How might tech criticism fit into technology edu?


Something in my gut tells me that it’s important for future technologists to be familiar with tech criticism. I’ve been experimenting with this a little in my MakerLab (undergrads).

Question: Is anyone else interested in this topic? If so, please introduce yourself and share some thoughts or questions.

Week 6 in the LCL Community!

Hi @Xanthe_Matychak,

I’m very interested in this topic and want to hear about your experience with undergrads!

Can you say something more about what you mean by tech criticism? Do you have a specific example in mind?


Sure. For context: I teach an undergrad elective called makerlab. It’s a beginner course.

Class time is a hands-on introduction to the maker movement. We start with small exercises and work toward individual projects that students will either sell or exhibit at an end-of-semester holiday bazaar. The hands on part is mostly about teaching confidence, creative practice, collaboration, and project management.

This semester I added a weekly writing component for homework. For the writing assignments, they research things like “CS for ALL,” “What are Makerspaces?” stuff like that. The writing part of the course is meant to teach them the big picture stuff about the maker movement.

In one writing assignment, I focused on tech crit. I included Evgeny Morozov’s 2014 piece in the New Yorker “Making It: pick up a spot welder and join the revolution” which might fall into the Neil Postman camp of techno-criticisim (amusing ourselves to death). And then I included Leah Buechley’s gender/diversity crit of the movement “Thinking About Making.”

WHY did I do this? Because if we are in a new industrial revolution (or some kind of tech revolution), then understanding techno crit is important lest we repeat the mistakes we made in the 20th century with tech: environmental exploitation, poor treatment of labor, economic models that lead to income disparity, gender and diversity problems in tech. Stuff like that. I know these are big topics but my gut tells me that it’s important to address them in the makerspace and not in some external ethics course tucked away in a philosophy department.

All of this said, I haven’t seen much integration like this Things that come close might be digital humanities. Or work by Lauren McCarthy. Her art explores criticism to some extent. Or danah boyd or Douglass Rushkoff. All tech enthusiasts/skeptics.

In the end, I am looking for peers who want to talk about how to integrate tech crit with tech edu.


In university, I straddled Arts and Sciences tribes, could not understand the animosity my arts friends felt towards my science friends and vice versa. I remember the disgust expressed by Engineering students over having to take an Ethics course. I was so impressed with our university that this was a course requirement as I think we do need to think about the implications of what we make and the boundaries between private creation and public creation, and where the focus of our creations takes us.

This also gets into risk taking, into pushing boundaries, as a creator. I remember writing some pretty dramatic poetry, and how it went from being cathartic to harmful as the crafting of text started to entrench a world view that was disempowering.


I would love to engage in this discussion. As an undergrad I took several courses in the History and Philosophy of Science. It was fascinating and I think the issues of ethics, criticism, responsibility, equity, and philosophy are extremely important in all aspects of life and work. We have to consider the impact and implications of what we do.

Another issue in the same ecosystem: In early childhood circles there is a lot of discussion about how much tech (and in particular screen time) is too much. Young children need tactile experiences and social interaction for healthy development.


Hi @jchancecook . Thanks for your response.

I took those classes too and enjoyed the challenge of trying to integrate those ideas with what I was trying to do with my major, Industrial Design.

Can I ask, what was your major and how did you integrate the tough questions form philosophy classes into your work?


Hi @Shelly_Sharp - yes the engineers in my philosophy classes also seemed to resent that they were required to take one ethics course. Which leads me to think that a siloed approach to ethics is all wrong. You can’t rely on the students to connect the dots btwn the tough questions asked in ethics courses and their own work. It’s too complex. And we all knwo that when faced with complexity, most humans gravitate toward the easiest path which, in the case of the eng students in ethics classes, is to dismiss the ethics and just get through it.

There needs to be a more integrated approach to teaching ethics, philosophy, or tech crit to designers, engineers, and programmers - people who make scalable systems for a living. But so far I haven’t really seen much of that. Perhaps in programs in which student study sustainable eng.


I was also saddened by that tribalism, that division between ‘arts’ and ‘sciences.’ I tell my students Science and Math are best friends but Science and Art are very good friends. There is so much experimentation and study of the behaviour of materials I do in my art explorations, as well as fundamental observation that the division of between subjects is in my mind, a bit arbitrary. To boot, imagining models, thinking creatively beyond the current known is how science pushes beyond limits and grows.
We have just elected a premier with a background in accounting and I am very nervous that a ‘bottom line of the spreadsheet’ approach will damage processes that help people to think with complexity, to overcome siloed thinking.


Have you read anything from Don Ihde?

Technics and Praxis could be a great read.


Or Technology and the Lifeworld.


Technology is good or bad?


Expanding Hermeneutics05%20AM

sorry for multiple posts

Technology is good or bad?

I have. He is (or was) at SUNY Stony Brook, yes? I’m from Port Jefferson.


@Xanthe_Matychak. Yes he was.

Have you read through CMUs Transition Design symposium (post-industrial design) ?
Or Sanders’ Convivial Toolbox (design research/ co -design)?

Jaron Lanier is an interesting character as well.

Technology is good or bad?

Hi @jpaskett I am a fan of Jonathan Chapman. Are you in that program?


At the time I was a Biology major, but I quickly realized that I liked reading about science much more than I enjoyed doing it. I switched and became a science teacher instead, and then a teacher-librarian, and finally a technology integrator for our school system. Philosophy and ethics considerations ground my work with and for children and I also try and bring them into my discussions with kids and teachers whenever I can.

The questions to ponder are endless:

  • Does the use of tech make the learning more powerful or is it a distraction?

  • Are experiences in the best interest of the whole child?

  • What are our responsibilities to each other? (In the classroom, in online communities, when we make and invent)

  • How do we know what we can believe and trust?


Hi @Xanthe_Matychak.

I am not in school at the moment.
Applying for my masters, now.


Lookit who’s in the new york times


Xanthe, recommend checking out this syllabus put together by the Civic Media Group at the MIT Media Lab - focused on both critique, but also then applying design methods that help to address inequity, etc. into the design of technologies:

Great resource for exploring some of the questions you’re considering - from the resources to the activities. The blog includes student work from the term (I’m in the class right now, consists of a wide variety of people, ranging from grad students to Journalists, researchers, engineers and designers).


Thanks, Yusuf. I’ll check it out.


What is a working definition of technology that you offer, or co/develop, in these classes?


Thanks for the question, David. I have some motivations that drive me. Maybe writing these out will help me come to definitions. (peer-based inquiry ftw)

At the highest level, I’m concerned with how technology amplifies things, whether we intend to amplify said things or not.

At a more practical level, my makerlab course was born out of my concern about the negative impacts that mass production has on the environment and humans. Thus, if I nurture a DIY spirit combined with technology, then my students can amplify that rather than mass market bullshit.

I welcome honest feedback on this.