In the 1950’s educators and parents connected poor literacy rates to how reading was taught in schools. ‘Why Johnny Can’t Read’ was one result – a book that advocated not just new strategies for education, but new ways of organizing educational institutions. Currently, we have a different reading problem – most people have a limited ability to ‘read’ technologies, to evaluate the social, cultural, and environmental ramifications of their adoption and use. This literacy problem is similar to the one that came before and requires not just individual discovery but institutional innovation. Critical Making is a practice that highlights these issues and poses some solutions.
Matt Ratto is an Assistant Professor and director of the Critical Making lab in the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. His research focuses on how hands-on productive work – making – can supplement and extend critical reflection on the relations between digital technologies and society. Since 2007, Ratto has carried out workshops in ‘critical making’ in Amsterdam, London, Canada, the US, and Scotland.