using inflatable sculptures, as part of the Tools for Action collective. How can inflatable objects express and perform critically in the context of social protest movements? If a ‘critical’ object is copied, is criticality also reproduced with it? Can critique be formalized in an algorithm and repeated, that is, can a computer program perform critique? The questions regarding reproducibility are explored by building copying machines that perform automatic text analysis and critique.

    Exploring and analyzing the implications of ‘postcriticality’ (Felski), contemporary debates on entanglement in feminist new materialism (Barad) and Actor-Network Theory (Latour) this discussion addresses how critical objects remain radically complicit, stuck inside the systems that are being critiqued. Throughout this, I am approaching criticality as a form of cultural capital that is unequally distributed.

    This research trajectory materializes under the banner of the School of Octopy, identifying and testing the practical implications for critical pedagogies in arts and design education. Collaborative modes of working are developed within, between, and alongside a network of institutions, materializing as a tentacular nomadic school. Each workshop attaches to a specific context, while staying connected a dynamic interconnected field of ecological, political and social issues.

    The activities in this school include stress tests with materials, interspecies pedagogy, developing and testing critical tools, circuit hacking, curriculum bending, power mapping, rapidly melting prototyping, and (inflatable) interactive public interventions.

    Ideas for collaboration and participation in Critical Making sessions with the Fabulous School of Octopy are most welcome. Contact: shailoh@studiobabel.nl.

  • The (Im)possibilities of Friction

    Researcher: Anja Groten

    The starting point of the (sub-)project ‘The (Im)possibilities of Friction’ is the question: can oppositional forces and encounters of resistance in the context of design and engineering processes be productive, and if so, what could be a possible outcome? Could the results of friction be used strategically, and be considered design?

    This research problematizes frictional co-creative processes by drawing parallels with cultural, philosophical and political theories of agonism, dissidence and disobedience. By means of hands-on cross-disciplinary workshops and by producing and highlighting frictional experiences – by breaking open and appropriating software, hardware, and networks, i.e. through actual encounters with the technologies proposed – this inquiry aims to reframe the discourse about what is often described by tech-optimists as innovation.

  • Literature

    — Abel, Bas van, Lucas Evers et al., Open Design Now. Why design cannot remain exclusive, Amsterdam: BIS Publishers, 2011.
    — Barness, Jessica, and Amy Papaelias, ‘Critical Making: Design and the Digital Humanities’. In Visible Language 49.3 (2015), 5.
    — Biggs, Michael, and Henrik Karlsson (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, London [etc.]: Routledge, 2011.
    — Biggs, Michael, ‘Learning from Experience: approaches to the experiential component of practice-based research’. In Enquist, Henrik L. U., and Henrik Mark Karlsson (eds.), Forskning, Reflektion, Utveckling, Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet, 2004, 6-21.
    — Bippus, Elke (ed.), Kunst des Forschens: Praxis eines ästhetischen Denkens, Berlin: Diaphanes, 2009.
    — Boler, Megan, and Matt Ratto, DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2014.
    — Borgdorff, Henk, The Conflict of the Faculties. Perspectives on Artistic Research and Academia, Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2012.
    — Carter, Paul, Material Thinking: The Theory and Practice of Creative Research, Melbourne: Melbourne University Publishings, 2005.
    — Cramer, Florian, Anti-Media: Ephemera on Speculative Arts, Rotterdam: NAi010, 2013.
    — Da Costa, Beatriz, and Kavita Philip, Tactical biopolitics: art, activism, and technoscience, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010.
    — Dormer, Peter, The Art of the Maker. Skill and its Meaning in Art, Craft and Design, London: Thames & Hudson, 1994.
    — Dorst, Kees, Frame Innovation. Create New Thinking by Design, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015.
    — Drucker, Johanna, Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013.
    — Dunne, Anthony, and Fiona Raby, Speculative Everything. Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013.
    — Frayling, Christopher, ‘Research in Art and Design’. In Royal College of Art Research Papers 1.1 (1993/4), 1-5.
    — Hertz, Garnet, Critical Making, United States: Telharmonium, 2012.
    — Ratto, Matt, Kirk Jalbert, and Sara Wylie (eds.), Critical Making Special Forum Issue 30.2 (March 2014).
    — Ratto, Matt, ‘Critical Making: Conceptual and Material Studies in Technology and Social Life’. In The Information Society 27.4 (2011), 252-260.
    — Schatzki, Theodor R., Karin Knorr Cetina, and Eike von Savigny (eds.), The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory, London [etc.]: Routledge, 2001.
    — Schön, Donald, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action, New York: Basic Books, 1983.
    — Somerson, Rosanne, and Ma. Alessandra L. Hermano, The Art of Critical Making: Rhode Island School of Design on Creative Practice, Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
    — Wesseling, Janneke, Of Sponge, Stone and the Intertwinement with the Here and Now. A Methodology of Artistic Research, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2016.
    — Wesseling, Janneke, See it Again, Say it Again. The Artist as Researcher, Amsterdam: Valiz, 2014.
    — Zijlmans, Kitty, Robert Zwijnenberg, and Krien Clevis (eds.), CO-OPs. Exploring New Territories in Art and Science, Amsterdam: De Buitenkant, 2007.

