Dissertation Defense - Nick Logler
Exploring Material Imaginaries: Action and Possibility in Everyday Artifacts
Abstract: Materials are made. So much so, and at such a scale, that researchers estimate that in 2020 the entire mass of human made things surpassed that of all living biomass (Elhacham et al. 2020). A world in which our materials are transformed into finished things, used and then discarded, pushes human and natural systems to the limit. A world in which materials remain in the foreground, visible and available, transforms inert and finished waste into sites of imagination and opportunity. In my dissertation, I investigate how we define and navigate the dynamic field of possibilities around materials. In Part I, I present a theoretical account of materials and imaginaries; explore how metaphor shapes our imaginations and technical practices; and propose a framework for generating new visions for materials. In Part II, I report on a design workshop I conducted with middle school students where they explored consumer electronics through the lens of material imaginaries–disassembling printers, identifying parts, exploring new ways of using the parts, and designing new resources. In Part III, I draw on the findings from Parts I and II to propose four design criteria researchers can use to further interrogate material imaginaries. My work offers five contributions: (1) A conceptual account of material imaginaries; (2) a workshop format for investigating material imaginaries in general; (3) findings from my fieldwork with young people and printers; (4) design work envisioning how interventions can reshape imaginaries; and (5) design criteria to evaluate and generate material practices. Taken together, my dissertation offers theoretical and practical tools for reimagining our relationship with materials.
Chair: Batya Friedman, Professor, Information School
GSR: Audrey Desjardins, Associate Professor, Interaction Design, School of Art + Art History + Design
Member: David Hendry, Associate Professor, Information School
Member: Jason Yip, Associate Professor, Information School
Attend in-person at Mary Gates Hall 258