Alongside research and teaching, a growing number of scholars are “making” work that explores multimodal scholarship. But making is not a new approach. As a rhetorical concept, making or techne has a long history and encompasses a wide range of work, from carpentry to circuits. Making, as an art, craft, or method of study, works with both digital and material components to trace the connections between technologies, society, and design. Over the past 20 years, computational and digital tools have become more affordable and more available, allowing individuals and collaborative groups to tinker with technology. However, more than merely making for fun, critical curiosity has created new networks of scholarship, pedagogy, and power.

Playing off of Hayles’ foundational work, “How We Think,” this issue explores “How We Make” through, with, and alongside technology, creativity, and design as well as how making impacts society. Our open-access issue builds upon the work of Katherine Hayles in entangling old and new media, Matt Ratto in critical making, David Gauntlett in digital DIY, and Carl DiSalvo in civic tech. Each article emphasizes how humanist scholar/makers theorize and critically practice making as part of an ecology of experiences and techniques. In these investigations, connections emerge between materiality and technology, new modernism and makerism, collaboration and community, prototyping and play, rhetorical delivery and digital tools, and teaching and tinkering.

The collection begins by examining making as an embodied literary practice. In "Between Page and Screen, Hands: What it Means to be an Embodied Reader,” Anne Royston explores the materiality of emerging literacy practices through print-digital works. Royston first examines Chris Fritton’s Why We Lose Our Hands to analyze how print-digital works invoke embodied understandings of reading. Royston compares the fields of digital literature and contemporary artists’ books to demonstrate how print-digital works (esp. those that incorporate QR codes or augmented reality) call attention to the shifting understandings of “old” and “new” media. Royston asserts that print-digital works are neither “antagonistic" nor “utopian" about technology, but rather "explore the interplay between print and screen," stressing the materiality and touch required. Royston then analyzes Amaranth Borsuk and Brad Bouse’s Between Page and Screen to demonstrate the destabilizing experience of reading an intermedial hybrid text, including attempting to hold the book up just right to the camera, and still having the words fly away. Next, Royston analyzes J.R. Carpenter’s The Broadside of a Yarn (an installation of maps with QR codes linked to voiced narratives) to show how multimodal works can incorporate voice to draw attention to the embodied. Finally, Royston traces Emily Dyer Barker’s "Public Spectacle Essays" (a series of handmade broadsides with QR codes installed by collaborators across multiple cities), to show how print-digital works can be immersive, and "insist on touch" to "communicate empathy." Looking at layered and interactive media, human and machine, Royston analyzes the interplay of bodies and technologies to show the entangled, reflective process by which readers make sense of texts.

A humanities approach to making emphasizes critical reflection and can also challenge product-driven processes. In "New Modernism and Utopian Creativity,” Jess Wilton traces the intertwining notions of new modernism, capitalism, and “makerism” to demonstrate how our understandings of creativity and economy influence perceptions of making. Reexamining the histories and predecessors of contemporary DIY and maker practices (including maker spaces), Wilton connects making to the workshops and networks of modernist/Arts and Crafts movements. Wilton also distinguishes the democratic, feminist ideals of the DIY ethic, as opposed to the homogenous structures of the maker movement. She introduces the term “makerism” and compares it with “modernism” in its utopian gestures, but contrasts that makerism occurs within institutions. She identifies that the maker movement and elite makerspaces emphasize technology, fabrication, and production and are often devoid of mission, philosophy, or self-reflection. Wilton asserts that these trends demonstrate that English departments have just as much to add to championing creativity and innovation as STEM and that humanities can interact with collaborative maker spaces to teach critical thinking alongside creation.

Collaborative maker projects often initiate new types of community interaction and reflection. In "Contested Spaces: How We Made an Audio Quilt of One Thousand Names,” xtine burrough and Letícia Ferreira outline how LabSynthE at the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication got started, more as a collaborative group that “produced ideas” rather than a physical space. They describe the typical workflow of a project, from a call for proposals, to a team meeting, to the production and presentation of the work. Ferrera and burrough point out that while one member may have the initial idea, “the whole lab gets involved” approaching “the work of the lab as a collective.” They then outline their involvement in artistically remixing the AIDS Quilt Touch Project, itself a remediation of the AIDS Memorial Quilt. The lab was invited to participate and responded to the themes of "community, memory, and ritual." The installation performance asked participants to record the names of AIDS victims in DIY audio cards, which were then hung around the building, where other participants could listen and interact. LabSynthE practices collaborative DIY maker principles of Garnet Hertz, making projects to understand how the technology works "through shared, creative practice.”

