I am dedicated to developing experiential ways of teaching cultural critique of science and technology. I work to amplify the accessibility and applicability of critical analysis by combining text- and lecture-based learning with Critical Making. Critical Making is a practice-based approach to critique that helps students recognize how culture, society and politics is built into objects, technical systems and the physical landscape through the deconstruction and reconstruction of objects and technical systems.
Emerging from art and design practice, Critical Making is a form of social science learning that is particularly accessible to physical and technical learners (Ratto, Wylie and Jalbert 2014). By implementing Critical Making in my courses, I aim to demystify science and technology for students who perceive these fields as too hard or technical, while simultaneously concretely illustrating the practical utility of social science for science and engineering to students who may perceive the social sciences as abstract and thereby irrelevant. I believe by fusing training in critical thinking and making, we can inspire and develop new tactics and strategies to address the problems that cut across disciplines such as toxicology and environmental injustice.
In my creative courses I ask the students to follow what I describe as “generous, positive and close” forms of critique as defined by STS scholar Joe Dumit. Close critique, whether in text or other media, looks at how an argument is put together—exact quotes, the argument structure, or analysis of the materials chosen in a making project. Positive critique tries to make the best argument possible for the analyzed work—focusing on what is coherent and thought provoking. Critique is offered in the spirit of improving positive aspects, not highlighting mistakes or missteps. Generous critique is the most important aspect of the conversation—it is connecting the text or material before you to other ideas—expanding on the arguments—seeing not how a line of thought can be closed but how it can be opened, expanded and iterated.
Courses and Syllabi
RISD Digital+Media Department
- 2010: Becoming Animal, Technical and Social
- 2011: ArtLabSyllabus
- Environment Technology and Society
For the Cabinet of Industrial Food Curiosities students were inspired by the fantastic artwork exhibited Edible: a Taste of Things to Come (2013) in Dublin’s Science Gallery. This show was curated by Zach Denfeld and Cat Kramer of The Center for Genomic Gastronomy.