Interactive technologies for the public sphere : toward a theory of critical creative technology
Digital media cultural practices continue to address the social, cultural and aesthetic contexts of the global information economy, perhaps better called ecology, by inventing new methods and genres that encourage interactive engagement, collaboration, exploration and learning. The theoretical framework for creative critical technology evolved from the confluence of the arts, human computer interaction, and critical theories of technology. Molding this nascent theoretical framework from these seemingly disparate disciplines was a reflexive process where the influence of each component on each other spiraled into the theory and practice as illustrated through the Constructed Narratives project. Research that evolves from an arts perspective encourages experimental processes of making as a method for defining research principles. The traditional reductionist approach to research requires that all confounding variables are eliminated or silenced using methods of statistics. However, that noise in the data, those confounding variables provide the rich context, media, and processes by which creative practices thrive. As research in the arts gains recognition for its contributions of new knowledge, the traditional reductive practice in search of general principles will be respectfully joined by methodologies for defining living principles that celebrate and build from the confounding variables, the data noise. The movement to develop research methodologies from the noisy edges of human interaction have been explored in the research and practices of ludic design and ambiguity (Gaver, 2003); affective gap (Sengers et al., 2005b; 2006); embodied interaction (Dourish, 2001); the felt life (McCarthy & Wright, 2004); and reflective HCI (Dourish, et al., 2004). The theory of critical creative technology examines the relationships between critical theories of technology, society and aesthetics, information technologies and contemporary practices in interaction design and creative digital media. The theory of critical creative technology is aligned with theories and practices in social navigation (Dourish, 1999) and community-based interactive systems (Stathis, 1999) in the development of smart appliances and network systems that support people in engaging in social activities, promoting communication and enhancing the potential for learning in a community-based environment. The theory of critical creative technology amends these community-based and collaborative design theories by emphasizing methods to facilitate face-to-face dialogical interaction when the exchange of ideas, observations, dreams, concerns, and celebrations may be silenced by societal norms about how to engage others in public spaces. The Constructed Narratives project is an experiment in the design of a critical creative technology that emphasizes the collaborative construction of new knowledge about one's lived world through computer-supported collaborative play (CSCP). To construct is to creatively invent one's world by engaging in creative decision-making, problem solving and acts of negotiation. The metaphor of construction is used to demonstrate how a simple artefact - a building block - can provide an interactive platform to support discourse between collaborating participants. The technical goal for this project was the development of a software and hardware platform for the design of critical creative technology applications that can process a dynamic flow of logistical and profile data from multiple users to be used in applications that facilitate dialogue between people in a real-time playful interactive experience.