Cuz We Are Living in a Material World

So this past week, I’ve been trying to follow the advice of one of my professors, Shaowen Bardzell, about how to narrow the scope of my capstone. Yes, I like the idea of appropriation (why do we personalize the things we do, and what does it mean?). Yes, I love Steampunk. But what is it about these topics, and how can I make them relate to HCI?

Well. I’ve been reading articles from ACM this week on the following suggested topics:

  • DIY
  • Craft
  • Creativity
  • Narrative
  • Material Culture

They were all interesting, but one stood out: DIY. This makes complete sense to me. I’ve always been a crafter, and this past summer especially I reignited my passion for crafting (take a glance at my Flickr to see what I mean). Anyway, I found an article on IKEA Hacking with a sentence that literally made me say “Oh my God. That’s it.” It talks about the growing “intersection between online culture and the material world of creative practitioners,” and that “creativity and identity are transforming through the merging of online and material culture.”

I love this because I am all about materiality. I am a tactile person, and love using my hands. I’m frustrated with the flat touchscreen obsession riding the technology wave… I like buttons! I like not having to look at my mp3 player when I want to skip a song, or my phone when I’m making a call. I have fingers, they have sensors, I want to use them to their full extent.

But not only that, I also feel I’m a part of this culture. I do T-shirt surgeries, but I didn’t know they were called that until I found the LiveJournal community. Watching that community inspires me, and sometimes I post my own creations to it. Would I continue my crafting without this community? Definitely. But does it make me feel like I’m part of something a little bigger? Yes, which is cool. Same thing goes with my furniture refurbishing, or my art pieces, etc.

Anyway, I emailed my professor asking if we can talk about this topic and she seems pretty excited! Which is awesome, because I feel like I’m getting somewhere with this crazy topic. And, to help with research, I bought every available issue of the indie Steampunk Magazine… along with their guide to surviving the apocalypse.

Moral of the story: Research is fun.