Brass Goggles & Lace

Personal Identity through the Act of Appropriation

The following paper was the status report written in December 2009 for the Human Computer Interaction Design capstone (masters thesis) course at Indiana University.

Opening Paragraphs

Technological gadgetry is a world of homogenized objects; every iPhone, for example, looks and acts the same when shipped from the factory. However, once a technological gadget is bought, its biography is determined by its owner from that moment onward. The appropriation of an object, i.e. the adaption of an object so it fits a person’s life-world and identity, is hard to pinpoint explicitly.

How does one know when an object has been appropriated, and why? Are there certain objects that encourage appropriation? Are there certain objects that discourage it?

This capstone paper attempts to define creative technological appropriation and identity in relation to one another by using Steampunk as a case study. The technological aesthetics of Steampunk rebel against our always-connected-with-my-super-high-tech-homogenized-gadget culture by finding inspiration in the past. Specifically, the Victorian era, when industrialization did not mean homogenized yet. Why do people join this movement, and how? What is their creative process? How does this creative act of appropriation reflect, influence, and potentially define their identity? What can the field of Human-computer Interaction learn from Steampunk?

Read more… (3.59MB PDF)

Works Cited

  1. Ahde, P. 2007. Appropriation by adornments: personalization makes the everyday life more pleasant. DPPI ’07. ACM, New York, NY, 148-157.
  2. Battarbee, K. and Mattelmaki, T. 2002. Meaningful product relationships. DE ’03. Loughborough, UK, 337-344.
  3. Bell, G., Blythe, M., Sengers, P. 2005. Making by making strange: defamiliarization and the design of domestic technologies. Interaction 12 2 (June 2005), 149-173.
  4. Buechley, L., Rosner, D. K., Paulos, E., and Williams, A. 2009. DIY for CHI: methods, communities, and values of reuse and customization. CHI EA ’09. ACM, New York, NY, 4823-4826
  5. And many, many more…