Reading Makers

Minka Stoyanova

Abstract

Since its inception, digital and interactive art has been forced to negotiate the tension between the inherently spectacular nature of the technologies it uses and the desire of creators to embed relevant critical stances within the work. With the recent rise of “maker” or DIY culture, this negotiation has become even more pronounced as the production of technologies becomes more accessible and (allegedly) more democratized. In addition, our relationship with technology is becoming increasingly intimate. Whereas machines once could have been read as tools, through which we would enact our individualized wills, they now implicate themselves into our mental processes, our bodies and (one could argue) our very being. Within this cyborgian construction we risk mindless acceptance and integration of the particular logical models technology and its producers bring to the merger. A tension arises between our need to understand or recognize the logic which drives our lives and the technology, which often seeks to obfuscate that logic. This paper, through the application of philosophy of technology to a specific maker subculture - as it has been adopted by a movement in fine art (art and technology) - situates making as a form of artistic practice at the intersection of these ideas. As a mode by which technologically inclined artists can navigate the spectacular and the critical in their work, making allows these artists to enact criticality through revealing underlying technical (and social) logic in the systems (and objects) with which they engage. Thus, this paper will trace the philosophical foundations of this critical approach and finally analyse a series of works that reveal strategies through which “making” as a mode of “revealing” has been refined by artists as a critical approach to embedded technological systems.

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