  • PhDArts / ACPA

    PhDArts, international doctorate programme in visual art and design at Leiden University, is a collaboration between Leiden University Academy of Creative and Performing Arts (ACPA) and the Royal Academy of Art (KABK) in The Hague. PhDArts offers a high-level research environment and supervision for artists and designers who are in the vanguard of their field and who aim at obtaining the doctoral degree in artistic research. PhDArts, and the aforementioned collaboration, are unique in The Netherlands. PhDArts has gained wide international recognition for the high level of its research and of the training programme that it offers to artists and designers.

  • Willem de Kooning Academy

    Willem de Kooning Academy Hogeschool Rotterdam (WdKA) is one of the Netherlands’ largest art schools, with Bachelor programmes in art, design and education and Master programmes at Piet Zwart Institute. Its curriculum and research programmes are oriented towards autonomous, social and commercial practices that transcend the traditional art and design disciplines, bringing together students, teachers and practitioners from different fields of practice and knowledge.

    Art and design have a long history of research through visual studies, prototyping, design processes, experimentation with materials, and conversing with other disciplinary frameworks. WdKA operates from the perspective that art and design research produces new forms of knowledge and practices, and is a catalyst for innovation and social transformation. WdKA’s transdisciplinary research is conducted in collaboration with Erasmus University Rotterdam and CodArts Rotterdam in the Rotterdam Arts & Sciences Lab (RASL).

  • Waag

    For over twenty years, Waag has operated at the intersection of science, technology and the arts. Waag’s work focuses on emergent technologies as instruments of social change, and is guided by the values of fairness, openness and inclusivity. Waag’s dedicated team of sixty thinkers and makers empowers people to become active citizens through technology. Waag is a middle-ground organisation composed of research groups that work with both grassroots initiatives and institutional partners across Europe. The collective has a shared attitude of public concern and civic activism, which is manifested in our public research agenda. Working with emergent technologies, Waag conducts research in both imaginative and practical terms, addressing its fellow citizens from a position of equality and collaboration.

  • West

    Art centre West presents contemporary art in the historic environment of a city palace in the heart of The Hague museum district and in a seventeenth century townhouse. The art centre focuses on the most relevant international developments in the field of visual arts. West offers artists space and opportunities to develop new work, and places it – through a broad dialogue – in a social context. West is researching new critical practices spanning design and technology from within the arts. Recent projects include exhibitions and symposia on artists such as Gustav Metzger and Gary Hill, and the Kunstgeschenk 2018 Please Touch by Christiaan Weijts.

  • Het Nieuwe Instituut

    Het Nieuwe Instituut consists of three pillars: a museum for architecture, design and digital culture; an expertise center for creative industries; and the national archive for architecture. Through its activities Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to increase the appreciation of the cultural and social significance of architecture, design and digital culture and to strengthen the interaction between these disciplines. In a period characterised by radical change, Het Nieuwe Instituut wants to moderate, stimulate and facilitate debate about architecture, design and digital culture through research and a public programme. The broadening and deepening of the public’s appreciation is a fundamental starting point.