Many approaches to making also encourage a type of play or tinkering to explore innovative possibilities. In "Prototyping through Play: Making an Urban Satellite Region Hackathon,” Rachel Hendery, Liam Magee, Andrew Perry, and Teresa Swist argue that civic hackathons are excellent sites for playful prototyping. Building off the theory of “civic tech,” the authors demonstrate how hackathon participants can “playful[ly] engage with technology” while "motivated by an intent toward social openness and political possibilities.” Specifically, the authors uncover how the sketching process before the coding is the location for “socializ[ing] the digital process of how we make.” The authors started their own hackathon series in Western Sydney to make their hackathon regionally "accessible to residents who are potential beneficiaries of the hackathon.” After shifting from a judging to a show-and-tell model, the authors witnessed a shift from competition to collaboration where experienced developers project-hopped as needed and other skilled persons shared assets amongst the teams. The site for the later hackathons also focused on “social innovation,” interdisciplinarity, and synergistic making. Borrowing from critical making, the authors emphasize the importance of an "imperfect prototype as a public good...in contrast to the desire to make a perfected product” for capitalistic gain. The authors summarize hackathons as “playful places” and "interstitial spaces encouraging participants to play with failure, experimentation, and risk.” Embracing the playful possibilities of making, the authors highlight the benefits of producing “technological ephemera” and advocate for the experimental and social value of tinkering with technologies.

Maker projects can even help reframe research questions or rhetorical concepts. In “’Delivering’ Critical Making: Exploring Rhetorical Delivery’s Impact on the ‘Maker’ Project,” Steven Smith blends rhetorical scholarship with physical computing practices and details how to create touch-based, rhetorically persuasive projects. Drawing on concepts from rhetorical delivery and critical making, Smith explores digital delivery as a posthuman practice that allows an audience to insert themselves into a medium, often by physically interacting with specific materials or media. Through a process of eversion, individuals can interact with media out in the surrounding environment and reframe digital delivery as what Sean Morey calls an “affective attunement with the audience” (216). Walking readers through the creation of “an everted reality project,” Smith builds on traditional concepts of rhetorical delivery, but brings in physical computing to examine digital delivery as a haptic, reciprocal relationship that allows “users to migrate between the digital and analog.” Detailing his work with an Arduino microprocessor and conductive paint, Smith shows how listening, touching, and even the making process can attune an audience and extend concepts of digital delivery. Through maker-scholarship, Smith argues that participants have new opportunities to engage digital rhetoric concepts while also developing what Matt Ratto calls a “body knowledge” that challenges learners to experience digital media through sensory interfaces. Combining rhetorical reflection with physical experimentation, Smith’s work with the multisensory “Musical Vitality” project also demonstrates how a maker-oriented classroom can explore the “relationship between rhetorical conventions, online discourse, and embodiment” (60).

In addition, pedagogical approaches to making can draw on low-tech resources to create new opportunities for craft and creativity. In “Equity by Design: Envisioning a Critical Pedagogy of Making for Educators,” Angela Elkordy and Ayn Keneman outline their approach to teaching making as teacher educators. The authors counter the myth that making necessitates expensive 3D printing and robotics, and emphasize the possibilities of low-cost, low-tech materials for high-impact learning and creativity. The authors address the exclusivity in mainstream Maker movement and the perceptions of value of making as indigenous practice. The article highlights the shared goals of 21st century learners: “problem solving, collaboration, cultivation of creativity, design thinking, and perseverance” and provides specific pedagogical exercises on how to scaffold these skills. Of particular importance is the emphasis on learning by making mistakes, gaining confidence in technological expertise over time, and reflecting on metacognitive processes. The sample course materials, prompts, student projects, and course reflections all support the authors’ goals of approaching making equitably in pedagogical design.

From embodied compositions to equity in the classroom, How We Make contributes to ongoing discussions of how making is reshaping communication and research. As theories, practices, and technologies change, new approaches continue to emerge across rhetoric, composition, and the humanities as a whole. We look forward to seeing how making continues to challenge academic spaces and create new communities of inquiry.

Editor Bios

Emily F. Brooks is a PhD candidate in English with a certificate in Digital Humanities at the University of Florida. Her research and pedagogy interests intersect at book and media history, visual rhetoric and multimodal composition, and digital humanities. She has led workshops on Arduinos and paper circuits for middle school, high school, and college students at Marston Science Library since 2015. She was honored to be recognized as both a HASTAC and NEH Summer Scholar in 2018.

Shannon Butts is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Florida working in rhetoric and writing studies. Her research and publications examine how digital and mobile writing technologies (such as augmented reality, locative media, and 3D printing) create new literacy practices for public writing and community advocacy. As a co-founder of UF’s Trace Innovation Initiative, Shannon also tinkers with emerging technologies to design and critically make location-based digital projects. In addition, Shannon teaches courses on digital rhetoric, multimodal composition, professional communication, technofeminism, first-year writing, and embodied media.

Cover design and layout by Jason Crider

Special thanks to UF GRiP, esp. Myles Marcus, for letting us photograph a 3-D printed hand

Website design and layout by Jason Crider and Aaron Beveridge

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